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Plato and Horace on Love

            Most would agree that love is the greatest gift that we can ever hope to give or to receive. But how does one know what love really is, and how can one exploit the significance of love and desire to construct a happy median in life? The ancient Greeks asked themselves these same questions thousands of years ago, and two very central scholars took the time to share their wisdom. In the Symposium, ancient scholar and philosopher Plato speaks through his literary characters and ultimately through Socrates, revealing to the reader that as a teacher, he wants us to make an ascent of increasing generality and transcend the material, corruptible, earthly love to connect with the pure, unified, heavenly love—the love of the gods. In book one and book two of the Satires, however, poet and philosopher Horace instructs his readers on love and desire by communicating to his readers that the good human life should be filled with healthy desires and pleasures, not with extreme pleasures, and that humans must value these pleasures in moderation to live life well. .
             In the dialogues of his Symposium, Plato enlightens his readers on the different meanings of love by writing through distinguished characters such as Eryximachus, the educated doctor, and Agathon, the entertainer and sophist. The most important figure that Plato uses to vindicate the true meaning of love, however, is Socrates—one of the greatest philosophers in the history of Western philosophy and teacher to Plato himself (Martin, 2003). .
             Socrates defines love by recounting a lesson that he once learned from a woman of Mantia, Diotima, whom Socrates claims taught him everything he knows on the subject of love (Plato, 201D). According to Diotima, one can approach the true meaning of love only through a slow and certain ascent up a “ladder” of stages (Martin, 2003). These stages constitute the ultimate objective, which is to reach the top of the ladder, or the final stage of transcendence, which is Beauty in its truest form.