Diotima of Mantinea  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Diotima of Mantinea is a female seer who plays an important role in Plato's Symposium. Her ideas are the origin of the concept of Platonic love. Since the only source concerning her is Plato, it is uncertain whether she was a real historical personage or merely a fictional creation. However, nearly all of the characters named in Plato's dialogues have been found to correspond to real people living in ancient Athens.

Role in Symposium

In Plato's Symposium the members of a party discuss the meaning of love. Socrates says that in his youth he was taught "the philosophy of love" by Diotima, who was a seer or priestess. Socrates also claims that Diotima successfully postponed the plague of Athens.

In a dialogue that Socrates recounts at the symposium, Diotima gives Socrates a genealogy of Love (Eros), stating that he is the son of "resource and need." In her view, love is a means of ascent to contemplation of the Divine. For Diotima, the most correct use of love of other human beings is to direct one's mind to love of Divinity. With genuine Platonic love, the beautiful or lovely other person inspires the mind and the soul and directs one's attention to spiritual things. One proceeds from recognition of another's beauty, to appreciation of Beauty as it exists apart from any individual, to consideration of Divinity, the source of Beauty, to love of Divinity.

Use of her name

Her name has often been used as a moniker for philosophical or artistic projects, journals, essays, etc.:

  • Polish writer Jadwiga Łuszczewska (1834–1908) used the pen name Diotima (Deotyma).
  • German poet Friedrich Hölderlin used the pen name Diotima as a moniker for Susette Borkenstein Gontard, who inspired him to write Hyperion. In this work, the fictitious first-person author Hyperion addresses letters to his friends Bellarmin and Diotima.
  • Italian composer Luigi Nono used her name as part of the title in one of his most important works, the string quartet: "Fragmente-Stille, an Diotima", including quotations from Hölderlins letters to Diotima from Hyperion in the work.
  • Diotima is one of the main female protagonists in The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil
  • Diotima was the name of Leni Riefenstahls character in the silent film, Der Heilige Berg.
  • Diotima appears in short poem "Irpen'" by Boris Pasternak.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Diotima of Mantinea" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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