How appropriate that Plato should frame this work as a tale told second hand. From his pen, we are hearing the story as told by a disciple of Plato named Apollodorus who had heard the story from Aristodemus who was present at the symposium in question. Apollodorus has verified the account with Plato, and so we may consider it fairly accurate. Still, we are reading about it approximately twenty-four hundred years later and are also twice removed from the actual event.
Apollodorus is particularly ready to tell us because he has already recounted the story to his friend Glaucon while on the road to Athens. Glaucon had caught up with Apollodorus by formally hailing him as “The Gentleman from Phaleron.” I read in the footnotes that the joke is that men like Apollodorus are not addressed in this manner except in formal situations, such as when they are assembled at court. Of course, this is how members of Congress are addressed today and calls attention to how much the Greeks still influence us.
Apollodorus makes much of the idea that philosophy is the only worthwhile pursuit in life and that focusing on the mundane activities of life as Apollodorus once did and as his friend does now, dooms a person to a life of failure. Unimpressed with this sentiment, Apollodorus’ friend urges him to begin to recount the speeches given at the symposium.