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Page 16

Going Home from the Feast: Midnight Revellers

 

    At length the oil lamps have begun to burn dim. The tired slaves are yawning. Their masters, despite Prodicus's intentions of having a very proper symposium, have all drunk enough to get unstable and silly. Eunapius gives the signal. All rise, and join in the final libation to Hermes. "Shoes and himation, boy," each says to his slave, and with thanks to their host they all fare homeward.

    Such will be the ending to an extremely decorous feast. With gay young bloods present, however, it might have degenerated into an orgy; the flute girl (or several of them) would have contributed over much to the "freedom"; and when the last deep crater had been emptied, the whole company would have rushed madly into the street, and gone whirling away through the darkness,—harps and flutes sounding, boisterous songs pealing, red torches tossing. Revellers in this mood would be ready for anything. Perhaps they would end in some low tavern at the Peiraeus to sleep off their liquor; perhaps their leader would find some other Symposium in progress, and after loud knockings, force his way into the house, even as did the mad Alcibiades, who (once more to recall Plato) thrust his way into Agathon's feast, staggering, leaning on a flute girl, and shouting, "Where's Agathon!" Such an inroad would be of course the signal for more and ever more hard drinking. The wild invaders might make themselves completely at home, and dictate all the proceedings: the end would be even as at Agathon's banquet, where everybody but Socrates became completely drunken, and lay prone on the couches or the floor. One hopes that the honest Prodicus has no such climax to his symposium.

    ...At length the streets grow quiet. Citizens sober or drunken are now asleep: only the vigilant Scythian archers patrol the ways till the cocks proclaim the first gray of dawn.

 

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