The following essay was originally published in Manual of Greek Literature from the Earliest Authentic Periods to the Close of the Byzantine Era. Charles Anthon. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1853. p. 196.
AGATHON was born about B.C. 447, and sprung from a rich and respectable Athenian family. He was contemporary with Socrates and Alcibiades, and the other distinguished characters of their age, with many of whom he was on terms of intimate acquaintance. Among these was his friend Euripides. He was remarkable for the handsomeness of his person, and his various accomplishments. He gained his first victory at the Lenæan festival in B.C. 416, when he was a little above thirty years of age; in honor of which Plato represents the symposium or banquet to have been given, which he has made the occasion of his dialogue so called. The scene is laid at Agathon's house, and among the interlocutors are Apollodorus, Socrates, Aristophanes, Diotima, and Alcibiades. Plato was then fourteen years of age, and a spectator at the tragic contest in which Agathon was victorious. When Agathon was about forty years of age (B.C. 407), he visited the court of Archelaus, king of Macedonia, where his old friend Euripides was also a guest at the same time. he is generally supposed to have died about B.C. 400, at the age of forty-seven.
The poetic merits of Agathon were considerable, but his compositions were more remarkable for elegance and flowery ornaments, than force, vigor, or sublimity. They abounded in antithesis and metaphor, and he is said to have imitated in verse the prose of Gorgias the philosopher. The style of his verses, and especially of his lyric compositions, is represented by Aristophanes as affected and effeminate, corresponding with her personal appearance and manner. In another play, however, acted five years afterward, Aristophanes speaks of him in high terms both as a poet and a man. In some respects Agathon was instrumental in causing the decline of tragedy at Athens. He was the first tragic poet, according to Aristotle, who adopted the practice of inserting choruses between the acts, the subject-matter of which was unconnected with the story of the piece, and which were, therefore called intercalary, as being merely lyrical or musical interludes. Agathon also wrote pieces, the story and characters of which were the creations of pure fiction. One of these was called the "Flower"; its subject-matter was neither mythical nor historical, and therefore probably neither seriously affecting nor terrible. We can not but regret the loss of this work, which must have been both amusing and original.
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