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Jun 23, 2024

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Quote Author: Agathon

Agathon

Agathon

Agathon (Greek: Ἀγάθων) (ca. 448 - 400 BC) was an Athenian tragic poet and friend of Euripides and Plato. He is best known for being mentioned by Aristophanes in his Thesmophoriazusae and for his appearance in Plato's Symposium, which describes the banquet given to celebrate his obtaining a prize for his first tragedy (416). He was the long-term (10-15 years) beloved of Pausanias, who also appears in the Symposium and Protagoras . Together with Pausanias he later moved to the court of Archelaus, king of Macedon, who was recruiting playwrights; it is here that he probably died around 402 BC. He introduced certain innovations into the Greek theater; for example Aristotle (Poetica, 9) tells us that the plot of his Antho was original and not, as was usual at the time, borrowed from mythological subjects.

Agathon is portrayed by Plato as a handsome young man, well dressed, of polished manners, courted by the fashion, wealth and wisdom of Athens, and dispensing hospitality with ease and refinement. The epideictic speech in praise of love which he recites in the Symposium is full of the sort of artificial rhetorical expressions which might be expected from a former pupil of Gorgias. Aristotle tells us that he was the first to introduce into the drama arbitrary choral songs, unrelated to the subject, and that he wrote pieces with fictitious names which appear to have been halfway between the idyl and comedy. His intimacy with Aristophanes doubtless saved him from many well-deserved strictures, though in the Thesmophoriazusae the comic poet burlesques his flowery style and represents him as a delicate and effeminate youth; it may be only for the sake of punning on his name (Áγαθός = "good") that he makes Dionysus call him a noble poet.

Agathon was also a friend of Euripides, another recruit to the court of Archelaus of Macedon. He seems, however, to have had all the faults, and little of the genius, of his famous contemporary. He tended to excess, attempting to surprise his spectators with unexpected developments and strange, improbable dénouements. Add to this his fondness for epigram, antithesis and other rhetorical embellishments, after the fashion of Gorgias, and it's no wonder that whatever he possessed of ability was smothered beneath his mannerisms. All the same, he appears to have been proud of his quirks, considering them essential to his verse; when asked to purge his work of such blemishes, he replied, "You do not see that that would be to purge Agathon's play of Agathon." His poetry was full of tropes, inflection and metaphor; it had the glitter of sparkling ideas flowing smoothly along, with harmonious diction and deft construction, but it lacked real vigor of thought and expression. With him begins the decline of tragic art in its higher sense.

Fittingly, given his love of epigram, he is the subject of Lovers' Lips by the poet Plato:

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