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The Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology

The Symposium

Where to meet your friends?

The Greek symposion, better known by its Latinised form, symposium, was not just a party but THE social setting for the male Greek aristocrat, where he forged friendships and made political alliances. Each symposium was formally organised or ritualised in a particular private venue, often someone's home.

picAny adult male could be a symposiast, yet women were not excluded. Both female and male entertainers-gymnasts, flute-players and other musicians, as well as prostitutes-were hired for such events. Symposiasts were usually draped with himatia (cloaks) but are sometimes shown at various stages of undress.

What did symposiasts really do?

Musical entertainment was normally included at symposia, but this didn't stop the symposiasts from trying their hand at playing the music themselves. In fact participants endeavoured to outdo each other in lots of activities: delivering speeches, reciting poems, role playing, as well as singing and playing music. Of course they played games too, like kottabos, which involved throwing wine! The friendly setting also encouraged participants to exchange ideas, with regard to war, religion, politics, or foreign affairs, as well as everyday life.

See the next page on Learning from Objects to see what we can find out about the Symposium from vases.

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File last modified: 20 Sep 2017