A giveaway accompanied by witty conversations, jokes, songs, music, games and various performances with moderate, controlled wine enjoyment. This was in antique Greece a fixed part of the dining and drinking culture, The earliest mentions or descriptions of it date from the poet Xenophanes (570-470) from the sixth century BC, as well as from the historian Herodotus (482-425 BC) and the philosopher Plato (428 / 427-348 / 347 BC) with description of the rules in his law "Nomoi".
The custom spread from Greece to Rome and Italy and was until the end of the antiquity mainly among the wealthy. The Greek name (also symposium) means "common, sociable drinking". However, this should by no means only be understood as an exuberant drinking and eating activity, because in the foreground stood the common, god-bound and accordingly ritualized and civilized conviviality.
Plutarch (45-125) describes the symposia "as a pastime with wine enjoyment, which is characterized by cultivated behavior and ends in friendship". The guests gathered at the end of a meal (Deipnon) after dinner at the house altar. The participants wreathed themselves with flowers, ivy and myrtles, as well as with white and red wool bandages, so belonging to the circle of Dionysos servants to demonstrate. Now the symposion was initiated with cultic purity acts such as washing hands and sprinkling fragrant essences. Often a person was chosen for the evening to Symposiarchen, which was referred to the Romans at similar festivals as "Rex bibendi" (drinking king, also "Rex convivii" = banquet king).
This fixed the procedure and the topics. He also determined the mixing ratio of the wine with water, because in civilized circles usually no pure wine was drunk. The bulbous vessel in the form of a bell used for this purpose was called crater (Crater). A popular drinking vessel was the two-handled kantharos, Sometimes the symposiarch also specified the number of cups per participant. Based on the mixing ratio and the number of cups, the degree of drunkenness was controlled and thus the desired pleasant intoxication generated as slowly and persistently as possible. The goal was that each participant should have approximately the same drunkenness, which was difficult due to the different constitution. An honorable man was expected to remember his virtues despite drinking and then go home unaccompanied.
At the beginning, the gods were offered a libation by spilling some of it with a prayer. Then the topics were discussed. One solved puzzles that were given to each other, or opted for the popular game to find appropriate comparisons. Occasionally dancers, flute players or mimes were invited. The historian Xenophon (430-354 BC) also reports on artistic performances. In the 5th and 4th century BC Chr. Was also the game of skill Kottabos very popular. Afterwards, the scolias were sung. A principle was that everything under the influence of alcohol could not be presented to the guest in a sober state. One of the duties of the symposium was to promote "free speech" and "spontaneous action" without harming others. The loosened tongue of the Zecher was an early form of today practiced in companies such as "brainstorming".
Today, symposium is often referred to as a term for cultural and economic meetings among professionals for the purpose of brainstorming and exchange of ideas. A similar to the symposium in some respects drinking describes the Roman poet Petronius (+66) in his famous work Satyricon as a moral portrait of Rome of the first century AD. A list of many habits related to viticulture and Weingenuss is under Customs in viticulture contain. The subject alcohol abuse of the antiquity to modern times with quirky stories and prominent protagonists can be found below intoxication,
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