Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About
(meaning ‘drinking together’) was one of the most important social forms in the world of Ancient Greece, and was a considerably less cerebral affair than its 20th-century counterpart. From Greece it spread to Etruria and the rest of Italy and flourished until the end of antiquity. Symposia were usually intimate gatherings: the room normally held seven or 11 couches, on each of which two men reclined on their left side, a custom adopted from oriental feasting; respectable women did not take part, and the servants and entertainers were mostly handsome slaves, both male and female. As part of the lifestyle of the leisured class, symposia were lavish affairs: in the richest households, the vessels for the mixing and drinking of wine would have been of gold or silver, although most will have been content with fine painted pottery. Both the shapes and the decoration of Greek pottery bear witness to the strong influence of the symposium.