THE BLOG
10/01/2014 04:43 pm ET Updated Dec 01, 2014

The Symposiums in Ancient Greece

One of the fundamental expressions of social life of the ancient Greeks was the symposium that intended to strengthen the most refine feelings and ideals among the people as it is the friendship and partnership. It was of a very great importance so that big writers and philosophers as Aristotle wrote books about it, as the Ethical Nikomaheia.

The symposium was a strong and organized institution in the Greek cities so that it was based on specific regulations and etiquette's. They were social meetings where free thoughts were exchanged in a free trend, in Athens and the Ionian cities while in the Dorian cities they had a simpler character.

The symposiums started at night and lasted till the morning, included two parts. The first part included the dinner where the guests had to be clean and dressed decently as it suited in this kind of events. The slaves were taking them to their sofa, Plato in his "Symposium" writes about a guest: "A slave took him to his sofa at the place where the dinner-guests were laying and came on time they were about to dine. (II-E175) They were dining on low tables in front of the sofas. The second part followed and it was called drink and was the most important.

In the middle of the room they placed the Kraters (special vases) where they poured the wine and mixed it with water.

In the beginning the wine was white for honoring the good spirit of the goat. Crowns were distributed to the dinner-guests and they were burning incense and unction and with instruments were chanting to god. "And then Socrates after he ate with his companions and made a libation to the god, they started to drink" (Symposium IV 178)

Then they diluted the wine with water to 3:1, 2:1 or 2:2 it was a custom to ancient Geeks to weaken the wine with water because they did not like to be drunk but to be cheerful. There was appointed a leader of the symposium who defined the quantity that each of them had to dink and that was a rule. The symposium was not only a mean for having a good time but also a mean for discipline it is reported in Plato's Laws.

The partnership of people in the symposiums reminded the ability of each of them to behave decently even in the moments of relax and to respect each other, and that was a virtue. One of the virtues of the stoical philosophy was the universal virtue ant that was the knowledge how the symposiums need to run and how the participants needed to know to drink. Plato notifies it in the Protagoras book: "In case that the dine-guests were correct, virtuous and educated, no one could see any dancers harpists or playing the flute, as they are able to meet each other without non senses and jokes, everything was enough with their talking" (Protagoras ).

This way ancient Greeks imposed the order and discipline and the dinners were ending to high intellectual talks It is also mentioned by Plutarch: "Talking about everything, the disorder is something not nice especially when it comes out among people who are drinking, thus their bad nature comes up with the insult and other bad unspeakable things. People who have the sense of harmony and order need to avoid."

Though the orderliness (eutaxy), human noble ideals are promoted as the friendship. That is the beneficial force that units people positively. In order to be done it needs people to be together and communicate. "More the people communicate each other, more their friendship grows as it happens the same with the justice. And the proverb that says that anything among friends is common, it is correct. Because a special characteristic of friends is the common participation in all." Aristotle (Ethical Nikomaheia)

Aristotle exalts friendship which is a noble feeling among people and it is straight related to the good souls of people who are in the symposiums. In order to be happened, it needs orderliness and discipline in the symposiums. As it is in the cosmos which garnishes the universe.

Alexandra Symeonidou is a best-selling author in Greece and has published 10 novels, translated three French theater plays from old French to Greek and two children's books. "Nightmares in the Saudi Arabian Desert" is her autobiography and her first translation from Greek to English. It is available on Amazon.com.