Explain the stages of a Symposium with close and detailed reference to
vase paintings you have studied.
The symposium was an all male drinking party that was very popular during the Archaic and Classical periods. It was an aristocratic activity used to cement friendships, and each member in a group of friends would take it in turns to host this event. The participants would also take it in turns to supply the drink, although it was up to the Symposiarch to decide how fast his guests got drunk and to what extent.
There was a lot of preparation involved in this event and it was almost definitely the most important part, especially if the host had to supply the alcohol for the evening. ...view middle of the document...
As the Greeks did not drink they’re wine neat, it was up to the Symposiarch to dilute the wine to his preference before the drinking session began. We can see an example of this on a stamnos painted by Smirkos, showing two slaves with amphoras approaching a larger dinos with the intention of mixing the contents. The younger of the two slaves greets the other, who replies by bending his head, in keeping with the festive feel of the symposium on the other side of the vase.
On another red-figure kylix by Douris, we have a very good example of the next and most important stage in the symposium, the actual drinking. Here we can see men reclined on their couches and slaves pouring out drink from oinochoai, both groups gesturing to their companions as they talk. The central figure, assumed to be the Symposiarch as he is more splendidly dressed than the others, raises his kylix for a refill, or perhaps to make a toast to his guests. Other elements of a symposium can also be seen, such as the trapezas used for holding the food and drink of the symposiats and the decorative wall hangings on the imaginary wall of the dinning room.
Next in importance was music, provided by the flute and the lyre. Both men and women became musicians and performed at events such as symposia. Women could be part of the...