|About the Book|
In ancient Greece, the symposium was a drinking party. Literary works that describe or take place at a symposium include two Socratic dialogues, Platos Symposium and Xenophons Symposium, as well as a number of Greek poems such as the elegies of Theognis of Megara. Symposia are depicted in Greek and Etruscan art that shows similar scenes. The equivalent in Roman society is the Latin convivium. The Greek symposium was a key Hellenic social institution. It was a forum for men of good family to debate, plot, boast, or simply to revel with others. They were frequently held to celebrate the introduction of young men into aristocratic society. Symposia were also held by aristocrats to celebrate other special occasions, such as victories in athletic and poetic contests. They were a sort of pride for them. Due to space limitations the couches would number between seven and nine, limiting the total number of participants to somewhere between fourteen and twenty seven (Oswyn Murray gives a figure of between seven and fifteen couches and reckons fourteen to thirty participants a standard size for a drinking group). If any young men took part they did not recline but sat up. However, in Macedonian symposia the focus was not only on drinking but hunting, and young men were allowed to recline only after they had killed their first wild boar. Food and wine were served. Entertainment was provided, and depending on the occasion could include games, songs, flute-girls or boys, slaves performing various acts, and hired entertainment. Symposia often were held for specific occasions. The most famous symposium of all, described in Platos dialogue of that name (and rather differently in Xenophons) was hosted by the poet Agathon on the occasion of his first victory at the theater contest of the 416 BC Dionysia. According to Platos account, the celebration was upstaged by the unexpected entrance of the toast of the town, the young Alcibiades, dropping in drunken and nearly naked, having just left another symposium. The men apart of the symposium would discuss a multitude of topics-from philosophy to love and the differences between genders.