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Page 12

Beginning the Symposium

 

    Prodicus at length gives a nod to the chief of his corps of servers.

    "Bring in the wine!" he orders. The slaves promptly whisk out the tables and replace them with others still smaller, on which they set all kinds of gracefully shaped beakers and drinking bowls. More wreaths are distributed, also little bottles of delicate ointment. While the guests are praising Prodicus's nard, the servants have brought in three huge "mixing bowls" ("craters") for the wines which are to furnish the main potation.

    So far we have witnessed not a symposium, but merely a dinner; and many a proper party has broken up when the last of the dessert has disappeared; but, after all, the drinking bout is the real crown of the feast. It is not so much the wine as the things that go with the wine that are so delightful. As to what these desirable condiments are, opinions differ. Plato (who is by no means too much of a philosopher to be a real man of the world) says in his "Protagoras" that mere conversation is "the" thing at a symposium. "When the company are real gentlemen and men of education, you will see no flute girls nor dancing girls nor harp girls; they will have no nonsense or games, but will be content with one another's conversation."[13] But this ideal, though commended, is not always followed in decidedly intellectual circles. Xenophon[14] shows us a select party wherein Socrates participated, in which the host has been fain to hire in a professional Syracusian entertainer with two assistants, a boy and a girl, who bring their performance to a climax by a very suggestive dumb-show play of the story of Bacchus and Ariadne. Prodicus's friends, being solid, somewhat pragmatic men—neither young sports nor philosophers—steer a middle course. There is a flute girl present, because to have a good symposium without some music is almost unimaginable; but she is discreetly kept in the background.

 

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Reference address : https://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/greek-texts/ancient-Greece/old-athens-symposium.asp?pg=12