10 Pages

Diotima: Teacher of Socrates and Kierkegaard’s Advocate for the Mythical

ByHarald Steffes

Wise Diotima of Mantinea has been the figurehead for women in philosophy ever since the Enlightenment and the Romantic Period.1 Her career begins in Plato’s Symposium when Socrates tells us that he considers her to be his teacher. Moreover, it is said that her wisdom in sacrificial matters enabled her to hold back an outbreak of the plague in Athens for ten years.2 This gives rise to the historically uncertain assumption that she was a priestess. That, in turn, raises the question as to whether Diotima was a real person or a literary device of Plato.3