Need To Plan A Holiday Meal? Grill Some Meat With Achilles

Homer, Il. 9.206–217

“He put a large meat block on a burning fire
And placed on top of it the back of a sheep and a fat goat
And a slab of succulent hog, rich with fat.
As Automedon held them, Achilles cut.
Then he sliced them well into pieces and put them on spits
While the son of Menoitios, a godlike man, built up the fire.
But when the fire had burned up and the flame was receding,
He spread out the coal and stretched the spits over it.
Once he put the meat on the fire he seasoned it with holy salt.
When he cooked the meat and distributed it on platters,
Patroclus retrieved bread and placed it on a table
In beautiful baskets. Then Achilles gave out the meat.”

αὐτὰρ ὅ γε κρεῖον μέγα κάββαλεν ἐν πυρὸς αὐγῇ,
ἐν δ’ ἄρα νῶτον ἔθηκ’ ὄϊος καὶ πίονος αἰγός,
ἐν δὲ συὸς σιάλοιο ῥάχιν τεθαλυῖαν ἀλοιφῇ.
τῷ δ’ ἔχεν Αὐτομέδων, τάμνεν δ’ ἄρα δῖος ᾿Αχιλλεύς.
καὶ τὰ μὲν εὖ μίστυλλε καὶ ἀμφ’ ὀβελοῖσιν ἔπειρε,
πῦρ δὲ Μενοιτιάδης δαῖεν μέγα ἰσόθεος φώς.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ κατὰ πῦρ ἐκάη καὶ φλὸξ ἐμαράνθη,
ἀνθρακιὴν στορέσας ὀβελοὺς ἐφύπερθε τάνυσσε,
πάσσε δ’ ἁλὸς θείοιο κρατευτάων ἐπαείρας.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεί ῥ’ ὤπτησε καὶ εἰν ἐλεοῖσιν ἔχευε,
Πάτροκλος μὲν σῖτον ἑλὼν ἐπένειμε τραπέζῃ
καλοῖς ἐν κανέοισιν, ἀτὰρ κρέα νεῖμεν ᾿Αχιλλεύς.

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Tis the Season to Drink With Reason: Put a Philosopher in Charge!

In Plutarch’s “Table-Talk” we find three books of ten ‘conversation prompts’ followed by an imagined conversation based on them. Below is just the beginning of the discussion about what kind of a man should be named the symposiarch–a office tasked with setting the conversation, number of drinks, and strength of the wine during the symposium.

Table-Talk: Moralia 620: What kind of man should be in charge of drinking?

My brother-in-law Kratôn and my friend Theôn were at a drinking party when everyone was beginning to get tipsy but then calmed down and they began to speak about the symposiarch, because they were of the opinion that I should take up the duty and not allow an ancient custom to be abandoned by everyone. No, they thought I should renew it and reestablish the position’s authority over drinking parties and their rules. This seemed right to the other guests as well to the extent that they raised a shout and called on me to do the job.

Then I said, “Since this is agreed upon by all of you, I select myself as the symposiarch and I order the rest of you to drink as you would want to for the present, but Kratôn and Theôn—the men who introduced this idea and carried it, they must elaborate in brief outline what kind of many should be selected as symposiarch, and what goal he will make the priority of his office, and how he will apply the customs of the symposium. I entrust to them to choose their order of speaking.

They tried a little to deny what they were asked, but when everyone was insisting that they obey the leader and do what he asked. Kratôn first said that it is necessary that the chief of the guards be the most guardianly among them, as Plato says, and therefore the chief symposiast must be the most sympotic. And he explained “He is this kind of a man should he be neither easily overcome by drunkenness nor disinclined to drink, as Kuros used to say when he wrote to the Lakedaimonians that he was more kingly than his brother and could handle a lot of unmixed wine well. For a drunk is arrogant and rude but someone who doesn’t drink at all is a buzzkill and better suited to watching the children than running a drinking party.”

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Ποῖόν τινα δεῖ τὸν συμποσίαρχον εἶναι;

Κράτων ὁ γαμβρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ Θέων ὁ ἑταῖρος ἔν τινι πότῳ παροινίας ἀρχὴν λαβούσης εἶτα παυσαμένης λόγον ἐποιήσαντο περὶ τῆς συμποσιαρχίας, οἰόμενοί με δεῖν στεφανηφοροῦντα μὴ περιιδεῖν παλαιὸν ἔθος ἐκλειφθὲν παντάπασιν, ἀλλ᾿ ἀνακαλεῖν καὶ καταστῆσαι πάλιν τῆς ἀρχῆς τὴν νενομισμένην ἐπιστασίαν περὶ τὰ συμπόσια καὶ διακόσμησιν. ἐδόκει δὲ ταῦτα καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις, ὥστε θόρυβον ἐκ πάντων καὶ παράκλησιν γενέσθαι.

“Ἐπεὶ τοίνυν,” ἔφην ἐγώ, “δοκεῖ ταῦτα πᾶσιν, ἐμαυτὸν αἱροῦμαι συμποσίαρχον ὑμῶν καὶ κελεύω τοὺς μὲν ἄλλους ὡς βούλονται πίνειν ἐν τῷ παρόντι, Κράτωνα δὲ καὶ Θέωνα, τοὺς εἰσηγητὰς καὶ νομοθέτας τοῦ δόγματος, ἔν τινι τύπῳ βραχέως διελθεῖν, ὁποῖον ὄντα δεῖ τὸν συμποσίαρχον αἱρεῖσθαι καὶ τί ποιούμενος τέλος ὁ αἱρεθεὶς ἄρξει καὶ πῶς χρήσεται τοῖς κατὰ τὸ συμπόσιον· διελέσθαι δὲ τὸν λόγον ἐφεξῆς αὐτοῖς ἐπιτρέπω.”. Μικρὰ μὲν οὖν ἠκκίσαντο παραιτούμενοι· κελευόντων δὲ πάντων πείθεσθαι τῷ ἄρχοντι καὶ ποιεῖν τὸ προσταττόμενον, ἔφη πρότερος ὁ Κράτων ὅτι δεῖ τὸν μὲν φυλάκων ἄρχοντα φυλακικώτατον, ὥς φησιν ὁ Πλάτων, εἶναι, τὸν δὲ συμποτῶν συμποτικώτατον. “ἔστι δὲ τοιοῦτος ἂν μήτε τῷ μεθύειν εὐάλωτος ᾖ μήτε πρὸς τὸ πίνειν ἀπρόθυμος, ἀλλ᾿ ὡς ὁ Κῦρος ἔλεγεν πρὸς Λακεδαιμονίους γράφων ὅτι τά τ᾿ ἄλλα τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ βασιλικώτερος εἴη καὶ φέροι καλῶς πολὺν ἄκρατον· ὅ τε γὰρ παροινῶν ὑβριστὴς καὶ ἀσχήμων, ὅ τ᾿ αὖ παντάπασι νήφων ἀηδὴς καὶ παιδαγωγεῖν μᾶλλον ἢ συμποσιαρχεῖν ἐπιτήδειος.

A Banquet of Learning; A Dinner No-Show

Cicero Topica V (Full Latin text on the Scaife Viewer)

“But because I have welcomed someone eager for a feast of learning, I shall prepare it so well that there will be some leftovers rather than allow you to leave still hungry for more….”

Sed quoniam avidum hominem ad has discendi epulas recepi, sic accipiam, ut reliquiarum sit potius aliquid quam te hinc patiar non satiatum discedere.

Pliny the Younger to Septimius Clarus (Letter 15) (Full Latin text on the Scaife Viewer)

“Who do you think you are?! You agree to come do dinner…but you don’t come? The judgment is passed: You must pay my cost to a penny, and this is not moderate. All was set out: a lettuce for each, three snails, two eggs, wine with honey chilled with snow—for you should include this too among the highest expense since it dissolves on the plate—and there were olives, beets, pickles, onions and countless other things no less neat.

You would have heard a comedy or a reader or a singer of all of them, given my generosity. But you went where I don’t know, preferring oysters, a sow’s belly, sea-urchins, and Spanish dancers. You will suffer for this, somehow, believe me. You did something bad to one of us, certainly to me, but perhaps to yourself too. How much we played, laughed, and studied! You might eat better food at many homes, but nowhere will you eat so enjoyably, simply, and freely. In sum: try me: and if later you don’t excuse yourself from another’s meal, you can always lie to me again. Goodbye!”

Plinius Septicio Claro Suo S.

Heus tu! promittis ad cenam, nec venis? Dicitur ius: ad assem impendium reddes, nec id modicum. Paratae erant lactucae singulae, cochleae ternae, ova bina, halica cum mulso et nive (nam hanc quoque computabis, immo hanc in primis quae perit in ferculo), olivae betacei cucurbitae bulbi, alia mille non minus lauta. Audisses comoedos vel lectorem vel lyristen vel (quae mea liberalitas) omnes. At tu apud nescio quem ostrea vulvas echinos Gaditanas maluisti. Dabis poenas, non dico quas. Dure fecisti: invidisti, nescio an tibi, certe mihi, sed tamen et tibi. Quantum nos lusissemus risissemus studuissemus! Potes adparatius cenare apud multos, nusquam hilarius simplicius incautius. In summa experire, et nisi postea te aliis potius excusaveris, mihi semper excusa. Vale.

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Fresco from Pompeii

The Best Time For Sex? A Holiday Dinner Conversation Prompt

Plutarch, Moralia 653: Table-Talk—Book 3, Question 8: Concerning the Right Time for Sex (Partial text on LacusCurtius)

“Some young men who had not spent much time in classical literature were criticizing Epicurus, that it was not noble or necessary that he included a discussion about the right time for sex in his Symposium. For, they claimed that it was the worst kind of impropriety for an older man to talk about sexual matters during dinner when youths were present and to work through whether it was better after dinner or before dinner.

To this, some guests added that Xenophon used to take his dinner companions home after dinner not by foot but by horse to have sex with their wives. Zopyros the doctor—a man very familiar with Epicurus’ arguments, said that they has not read Epicurus’ Symposium very carefully. For, he did not put forth the problem as one based on a certain rule or established practice,  and then provide his arguments in its favor. Instead, he roused the youths after dinner for a walk and talked for the reason of instruction, to curb them from their desires, because sex is always a matter which might bring harm and which afflicts those worst who engage after food and drink.

He said, “If, indeed, this discussion were earnestly about sex, would it seem right not to examine the better opportunity and hour for doing these kinds of things? Would it be otherwise right for him to look look for another moment more opportune except at the symposium and the dinner table?”

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Περὶ καιροῦ συνουσίας

Νεανίσκοι τινὲς οὐ πάλαι τοῖς παλαιοῖς λόγοις προσπεφοιτηκότες ἐσπάραττον τὸν Ἐπίκουρον, ὡς οὐ καλὸν οὐδ᾿ ἀναγκαῖον ἐμβεβληκότα λόγον περὶ καιροῦ συνουσίας εἰς τὸ Συμπόσιον· μιμνήσκεσθαι γὰρ ἀφροδισίων ἄνδρα πρεσβύτερον ἐν δείπνῳ μειρακίων παρόντων καὶ διαπορεῖν, πότερον μετὰ δεῖπνον ἢ πρὸ δείπνου χρηστέον, ἐσχάτης ἀκολασίας εἶναι. πρὸς ταῦθ᾿ οἱ μὲν τὸν Ξενοφῶντα παρέλαβον ὡς ἀπάγοντα τοὺς συμπότας μετὰ δεῖπνον οὐχὶ βάδην ἀλλ᾿ ἐφ᾿ ἵππων ἐπὶ συνουσίας πρὸς τὰς γυναῖκας. Ζώπυρος δ᾿ ὁ ἰατρός, εὖ μάλα τοῖς Ἐπικούρου λόγοις ἐνωμιληχώς, οὐκ ἔφη προσέχοντας αὐτοὺς ἀνεγνωκέναι τὸ Ἐπικούρου Συμπόσιον· οὐ γὰρ ὥσπερ ἐξ ἀρχῆς τινος καὶ καταστάσεως τοῦτο πρόβλημα ποιησάμενον εἶτα λόγους ἐπ᾿ αὐτῷ περαίνειν, ἀλλὰ τοὺς νέους ἀνιστάντα μετὰ δεῖπνον εἰς περίπατον ἐπὶ σωφρονισμῷ διαλέγεσθαι καὶ ἀνακρούειν ἀπὸ τῶν ἐπιθυμιῶν, ὡς ἀεὶ μὲν ἐπισφαλοῦς εἰς βλάβην τοῦ πράγματος ὄντος, κάκιστα δὲ τοὺς περὶ πότον καὶ ἐδωδὴν χρωμένους αὐτῷ διατιθέντος. “εἰ δὲ δὴ καὶ προηγουμένως,” εἶπεν, “ἐζητεῖτο περὶ τούτου, πότερον οὐδ᾿ ὅλως ἐσκέφθαι καλῶς εἶχε τὸν βέλτιον μὲν ἐν καιρῷ καὶ μετὰ λογισμοῦ τὰ τοιαῦτα πράττειν, τὸν δὲ καιρὸν ἄλλως μὲν ἐπισκοπεῖν οὐκ ἄωρον ἐν δὲ συμποσίῳ καὶ περὶ τράπεζαν αἰσχρόν;

A Simple Plan for Being the Perfect Dinner Guest

Aristophon, The Physician (fr. 5; Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 6.238c) (Full text on the Scaife Viewer)

“I want to announce to him what kind of a man I am.
Whenever someone hosts a meal, I am there first—so much so
That I have been called “Broth-boy” for many years.
When we must carry someone out of the middle of the drinkers,
Know that I will look like an Argive grappler in the act.
If we must assault a house, I’m the ram. Storm it by the roof?
Call me Capaneus. I’m the anvil for enduring all blows.
I make fists like Telamon. I go at the handsome guys
Like smoke.”

βούλομαι δ’ αὐτῷ προειπεῖν οἷός εἰμι τοὺς τρόπους·
ἄν τις ἑστιᾷ, πάρειμι πρῶτος, ὥστ’ ἤδη πάλαι
…. ζωμὸς καλοῦμαι. δεῖ τιν’ ἄρασθαι μέσον
τῶν παροινούντων, παλαιστὴν νόμισον αὐταργειον
μ’ ὁρᾶν.
προσβαλεῖν πρὸς οἰκίαν δεῖ, κριός· ἀναβῆναί τι πρὸς
κλιμάκιον … Καπανεύς· ὑπομένειν πληγὰς ἄκμων·
κονδύλους πλάττειν δὲ Τελαμών· τοὺς καλοὺς πει-
ρᾶν καπνός.

Archaeological Museum of Nikopolis, Nikopoli, Preveza, Greece.

A Dinner Conversation Prompt: Why Are We Hungrier in the Fall?

Plutarch, Moralia 635—Table-Talk, Book 2 Problem 2: Why People are Hungrier in The Fall (Partial text available on LacusCurtius)

“After the Mysteries in Eleusis when the entire festival was at its peak, we were having a feast at the house of Glaukias the rhetorician. When the rest had finished their dinner, Xenokles the Delphian began to mock my brother, as he usually does, about his “Boiotian gluttony”.

As I was defending him I used the words of Epicurus against Xenokles, and said “All men don’t make the avoidance of what hurts the boundary and the limit of pleasure. Lamprias honors the Peripatos and the Lukeion before the garden and therefore attests to Aristotle. For this man says that everyone is hungriest in the autumn. He also provided an explanation, which I do not recall.”

“This is better”, Glaukias added, “for we ourselves will try to find one when we have stopped dining, Once the meals were taken away, both Glaukias and Xenokles were claiming that it was autumn’s fruit which was to blame, but for different reason.

The first claimed that it cleansed the bowels and by emptying the body was preparing the appetites anew. The other said that the pleasant and delicate nature of the fruit incited the stomach to food much more than any relish or source. Indeed, the offering of some fruit to people who have been sick and have fasted incites the appetite.”

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Διὰ τί βρωτικώτεροι γίγνονται περὶ τὸ μετόπωρον

Ἐν Ἐλευσῖνι μετὰ τὰ μυστήρια τῆς πανηγύρεως ἀκμαζούσης εἱστιώμεθα παρὰ Γλαυκίᾳ τῷ ῥήτορι. πεπαυμένων δὲ δειπνεῖν τῶν ἄλλων, Ξενοκλῆς ὁ Δελφὸς ὥσπερ εἰώθει τὸν ἀδελφὸν ἡμῶν Λαμπρίαν εἰς ἀδηφαγίαν Βοιώτιον ἐπέσκωπτεν. ἐγὼ δ᾿ ἀμυνόμενος ὑπὲρ αὐτοῦ τὸν Ξενοκλέα τοῖς Ἐπικούρου λόγοις χρώμενον, “οὐ γὰρ ἅπαντες,” εἶπον, “ὦ βέλτιστε, ποιοῦνται τὴν τοῦ ἀλγοῦντος ὑπεξαίρεσιν ὅρον ἡδονῆς καὶ πέρας· Λαμπρίᾳ δὲ καὶ ἀνάγκη, πρὸ τοῦ κήπου κυδαίνοντι τὸν περίπατον καὶ τὸ Λύκειον, ἔργῳ μαρτυρεῖν Ἀριστοτέλει· φησὶ γὰρ ὁ ἀνὴρ βρωτικώτατον ἕκαστον αὐτὸν αὑτοῦ περὶ τὸ φθινόπωρον εἶναι, καὶ τὴν αἰτίαν ἐπείρηκεν· ἐγὼ δ᾿ οὐ μνημονεύω.”

“Βέλτιον,” εἶπεν ὁ Γλαυκίας· “αὐτοὶ γὰρ ἐπιχειρήσομεν ζητεῖν, ὅταν παυσώμεθα δειπνοῦντες.” Ὡς οὖν ἀφῃρέθησαν αἱ τράπεζαι, Γλαυκίας μὲν καὶ Ξενοκλῆς ᾐτιάσαντο τὴν ὀπώραν διαφόρως, ὁ μὲν ὡς3 τὴν κοιλίαν ὑπεξάγουσαν καὶ τῷ κενοῦσθαι τὸ σῶμα νεαρὰς ὀρέξεις ἀεὶ παρασκευάζουσαν· ὁ δὲ Ξενοκλῆς ἔλεγεν εὔστομόν τι καὶ δηκτικὸν ἔχοντα τῶν ὡραίων τὰ πλεῖστα τὸν στόμαχον ἐπὶ τὴν βρῶσιν ἐκκαλεῖσθαι παντὸς μᾶλλον ὄψου καὶ ἡδύσματος· καὶ γὰρ τοῖς ἀποσίτοις τῶν ἀρρώστων ὀπώρας τι προσενεχθὲν ἀναλαμβάνει τὴν ὄρεξιν.

Athenians also allegedly called Boiotians “piggies” and “oak trees”

The Only Dinner Invitation Poem You Will Ever Need

Catullus 13

“You’ll dine well at my house, Fabullus
In a few days, if the gods favor you, and
If you bring a fine, large meal with you.
And don’t forget: a bright-eyed girl,
Wine, salt, and every kind of cheer.
If you bring these things I ask, fine friend,
You will dine well: for your Catullus’ wallet
Is full of nothing but spider webs.
In exchange, you’ll get unmixed love,
Or something even sweeter and more elegant:
I will give you a perfume which
Venuses and Cupids gave to my girl.
The kind of thing that when you smell it, Fabullus,
You’ll beg the gods to make you all nose.”

Cenabis bene, mi Fabulle, apud me
paucis, si tibi di favent, diebus,
si tecum attuleris bonam atque magnam
cenam, non sine candida puella
et vino et sale et omnibus cachinnis.
haec si, inquam, attuleris, venuste noster,
cenabis bene; nam tui Catulli
plenus sacculus est aranearum.
sed contra accipies meros amores
seu quid suavius elegantiusve est:
nam unguentum dabo, quod meae puellae
donarunt Veneres Cupidinesque,
quod tu cum olfacies, deos rogabis,

totum ut te faciant, Fabulle, nasum.

 

Image result for Papyrus Ancient Roman Dinner Invitation

No Politics and Religion at Dinner? Try Love Instead

In one topics for “Table-Talk”, Plutarch suggests the effects of love on a poet as a starting point…Of course, if you want debates about Love, the Symposia of Plato and Xenophon are good inspirations too…

Plutarch: “Table-Talk” Moralia 622 Why Do We Say that Eros Teaches a Poet? (Full text on LacusCurtius)

“The question “how it can be said truthful that “Love teaches the poet” even though he was songless before, was considered at Sossius’ house after some Sapphic verses were performed. Philoxenos claims that the Kyklops “cured love with well-voiced songs.”

Love is said to be clever at every kind of audacity and at furnishing ingenuity, just as Plato calls love “speedy” and “prepared for everything”. Indeed, love makes a quiet man talkative and the withdrawn man solicitous; it makes the carefree and easygoing person serious and sedulous. And what is especially wondrous, a cheap and miserly man, after he falls in love, becomes soft, compliant, and persuadable just as iron in fire.  Thus what seems like a joke is not completely absurd in the proverb “a lover’s purse is locked by an onion leaf”.

It has also been said that being in love is like being drunk. For it makes people hot, happy, and troubled–after they come into this state, they fall into speech that sounds like songs or verse. People claim Aeschylus wrote his tragedies while drinking, even completely drunk. My grandfather Lamprias was himself most innovative and insightful when he was drinking. He was in the habit of saying that just as with incense, he too was activated by warmth.

 In addition, people see the ones they want most sweetly—and are no less moved to praise them than to see them. In praise, love, voluble in everything, is the most effusive. When people are in love they want to persuade everyone how beautiful and good are the ones they love, because they believe it themselves.”

Image result for Ancient Greek Zephyrus and Hyacinthus vase

Πῶς εἴρηται τὸ “ποιητὴν δ᾿ ἄρα Ἔρως διδάσκει”

Πῶς εἴρηται τὸ ποιητὴν δ᾿ ἄραἜρως διδάσκει, κἂν ἄμουσος ᾖ τὸ πρίν ἐζητεῖτο παρὰ Σοσσίῳ Σαπφικῶν τινων ᾀσθέντων, ὅπου καὶ τὸν Κύκλωπα “μούσαις εὐφώνοις ἰᾶσθαι” φησὶ “τὸν ἔρωτα” Φιλόξενος. ἐλέχθη μὲν οὖν ὅτι πρὸς πάντα τόλμαν ὁ ἔρως καὶ καινοτομίαν συγχορηγῆσαι δεινός ἐστιν, ὥσπερ καὶ Πλάτων “ἴτην” αὐτὸν καὶ “παντὸς ἐπιχειρητὴν” ὠνόμασεν· καὶ γὰρ λάλον ποιεῖ τὸν σιωπηλὸν καὶ θεραπευτικὸν τὸν αἰσχυντηλόν, ἐπιμελῆ δὲ καὶ φιλόπονον τὸν ἀμελῆ καὶ ῥᾴθυμον· ὃ δ᾿ ἄν τις μάλιστα θαυμάσειεν, φειδωλὸς ἀνήρ τε καὶ μικρολόγος ἐμπεσὼν εἰς ἔρωτα καθάπερ εἰς πῦρ σίδηρος ἀνεθεὶς καὶ μαλαχθεὶς ἁπαλὸς καὶ ὑγρὸς καὶ ἡδίων, ὥστε τουτὶ τὸ παιζόμενον μὴ πάνυ φαίνεσθαι γελοῖον ὅτι “πράσου φύλλῳ τὸ τῶν ἐρώντων δέδεται βαλλάντιον.”

Ἐλέχθη δὲ καὶ ὅτι τῷ μεθύειν τὸ ἐρᾶν ὅμοιόν ἐστιν· ποιεῖ γὰρ θερμοὺς καὶ ἱλαροὺς καὶ διακεχυμένους, γενόμενοι δὲ τοιοῦτοι πρὸς τὰς ἐπῳδοὺς καὶ ἐμμέτρους μάλιστα φωνὰς ἐκφέρονται· καὶ τὸν Αἰσχύλον φασὶ τὰς τραγῳδίας πίνοντα ποιεῖν καὶ διαθερμαινόμενον. ἦν δὲ Λαμπρίας ὁ ἡμέτερος πάππος ἐν τῷ πίνειν εὑρετικώτατος αὐτὸς αὑτοῦ καὶ λογιώτατος· εἰώθει δὲ λέγειν ὅτι τῷ λιβανωτῷ παραπλησίως ὑπὸ θερμότητος ἀναθυμιᾶται. καὶ μὴν ἥδιστα τοὺς ἐρωμένους ὁρῶντες οὐχ ἧττον ἡδέως ἐγκωμιάζουσιν ἢ ὁρῶσιν, καὶ πρὸς πάντα λάλος ὢν ἔρως λαλίστατός ἐστιν ἐν τοῖς ἐπαίνοις. αὐτοί τε γὰρ οὕτως πεπεισμένοι τυγχάνουσιν καὶ βούλονται πεπεῖσθαι πάντας ὡς καλῶν καὶ ἀγαθῶν ἐρῶντες.

Tis the Season to Drink With Reason: Put a Philosopher in Charge!

In Plutarch’s “Table-Talk” we find three books of ten ‘conversation prompts’ followed by an imagined conversation based on them. Below is just the beginning of the discussion about what kind of a man should be named the symposiarch–a office tasked with setting the conversation, number of drinks, and strength of the wine during the symposium.

Table-Talk: Moralia 620: What kind of man should be in charge of drinking?

My brother-in-law Kratôn and my friend Theôn were at a drinking party when everyone was beginning to get tipsy but then calmed down and they began to speak about the symposiarch, because they were of the opinion that I should take up the duty and not allow an ancient custom to be abandoned by everyone. No, they thought I should renew it and reestablish the position’s authority over drinking parties and their rules. This seemed right to the other guests as well to the extent that they raised a shout and called on me to do the job.

Then I said, “Since this is agreed upon by all of you, I select myself as the symposiarch and I order the rest of you to drink as you would want to for the present, but Kratôn and Theôn—the men who introduced this idea and carried it, they must elaborate in brief outline what kind of many should be selected as symposiarch, and what goal he will make the priority of his office, and how he will apply the customs of the symposium. I entrust to them to choose their order of speaking.

They tried a little to deny what they were asked, but when everyone was insisting that they obey the leader and do what he asked. Kratôn first said that it is necessary that the chief of the guards be the most guardianly among them, as Plato says, and therefore the chief symposiast must be the most sympotic. And he explained “He is this kind of a man should he be neither easily overcome by drunkenness nor disinclined to drink, as Kuros used to say when he wrote to the Lakedaimonians that he was more kingly than his brother and could handle a lot of unmixed wine well. For a drunk is arrogant and rude but someone who doesn’t drink at all is a buzzkill and better suited to watching the children than running a drinking party.”

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Ποῖόν τινα δεῖ τὸν συμποσίαρχον εἶναι;

Κράτων ὁ γαμβρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ Θέων ὁ ἑταῖρος ἔν τινι πότῳ παροινίας ἀρχὴν λαβούσης εἶτα παυσαμένης λόγον ἐποιήσαντο περὶ τῆς συμποσιαρχίας, οἰόμενοί με δεῖν στεφανηφοροῦντα μὴ περιιδεῖν παλαιὸν ἔθος ἐκλειφθὲν παντάπασιν, ἀλλ᾿ ἀνακαλεῖν καὶ καταστῆσαι πάλιν τῆς ἀρχῆς τὴν νενομισμένην ἐπιστασίαν περὶ τὰ συμπόσια καὶ διακόσμησιν. ἐδόκει δὲ ταῦτα καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις, ὥστε θόρυβον ἐκ πάντων καὶ παράκλησιν γενέσθαι.

“Ἐπεὶ τοίνυν,” ἔφην ἐγώ, “δοκεῖ ταῦτα πᾶσιν, ἐμαυτὸν αἱροῦμαι συμποσίαρχον ὑμῶν καὶ κελεύω τοὺς μὲν ἄλλους ὡς βούλονται πίνειν ἐν τῷ παρόντι, Κράτωνα δὲ καὶ Θέωνα, τοὺς εἰσηγητὰς καὶ νομοθέτας τοῦ δόγματος, ἔν τινι τύπῳ βραχέως διελθεῖν, ὁποῖον ὄντα δεῖ τὸν συμποσίαρχον αἱρεῖσθαι καὶ τί ποιούμενος τέλος ὁ αἱρεθεὶς ἄρξει καὶ πῶς χρήσεται τοῖς κατὰ τὸ συμπόσιον· διελέσθαι δὲ τὸν λόγον ἐφεξῆς αὐτοῖς ἐπιτρέπω.”. Μικρὰ μὲν οὖν ἠκκίσαντο παραιτούμενοι· κελευόντων δὲ πάντων πείθεσθαι τῷ ἄρχοντι καὶ ποιεῖν τὸ προσταττόμενον, ἔφη πρότερος ὁ Κράτων ὅτι δεῖ τὸν μὲν φυλάκων ἄρχοντα φυλακικώτατον, ὥς φησιν ὁ Πλάτων, εἶναι, τὸν δὲ συμποτῶν συμποτικώτατον. “ἔστι δὲ τοιοῦτος ἂν μήτε τῷ μεθύειν εὐάλωτος ᾖ μήτε πρὸς τὸ πίνειν ἀπρόθυμος, ἀλλ᾿ ὡς ὁ Κῦρος ἔλεγεν πρὸς Λακεδαιμονίους γράφων ὅτι τά τ᾿ ἄλλα τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ βασιλικώτερος εἴη καὶ φέροι καλῶς πολὺν ἄκρατον· ὅ τε γὰρ παροινῶν ὑβριστὴς καὶ ἀσχήμων, ὅ τ᾿ αὖ παντάπασι νήφων ἀηδὴς καὶ παιδαγωγεῖν μᾶλλον ἢ συμποσιαρχεῖν ἐπιτήδειος.

A Banquet of Learning; A Dinner No-Show

Cicero Topica V

“But because I have welcomed someone eager for a feast of learning, I shall prepare it so well that there will be some leftovers rather than allow you to leave still hungry for more….”

Sed quoniam avidum hominem ad has discendi epulas recepi, sic accipiam, ut reliquiarum sit potius aliquid quam te hinc patiar non satiatum discedere.

Pliny the Younger to Septimius Clarus (Letter 15)

“Who do you think you are?! You agree to come do dinner…but you don’t come? The judgment is passed: You must pay my cost to a penny, and this is not moderate. All was set out: a lettuce for each, three snails, two eggs, wine with honey chilled with snow—for you should include this too among the highest expense since it dissolves on the plate—and there were olives, beets, pickles, onions and countless other things no less neat.

You would have heard a comedy or a reader or a singer of all of them, given my generosity. But you went where I don’t know, preferring oysters, a sow’s belly, sea-urchins, and Spanish dancers. You will suffer for this, somehow, believe me. You did something bad to one of us, certainly to me, but perhaps to yourself too. How much we played, laughed, and studied! You might eat better food at many homes, but nowhere will you eat so enjoyably, simply, and freely. In sum: try me: and if later you don’t excuse yourself from another’s meal, you can always lie to me again. Goodbye!”

Plinius Septicio Claro Suo S.

Heus tu! promittis ad cenam, nec venis? Dicitur ius: ad assem impendium reddes, nec id modicum. Paratae erant lactucae singulae, cochleae ternae, ova bina, halica cum mulso et nive (nam hanc quoque computabis, immo hanc in primis quae perit in ferculo), olivae betacei cucurbitae bulbi, alia mille non minus lauta. Audisses comoedos vel lectorem vel lyristen vel (quae mea liberalitas) omnes. At tu apud nescio quem ostrea vulvas echinos Gaditanas maluisti. Dabis poenas, non dico quas. Dure fecisti: invidisti, nescio an tibi, certe mihi, sed tamen et tibi. Quantum nos lusissemus risissemus studuissemus! Potes adparatius cenare apud multos, nusquam hilarius simplicius incautius. In summa experire, et nisi postea te aliis potius excusaveris, mihi semper excusa. Vale.

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Fresco from Pompeii