Ok you food history buffs..lets have a "Symposium"

Joined Jul 31, 2000
I thought it might be fun to create a thread on symposium.

All the charectors will be there.
Alcaeus, Cato,
Dionysius will bring the wine.

Ofcourse he will pass those dutys over to Zeus and Apollo.
Euphrosyne, will be blabbing at the mouth and reading poetry to everyone
After a couple sips of wine. (he was so delighted with wine) rather like me

Let us have a fun and peaceful symposium, I do not want to end up like the Centaurs and the Lapiths
These folks where always doing battle in the halls of Piritous.

No battles here.

No handmades of Odysseus running off with Penelope’s suiters 

In addition, a great treat for our little symposium….

The great cook Apicius; (herbs and spices in tow) will be helping us through our party.
;) ;)
Joined May 14, 2001
OK Cape, bring it on. :bounce: :bounce: :D

We must be sure to invite Papa to join us, who I hear is back home after a long voyage of his own to the lands where most of these stories began; home of the olive, the grape (some would say) and the garlic clove.

My dog Bacchus is by my side, and I am eager to discuss matters culinary throughout the ages. Shall we go chronological? Theological? Euphamistical?

Care to discuss literary sources? Culinary Quotations? Ancient recipes? (I have Louis Szathmary's collection at hand). I've a friend who could regail us on the politics of medeival food sculpture (his Master's Thesis, if you can believe it) with the passion and resources of Slow Food behind him.

There. I've poured a glass of wine. Let us Sympose.

Joined Jul 31, 2000
Well, well, well…Devotay,

Perhapes we will cover all these wonderful ideas and concepts you bring to the table.
The mear fact that you are a proponet of “slow food” gives me a smile and a welcome to the symposium.

Devotay, what do you think if we start at the beginning? What and where, did the symposium blossom?

Most would say that it was in the work of Alcaeus, although the practice to which it refers was already common in the islands and Asia Minor at the beginning of the seventh century B.C.E.

Devotay, It was in this period, unlike in the late Greek middle ages, entertainment based on wine drinking alone was codified to the extent that it had it’s own genre of monodic poetry.

Devotay, from the very beginning, the symposium can be defined by certain constants to which other ingredients were were some times added.

It was a meeting of men that only took place after a meal. It had a ritual introduction with libations to the gods and the choral singing of the paean.

This ofcourse was not an everyday event, but was linked to private and civic celebrations.
The participants were related in various ways, rarely based merely on family ties, sharing the same lifestyle and behaving according to norms that they regarded as specific to their ethnic group.

Devotay, I am happy that you will be a part of our symposium, this is a great way to learn so much about the truth of culinary history and it’s liniage.

As for Papa…Hmmm, only the gods of Greece, and perhaps a few others know if he will show his words to our symposium.
Not to worry however…There are some others with incredible knowelage and honesty to the genre that will contribute.
I am sure of this.

So…what will you offer to Apicius, Devotay?
Joined May 14, 2001
Cape, I offer to Apicius the stinking rose, in hopes of persuading him of the nobility of this spice he thought to be only for the lower classes.

Cape, I offer Apicius an herb he and I both favor: Rue - planted around Westminster Abbey centuries ago to keep out the witches; apparently effective, as I've seen no witches there.

And to you and all assembled I offer the words of Acaeus:

Come tip afew with me,
Melanippus, and you'll see
why you crossed over Acheron
once again searching for the sun.

Come drink. Don't set your sights
too high. Even King Sisyphus-
among all men, the wisest-
thought he might outsmart Death,

only to cross Acheron twice:
the judgement of Fate.
And now he labors endlesly
in Hades.

Come drink, and celebrate
while we are young. Later,
we will...the north wind blows.

What, Cape, shall we serve?

Joined Jul 31, 2000
Bravo Devotay!!! Bravo:chef:

Before we serve, we must continue to define.

I ask a very simple question (because of my lengendary spelling)

when you quote Acaeus, do you in fact mean Alcaeus?

The poetry of Alcaeus is so intertwined with the symposium.

His welcoming song to his returning brother Antimenides from the east, transformed the story of survival into poetry, just as the Homeric bards had done for guests.
Joined Jul 24, 2001

What an impressive introduction to the most civilized habit of social activity!

Maybe, before defining the word Symposium we must go back to the urge of joining around the same “table” drinking wine and talking.
I think that everything starts from the definition of this tiny word “ Idiot”
Idiot comes from the ancient Greek word “idiotis”
“idiotis” was the person who never participated in the public discussions, he didn’t had an opinion of his own and the most important, none invited him to his symposium!!
What a shame! Being excluded by this noble social event!

Symposium. Syn+Pino. Drink Together!

Together yes! But who might be a guest to a Symposium?

Relatives, teachers? Of course not!

The participants were friends that they considered each other equal for you have to consider someone equal to your spiritual (and not social) status so as to drink with him and exchange opinions or topics, serious or not!

Remember how the most famous “Symposium” in History, the one of Plato, starts.

The young Agathon who is the host (or should I say the toastmaster) in this famous Symposium replies to the ironic remarks of Socrates regarding his inexperienced youth :
“ You laugh at me, Oh Socrates but let it be! As for the matter you arouse for your intellectual superiority, we will arrange this, after a while, in court, having as judge on who is wiser god Dionysus (Bacchus). For now, oh Socrates, enjoy your dinner “ (Plato, Symposium, 175e)

For a good Symposium we need a president, a Premium inter Pares (the first among equal).

The “president” was elected among the participants and the later had to obey to him. If someone violated this rule he would never be invited again and he was facing the risk of being called an…idiot!

The “president” was one duty just for one symposium. Symposia of the same group of people had different presidents. A miniature of a democratically organized society!

That is why Plato believed that a well-organized Symposium is the best school for a citizen.

It teaches you how to “govern and be governed with justice” (Plato, Laws, 643e)
“It teaches you Freedom, the obedience to Laws without pressure. It teaches courage and it’s a way to test your self-control and how well you behave your self without losing your self respect and style” (Plato, Laws, 649a)

So having the "blessings" of this great philosopher let’s start talking about Symposiums.

About the ritual, the food, the wines, about the strong connection of the participant with his drinking cup.

Let’s do what Verdi , centuries later, invited us to do in his most famous aria, from “ La Traviatta” “ Lebbiamo”!!

Let’s drink!
Joined Mar 4, 2000
So, since women were not allowed in these intellectual meetings, I assume they were defined as idiots. We must recruit as many females as possible to participate in the symposium, then!! ;)

Was there a topic assigned to each symposium, as dictated by the president? This is intriguing, and I think we'll have fun with it.
Joined Apr 30, 2001
Okay, this sounds interesting and I'd like to play....but I don't think I know enough about the topic. Do you need someone to carry water or something? I'm pretty sure I could handle that much!

Seriously....I'm going to enjoy watching this thread.
Joined Jul 31, 2000
No worries,

You can plat Penelopy ;)

These types of threads are for having fun and learning.

No intimidation here.

Join in and have a go at it, Momoreg needs some female friends for the symposium anyway.
Joined May 14, 2001
More etomology for my dear companions!

From the Latin "con" meaning "with," and "panis," meaning "bread," a "companion" is someone with whom you break bread!


Post Script: Yes, Cape, a typo. Alcaeus is most definitely what I meant.
Joined Jan 11, 2002

Libiamo ne' lieti calici
Che la bellezza infiora
E la fuggevol ora
S'inebrii a voluttà.
Libiam ne' dolci fremiti
Che suscita l'amore,
Poichè quell'occhio al core
Onnipotente va...
Libiamo, amore tra i calici
Più caldi baci avrà.

That's OK...but what Apicius would drink?

As Horatius says,
FALERNUM, king of wines;
CALENUM, the noblemen's favourite wine;
ALBANUM, nine years old: enjoy this wine with your young lover!

Otherwise he would like a cup of MULSUM, wine and honey (only Ganimedes, the Gods' sommelier, knows HOW MUCH honey!)...

But...be aware! As Martialis reminds us,

"To forget, Fescennia,
the wine you drank yesterday,
you excessively swallow Cosmo's pastilles
Those pastilles make your teeth white
but remain ineffective
when a regurgitation comes up
from the bottom of your secret abyss"

Let's enjoy our Symposium!:)

Joined Jul 24, 2001
Hey! Why do you think I chose a man's name as nick-name LOL

Well women in antiquity and in symposia...

No ordinary woman could be a guest in a Symposium.
At least at the early Classical period ( end of 6th -middle 5th ce BC)
But as we assume from comedies and other literary sources , later on, the wife of the host could participate without talking of course!!!!

Women had no place in social life. The only women that they were allowed to have a social life were the prostitutes.

Those women were the most educated and interesting because they had the opportunity to discuss and learn from educated men.

remember Diotima in the Platonic symposium, she was a famous prostitute of antiquity.
Remember the wife of the father of Democracy, Pericles.

Finally remember my heroine, the famous mathematician Ypatia!!

Let's say that in order to be invited in a Symposium you should have been an...interesting woman....

So, here in Chef Talk we do not have such problem I think that the male population will agree. We all meet the first and only criterium to be guests : have an interesting personality :)

As for the topics. The answer is yes and no! We cannot be certain if the topics in a Symposiun was arranged in advance.
Plato has used Symposia as scenary to his philosophical dialogues.

Athenaeus of Nafkratis Symposium was syppose to have as topic a gossip on what happened to the symposium of Poseidonius the previous evening and especially what food he offered...

As for water!! yes my friends we will need water for sure for in was out of question to drink wine without water .

Oh I talked too much for now and you will eat all the food :)
Joined May 14, 2001
I know not why there would have been water with the wine in the original Symposia, but I know that by the middle ages water most assuredly would not have been consumed alone (not by the intelligencia, at least). They did often mix wine into their water, not so much for flavor, but to kill the germs in the water. Wine in turn was sometimes diluted with water to reduce acidity and density.

Was this perhaps also what the ancients did?

I see from my Flandrin that the Italian verb "mescere" means both "to pour" and "to mix."

"What I like to drink most is wine that belongs to others."
Diogenes , 320 BC

Joined Jan 11, 2002
Of course we need water!
Like ancient Greeks, also Romans never drank pure wine, but mixed it with variable amounts of water and other ingredients (in example honey, as I said). The "real" wine was only for the rich people, while the poor people and the slaves drank awful alcoholics like the LOIRA, that was made macerating in water the grapes already pressed, or a drink made with must, vinegar and sweetened water. Romans also had beer, but it was only for the poor and the children.
BTW...I forgot a little more etymology!
"Cosmo's pastilles" were a remedy by the famous Roman perfume maker Cosmo, from whom derives the word "Cosmetic".

Pongi (the Ethera?;) )
Joined Jan 11, 2002
BTW...in modern Italian, the verb "mescere" means only "to pour" meant as "to serve" and refers exclusively to wine and other drinks. The verb for "to mix" is "mescolare" or "mischiare". Obviously those verbs have a common latin root, just the verb "mescere" that had both meanings due, as Devotay said, to the fact that the Romans always drank wine mixing it with something else.

Joined Jul 24, 2001
Killing the germs , seems to be the reason that in antiquity they used to mix wine and water.

A very intriguing detail.
When the ancient Greeks wanted to purify a place they were spilling wine on the ground and the started sulfurizing the whole area!!

Funny because it seems that the passed by the invention that changed the whole procedure in wine making. The use of sulphur in keeping away the bacteria that turn wine into vinegar!!

They had the wine the had the sulphur but they didn't think to use both in order to prolong the life or their wines.We had to wait for Pasteur to acquire this knowledge. :)

But to return to the symposia.

The word wine comes from the greek word oinos.

Oinos was the dark , think fluid that had to be mixed in the krater with water in order to become what is known even in modern greek as krasi
Oinos + water mixed in the bell-shaped vessel called crater and we had the wine they drunk

Well the mixing proposing usually they were made for light wines as cape chef mentioned BUT
the host was keeping in his house two kraters-mixxing bowls.
One with light wine and a finer one for his own friends ;)

Hard to forget the scene from Iliad where the angry Achilles asks from his dear friend Patroclus to pass him a glass of wine " ...But Patroclus...make it strong ".

Have I told you about the game that was performed during the Symposia by wine and it was a kind of " wine-shooting" ? Kottavos?

Oh well. let me drink my wine first.
Joined Mar 7, 2002
How very charming! Dear Abby very much enjoyed her visit in Greece last winter. She especially loved Mount Pangeo, where Dionysos was purportedly bred. Here she was introduced to the exceptional Imiglykos Red.

Greece, to Dear Abby, means the hillsides of Mount Pangeo.

Joined Jul 31, 2000
A Little more, on water and wine.

When the preliminary phase of eating was over,
The baqueters, after washing their hands, received garlands for their heads,
Chest, and cups. The crown, a symbol of initiation, was the physical sign of membership representing the link created by drinking together.

As in theater, once the scene was set, the sacred phase of the meeting could begin.
Imagine it being very silent, or (euphemia), which predisposed those present to make contact with the gods.

Before mixing water and wine in the Krater, each banqueter received a cup of undiluted wine in which to pour a few drops in honor of the good spirit (agathos daimon). This was the religious act that formilized a communal link and sealed an eternal bond.

Wine and water where mixed according to proportions dictated by the type of entertainment that would take place. (Plu. Quaest. Conv. 657d). The almost barbaric mixing of two parts wine to one part water, mentioned by Alcaeus, must have been very rare and certainly was intended for a very special occasion (fr. 364V.) A Krater in which equal parts of water and wine had been poured was considered dangerous and bound to lead to drunkenness in a very short time.

Such a mixture was reserved for symposia in which entertainment was more important then serious matters, as repeatedly mentioned by playwrights. Less alcohol mixtures, of tweo or three parts of water to one part wine, were recommended by Hesiod (Op. 696) and regarded by Plutarch as the mixture of perfect balance.

Before the servents started mixing the wine, the symposiarch was appointed.
Apart from the distinction between young and old men, this was the only sign of hierarchy to be found in symposia, and it is not clear when the practice began. The position of symposiarch did not necessarily reflect official power, indicating the independence of meeting from the rules governing public life. The symposiarch establishes the ratio of wine to water, the number of Kraters to set out, and the forms of entertainment to amuse the group.

He was the only person who could violate the rules of equality, obliging some to drink more then others or to demonstrate their abilities.

Once the wine had been prepared, the servents filled the cups from a jug (oinocoe) or ladle. With the wine from the first Krater, libations were made to Zeus and the Olympic family. The second was dedicated to the spirits of heroes, while the third was drunk in the honor of Zeus Soter.
The sacrificial part of the feast was accompaoned by a double flute and a chorus singing of paean, which could be followed poetry or the recital of brief sections of hymns to those divinities that had some purpose of the meeting.

After the introduction of the entertainment, appeitizers were then served to stimulate the thirst-cheeses and different types of bread (traghemata) can be seen on archaic vases and are mentioned on numerous occasions by playwrights ( Ath. XIV.64oc-658). In it'’ later more festive part, known as the Komos, the symposium often moved out into the streets.

The Krater was carried outside by the dancing participants in a drunken parade, more or less unruly, accompanied by the flautist. Scenes of this type can be seen on vases from the end of the fifth century B.C.

The immutable nature of the rite was accompanied by the evolution in the function and symbolic values of the symposium.
Joined Mar 4, 2000
Just a couple of thoughts:

How many people usually attended these functions?

I would imagine that the wine they drank was very very strong, because 1 wine to 3 waters wouldn't be very good at all today. (I would think that since there were prostitutes present, they were given the strong stuff).

And what type of entertainment did they have?

I'm assuming the Egyptians also made wine, yes? Or were the Greeks the first?
Joined Jul 31, 2000
I have to run out for a while now, but I will say that I believe that the wine served at the symposium was made from the must of the first pressing, making it a very harsh and high in alcohol.

Like Grappa (kind of)

I will do some reading later and try to help you with these questions, I should say, again I am not sure. That the reason the wine was made with the pomace must was because the first pressing of juice made the wine for the upper crust :)

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