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Posted - 25 Nov 2015 :  15:52:56  

In the Symposium, Aristophanes recounts a mysterious myth concerning the origins of human nature. He tells how, after rebelling against the gods, Zeus and the other Olympians convened and decided to sunder our whole, complete nature into two separate parts. Since then, Love has been the prime force driving our desire to be reunified with our lost half. The comic poet then proceeds to describe what the two lovers feel for each other when they meet one another. At this point (192d), he brings up a new character, Hephaestus, bearing his smithing tools. The god asks the lovers what they seek and answers for them, that they both want to live and die together, from two becoming one again.
I have been trying to understand why Plato, through Aristophanes, brings up Hephaestus at all, especially as it is the only time in the Symposium where this god is mentionned, but couldn't come up with a satisfying answer. Is Hephaestus, with his tools, here to "repair" the lovers and fuse them into one whole through craftsmanship? Such first degree interpretation by itself is unlikely, however. So can we understand Hephaestus, god of blacksmiths, sculptors and craftsmen in relation to, and in anticipation of, Socrates' being compared by Alcibiades to a statue, that of Marsyas (215b) and later, his own words being likewise compared to "statues of virtue" (222a). Socrates, after his exstatic experience of the higher mysteries of Love, could thus be seen as a maker of "statues of virtue" through his words. This would seem a better explanation for Hephaestus' presence in the Symposium, but it is still not convincing to me. Indeed, what could be the relationship between the god and Socrates (he is never compared to this god in the whole work), and, even if there is one, why should the explanation for Hepaestus's presence in Aristophanes's speech be delayed until the end and not even explicitly revealed?
A third possible interpretation is that Hephaestus was married to Aphrodite, who is in a way at the center of the speeches told in the Symposium, but even here, it is difficult to explain Hepaestus' presence. Could anyone help me?



615 Posts

Posted - 26 Nov 2015 :  01:49:22  


Is Hephaestus, with his tools, here to "repair" the lovers and fuse them into one whole through craftsmanship? It seems absurd, but I believe this is the intention of Plato here, to use Hephaestus as a way to manifest the corporeal - biological - material aspect of a real and complete union of the lovers, i.e. the absense of sexes, the non-sexual nature of the authentic man.

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