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The figure (center) from Anselm Feuerbach's The Banquet (After Plato) interpreted as a depiction of Eryximachus.[1][2]

Eryximachus, son of Acumenus (/əˈrɪksiˌmækəs/; Greek: Ἑρυξίμαχος Ἀκουμἐνου Eruxímachos Akouménou; c. 448 – late 5th century or early 4th century BCE) was an ancient Athenian physician who is best remembered for his prominent role in Plato's Symposium. It is likely that he was indicted in the mutilation of the Herms, a domestic Athenian conflict during the Peloponnesian War.[3]


The son of the physician Acumenus, Eryximachus was born in the mid-5th century BCE. Set approximately in 433/2, Plato's Protagoras dialogue contains a depiction of his close friendship with Socrates' student Phaedrus, a friendship that continued into the dramatic time of the Phaedrus dialogue some 15 years later. His wealth and social status are unclear from the extant sources.[3]

An Eryximachus is mentioned in Andocides' On the Mysteries speech as among those indicted in the mutilation of the Hermes and profanation of the Eleusinian mysteries, two tumultuous events on the eve of the ill-fated Sicilian Expedition in 415.[4] While there is no clear confirmation that this Eryximachus is the physician, there are numerous pieces of circumstantial evidence, including Phaedrus' role and Eryximachus' appearance in Plato's Symposium alongside others involved in these incidents.[3] It is unclear whether he was among those executed because of the event, but the historical record lacks later references to him.[3]

In Plato[edit]

While he is present silently in the Protagoras[5] and receives mention in the Phaedrus,[6] his most significant appearance in Plato's writing comes in the Symposium. Here he instigates and contributes to the event's extended discourse on the god Eros and the phenomena associated with this god. In his speech, he uses the language of his doctor's craft to describe love in bodily terms. While some have dismissed his Platonic character as arrogant, pedantic and the butt of jokes,[7][8] others have argued for his role as a serious contributor to the discourse,[9] or even attributed traditional Platonic philosophical values to his medical arguments.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Heinrich Meier in Seth Benardete, Plato's Symposium, 1994.
  2. ^ James Lesher, "Feuerbach's Das Gastmahl des Platon and Plato's Symposium" in P. Castillo, S. Knippschild, M. G. Morcillo, and C. Herreros, eds., International Conference: Imagines: The reception of antiquity in performing and visual arts (Logroño: Universidad de La Rioja, 2008), 479–490.
  3. ^ a b c d Debra Nails, The People of Plato, Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2002; pp. 134–135
  4. ^ Andocides, On the Mysteries, 1.35
  5. ^ Plato, Protagoras, 315c
  6. ^ Plato, Phaedrus, 268a
  7. ^ Mark J. Lutz, Socrates' Education to Virtue: Learning the Love of the Noble, Albany: SUNY Press, 1998
  8. ^ Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, Platon 1, Berlin: 1929
  9. ^ Ludwig Edelstein, "The Role of Eryximachus in Plato's Symposium", Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association Vol. 76, (1945), pp. 85-103
  10. ^ Ronald Ross, "A Doctor and a Scholar: Rethinking the Philosophic Significance of Eryximachus in the Symposium", Stance, Vol. 2, April 2009