3000 Whitehaven St NW, Washington, DC 20008
If there is one thing that has always brought mankind together, transcending borders and centuries, it is the delight in good food.
We have been handed down mouthwatering recipes chock full of scrumptious delicacies by professional chefs and food experts from Apicius to Artusi, and sometimes we have even tried to reproduce them on our own at home.
In ancient Greece, banquets were an exclusively male prerogative. The only females who were allowed to participate were the hetaerae, mostly dancers and flutists who provided entertainment not necessarily of an erotic nature, and the pornai, prostitutes who did provide that form of entertainment. In the classical period at least, legal consorts, wives, had to stay in the gynaeceum.
The word symposium is borrowed from the Greek term that means persons gathered for the purpose of eating and drinking together. The communal consumption of wine was an important social ritual for the Greeks; it took place on both public and in private occasions and often constituted a fundamental part of religious ceremonies. The symposium owes its importance to the drink that was consumed: wine was considered a special gift from Dionysus, the divinity associated with the overwhelming effects of inebriation. For this reason, the beverage was not a pure wine, but a specifically prepared one that had been filtered and diluted with water in large krateri (jars).
A rite that originated in the Orient, the symposium assumed a highly important social role in Greece in the Archaic period as a time to establish and strengthen alliances between families and personal ties, as well, including philia. Unsurprisingly, the vases used during these occasions were often decorated with banquet scenes depicting subjects resting or lying on klinai (couches).