HOSTINGAND FEASTING ETIQUETTE
Van Wees - The Princes at Dinner
• Diners belong to a wealthy elite of princes, called basileis. They are exempt from work other
than the intermittent supervision of the slave and hired labour tending to to their livestock and
• Weddings, funerals and religious feasts were all celebrated with huge feasts. Homeric heroes
celebrate lavish weddings and funerals. Weddings are attend by the upper echelon, while
funerals are attended by “the people” of the community.
• Often business is combined with pleasure, where senior members meet to discuss and make
decisions whilst over dinner and drinks. This could be an example of the “wine of the
elders” (gerousion onion) or the “royal banquet”. This was held by the king when he wished to
discuss matters of public interest with the elders (gerontes), the senior members of aristocratic
families.Although the king provides the venue, the cost of the feast is at the expense of the
public.Aregular place at the royal banquet is regarded as a high honor and one that must be
repaid with feats of valor on the battlefield. The obligation is not to fight for the king, but for
the community which pays for these feasts. The king himself owes the community his services
in exchange for its contributions.
• Feasting constitutes an important social event. In its duration individual relationships and
group solidarity may be established, consolidated, or even broken. Status differences might be
asserted and contested: the host may seek to display superior wealth, taste and generosity;
guests may seek to differentiate amongst themselves in order of precedence; a whole group
may seek to assert its superiority over those not invited. Homeric society knew few other
intensive forms of association beyond the household, thus feasts contributed to the creation of
personal networks, the formation of groups and the differentiation of social status.
• There are two interpretations of the private dinner party:
• 1) Informal, private Homeric feasts serve to create hierarchical relationships between host
and guests. Wees provides the example of the viking chief who would entertain a large,
permanent retinue of followers year round at his own expense. The relationship created was
hierarchical, with the guests being wholly dependent on their host and in return for their
keep they placed their services as warriors at his disposal
• 2) That such feasts served to create ties of friendship and solidarity amongst equals. Wees
provides the example of mafioso who meet regularly to feast. These meals are not intended
for hierarchical relationships or to place guests under obligation to the host, but rather they
confirm and strengthen the egalitarian “kingship, social, or philosophic ties” that already
exist between members.
• In Homeric society, followers are recruited from the upper class. Presumably then, they have
their own independent livelihoods, unlike the followers of a viking chief.
• Bands of personal followers - “companions” (hetairoi) or “retainers” (therapontes) -
accompanying the heroes to war are recruited in a variety of ways, other than through
generosity in feasting:
• Familial obligation, though not personally indebted (previous xenia)
• As a favor, but with no forgoing of one’s own leadership • As a volunteer who enjoys the leader’s hospitality from the moment they sign on, but no
• As a person wholly dependent on the leader’s generosity
• There are two types of private feasts:
• Eilapinê: a type of feast held at the expense of the host. This leaves guests indebted for the
moment, but usually they host a feast in return rather than owing their services. Highest
ranking men in a community are engaged in a cycle of feasting. Thus the suitors who
exploit Odysseus’disappearance by feasting at his expense are rebuked for not taking turns.
• Eranos: a type of feast to which the guests bring their own contributions
• Close-kinsmen excepted, attendance is by invitation only. The host does not have to invite
everyone. There may be many feasting circles which overlap.Aman, however high his rank,
could not normally expect to be invited to all, or even most of his peers’dinner parties.
• Circles of dining companions are neither closed associations, nor mutually exclusive in
membership. Since the status of basileus is hereditary in the world of heroes, a young prince
would normally also inherit a niche in the feasting circuit. Boys are taken along to dinner
parties from a very early age. But birth does not guarantee a place at the feast. One imagines
that most would escape the fate of alienation by the support of relatives and loyal friends. But
there is no mistaking the tendency to exclude men, even of high birth, who have lost power,
property, or face. This indicates the intensity of status rivalry in Homeric society.
• Men of low birth who gained influence, wealth, and stature through success in raiding to trade
might be admitted into circles. Beggars might also be granted entry, but of course not on equal
terms with the princes. If a host takes pity on a beggar, he will be allowed to beg the guests for
scraps of food, and must eat sitting on the threshold of the dining hall. He can also become Th.
Abuja of jokes and might be forced into humiliating situations.Admittance might be motived
by philanthropic desires, but the marginalization might also stem from a desire on the part of
the host (who might be a social climber) to remind themselves of how wide a gap separates
them from common people.
Pindar - Olympian 1
• The principle theme of this poem is the joy of winning an Olympian victory, and how it is the
greatest thing.Among Olympian victors, iHeron stands for the highest type, since he is a king.
• Epinician poetry is that which takes its greatest aspiration from Olympic games.
• Just as Hieron stands a supreme victor, Pindar claims to be the supreme example of a poet.
Pindar’s claim to distention in poetry becomes explicit for the first time in Olympian 1 with the
introduction of the myth of Pelops, for which he gives an alternative narrative.
• Pindar stops short in the myth when he gets to Pelops’ivory shoulder. Those listening would
know the traditional version and would have been somewhat alarmed in its inclusion, as it is
somewhat of a grim tale. Pindar gives a psychological explanation of how this story came into
existence, and then replaces it with a myth of his own making.
• Pindar cannot imagine the gods as savages, and warns that to speak ill of the gods will
bring about misfortune.
• His version tells that Pelops was loved by Poseidon, who stole him away in a golden
chariot. He begins with Tantalus, who invited the gods to a banquet, in return for the feast
they had given him (Eilapinê feasting).At this feast Poseidon seized Pelops, weeping him away with golden mares to Olympus. He draws a comparison between Poseidon and
Pelops, and Zeus and Ganymede.When none could find Pelops, the rumors started that the
gods had dismembered, cooked, and eaten him.
• (Later?) Tantalus robbed the gods of nectar and ambrosia, and gave it to his drinking
companions. For this the gods sent back Pelops. No longer immortal he grew up and
though of marriage to Hippodameia. Pelops called upon Poseidon, his former lover, for
help against her father Oinamaos. Oinamaos had killed all previous suitors during a race.
Poseidon gave him a golden chariot with winged horses that never weary (perhaps the same
horses used to steal him?).
• Pelops wins the race, and thus the girl. They live happily ever after and when he passes
away men gather at his tomb to celebrate his victory. He compares this victory to Hieron
and wishes him luck.
• Story begins ten years after the end of the Trojan war and all of the Greek heroes except
Odysseus have returned home. Odysseus languishes on the remote island of Ogygia with
goddess Calypso who has fallen in love with him and refuses to let him leave.
• Meanwhile, a mob of suitors are devouring his estate in Ithaca and courting his wife, Penelope
in hopes to take over his kingdom.
• His song, Telemachus, an infant when he left, is now a young man and is helpless to stop them.
He has resigned himself to the likelihood that his father is dead
• With the consent of Zeus,Athena travels to Ithaca to speak with Telemachus.Assuming the
form of Odysseus old friend Mentes,Athena predicts that Odysseus is still alive and that he
will return to Ithaca
• She advises Telemachus to call together the suitors and announce their banishment from his
father’s estate. She then tells him that he must make a journey to Pylos and Sparta to ask for
any news of his father.
• At a feast, Penelope asks the bard to stop singing a sad song and Telemachus rebukes her. He
then tells the suitors that he will hold an assembly the next day at which they will be ordered to
leave his father’s estate.
• Two particularly defiant suitors,Antinous and Eurymachus rebuke Telemachus and ask who
the visitor was whim whom he was speaking. Telemachus suspects it was a goddess in disguise
but says it was just a friend of his father’s.
• Aegyptius, a wise Ithacan elder, praises Telemachus for stepping into his father’s shows,
nothing that this occasion marks the first time that the assembly has been called since Odysseus
• Telemchaus gives a speech in which he laments the loss of his father and his father’s home -
taken over by the suitors, the sons of Ithaca’s elders. He rebukes them for consuming his
fathers wealth as they pursue their courtship, when a decent man would simply have gone to
Penelope’s father, Icarius, and asked him for her hand in marriage. • Antinuous blames Penelope, who he says seduces every suitor but will commit to none. He
reminds the suitors of her rouse with the burial shroud. He says that it Penelope can’t make the
choice she should be given back to her father and that he should make the decision.
• Telemachus refuses to throw his mother out and calls upon the gods to punish the suitors.At
that moment a pair of eagles, locked in combat, appear overhead. The soothsayer Halitherses
interprets their struggle as a portent of Odysseus’imminent return, and warns the suitors that
they will face a massacre if they refuse to leave. The suitors balk at this and the meeting ends
• As Telemachus is preparing for his trip to Pylos and Sparta,Athena visits him again, this time
disguised as Mentor, another friend of Odysseus. She encourages him that his journey will be
fruitful. Then she sets out to town assuming the disguise of Telemachus himself to collect a
• At Pylos, Telemachus and Mentor (Athena) witness an impressive religious ceremony in which
dozens of bulls are sacrificed to Poseidon, god of the sea.
• Although Telemachus has little experience with public speaking, Mentor gives him the
encouragement he needs to approach Nestor, the king, to ask after Odysseus.
• Nestor has no information but recounts that after the fall of troy a falling out occurred between
Agamemnon and Menelaus. Menelaus set sail for Greece immediately whileAgamemnon
decided to wait a day and continue sacrificing on the shores of Troy. Nestor went with
Menelaus, while Odysseus stayed withAgamemnon.
• Nestor hopes that Telemachus will achieve the renown in defense of his father that Orestes, son
ofAgamemnon, won in defense of his father.
• Telemachus then asks Nestor aboutAgamemnon’s fate. Nestor explains that he returned from
Troy to findAegisthus with his wife and was murdered. Orestes returned and killed his mother
and her lover.
• In Sparta, Menelaus and Helen are celebrating marriages of their son and daughter.As they
feast they recount the many examples of Odysseus’cunning at Troy. Helen recalls how
Odysseus dressed as a beggar to infiltrate the city’s walls - a foreshadowing of the disguise to
come - while menelaus tells of the trojan horse.
• Menelaus tells Telemachus that Odysseus is alive but imprisoned by Calypso on her island - he
know this from Proteus, the old man of the sea.
• Meanwhile, the suitors at Odysseus house learn of Telemachus’voyage and prepare to ambush
him on his return. The herald Medon overhears their plans and reports them to Penelope. She
becomes distraught when she reflects that she may lose her son in addition to husband, but
Athena sends a phantom in the form of Penelope’s sister, Iphthime, to reassure her.
• Athena appears in a dream to Nausikaa, disguised as her friend. She encourages her to go to the
river and wash her clothes in the morning. On the morning when her and her friends are
playing ball Odysseus wakes and encounters them. He is naked, and humbly pleads for
assistance, never revealing his true identity • Athena makes him look especially handsome and Nausikaa obliges. But she is afraid of
causing a scene if she she walks into the city with a stranger (the locals might get the wrong
idea). So she gives him directions to the palace and advises him to approachArete, the queen
• On his way to the palace ofAlkinoos, Odysseus is stopped by a young girl (Athena in
disguise). She offers to guide him to the the kings house and shrouds him in a protective mist
that keeps the Phaeacians, who are sort of xenophobic, from harassing him.
• Odysseus finds the palace holding a feast in honor of Poseidon. He throws himself at the feet
of the queen, and at that moment the mist dissipates.Alkinoos wonders if he is a gob, but
Odysseus assures him he is mortal. He then explains his predicament and the king and queen
promise to see him off to a ship the next day.
• Later that eveningArete recognizes the clothing he is wearing (given to him by Nausikaa) and
she interrogates him further. He tells her of his travels, but witholds his name.Alkinoos is so
impressed that he offers him the hand of his daughter
• The next dayAlkinoos calls an assembly of the Phaeacian counselors.Alkinoos proposes
providing a ship for his visitor so that the man can return to his homeland. It is approved and
feat and games are celebrated in the honor of the guest. There, a blind bard named Demodocus
sings of events at Troy, bringing tears tot he eyes of Odysseus. The king notices his grief and
calls an end to the feast so that the games can begin.
• Odysseus declines to take any part until provoked by Euryalos. He easily wins the discus and
says he will compete against any in any sport (except the son ofAlkinoos and not the footrace).
Alkinoos steps in and asks Odysseus to join in another feast, at which he is given gifts for his
journey. Odysseus asks the bard to sing of the Trojan horse and he starts crying again.Alkinoos
notices and asks Odysseus to tell him who he is, where he is from and where he is going.
• Odysseus tells the Phaeacians of his wanderings.
• From Troy he came to the land of the Kikonians. The men plundered the land and got carried
away by greed, staying too long - the kikonians were reinforced and turned the attack.
• Odysseus and his crew escape, losing six men per ship.
• Astorm is sent by Zeus, after which they dock at the land of the lotus-eaters. His men eat the
fruit of the lotus and lose all though of home wanting nothing else but to eat the fruit. Only
when Odysseus drags them to the ship and lock them up does he manage to get away
• Then they sail to the land of the Cyclopes. They enter a cave full of sheep and crates of milk
and cheese. The men advise Odysseus to snatch some of the food and hurry off, but he decides
to stay and see if he’ll get gifts
• Odysseus wants to attack the Cyclops as soon as he kills his men, but he knows he won’t be
able to with the boulder blocking the way. The next day he sharpens a beam and hardens it in
the fire. When Polyphemus returns he gets him drunk. Polyphemus asks Odysseus name, he
replies “nobody”.As soon as the cyclops blacks out Odysseus and his men blind the giant.
• They escape by clinging to the bellies of his flock. When they get to the ship Odysseus taunts
the giant in uncharacteristic stupidity. He gives him his name, and Polyphemus asks for his
father, poseidon, to take vengeance on Odysseus Most Handout
Italics = figures who deprive one of one’s homecoming by making one linger beyond the
Underlining = anthropophagous monsters
Bold print = Odysseus sleeps, while his men’s folly brings destruction on themselves and
suffering on him
• The Lapith wedding is an example of a feast gone bad. The Lapiths had invited the centaurs to
the wedding, and the centaurs were unable to control their alcohol. They got drunk and out of
control. Bend on raping and abducting the bride and all other women, they started a brawl and
flung tables, chairs, and vessels every which way. This was a metaphorical warning to drink in
moderation: drinking too much leads to lack of control.
Gusfield - Passage to Play
• Modern organizational society has division of time into periods of different quality and
function. Many societies have distinguished periods of play from other activity. The conception
of leisure as a definite and bounded part of time is a feature of the industrial and post-industrial
world. This distinction must be viewed as a development of industrialized society and its
normal definition and division of time.
• Leisure has its meaning in modern life in contrast to work. The world of work requires and
demands from us behavior that stands often in opposition to free-time playfulness. To mix
domains becomes a danger to the serious side, and an opposition to the playful.
• Anthropology thinks of drinking as a ritual act.Alcohol has been analyzed for its tension-
reducing properties, or its unifying effects in rituals of solidarity. • In emphasizing the meal as an occasion of social relationships, the primary, material function
of eating is to maintain the integration of familial and more disciplined areas of life.Alcohol
allows for the passage from one realm to another. This needs to be understood in context,
which is both interactive (where it is occurring and on what kinds of occasions) and historical
(the meanings that the societies has given it).
• Alcohol is a disinhibitor, and is deeply connected with mood-setting. It is a dissolver of
hierarchy. It serves to permit non-hierarchical relations, unregulated by the structures of
organization.At another level it signals the exposure of the self to others within an atmosphere
which is also protective. One of the norms of action within a drinking group is a lesser
attention to calculations of economic and justice - Gusfield provides the example of buying
rounds, which can be compared with the Eilapinê style of feasting.
• Alcohol also develops and sustains personal and solidary human relationships. Relationships
between persons are mediated and regulated by their position in the structure. Changes in scene
and frame may cause us to act different toward the same people. Drinking enables us to
provide liminal time; a way of passing from the ordered regulation of one form of social
organization to the less-ordered, deregulated form of another.
Lissarague - Space of the Krater
• The krater embodies all the values of mean (meson). Both stable and mobile, it binds together
the komos and the symposium, the two occasions of wine-centre conviviality, and it permits the
creation of a changeable environment.
Van Wees - The Princes at Dinner
• Homeric feasts took place in the long hall known as the megaron. In the supernatural and
heroic world such halls are made of previous metals. In the less fantastic world these halls are
made of stone and timber
• There is a single entrance with wooden doors and a porch provides access. Inside wooden posts
and rafters support a steeply pitched, possibly thatched roof. Set in the floor of packed earth is
an open hearth for light, heat, and cooking. It is a rustic picture, complete with animals
wandering about, but it is also the most prestigious part in a rich man’s residence. Wealth is
displayed in the weapons and armor, precious artefacts of metals and cloth, as well as slaves,
servants and pet dogs. Homer’s attention to specific details suggests that the concentration of
riches was designed to make guests stand in ‘awe’of the wealth of their host.
• Diners keep their swords beside them throughout the feast and there is always a risk that these
may be drawn. Generally though, the dinners seem peaceful and the weaponry may be on
display to signal wealth as much as to suggest masculinity.
• The chairs on which the guests sit are important. Everywhere else in the house everyone sits on
low stools, but in the dining hall host and guests sit on high chairs called thronoi, or klismoi.
These chairs have backs, armrests and footstools.
• Kline were about 1.8-1.9m x 8.9m and fit two persons per couch. Standard sized rooms
included the seven-couch room, and the eleven-couch room. Some spaces were much larger,
such as the long or broad rooms (their names dependent on where the entrance was). • In such cases the layout changed. There were often two hears in irregular rooms, leading to the
hypothesis that there might have been smaller subgroups. Smaller groups allowed for better
flow of conversation and might have felt more “sympotic" where larger groups might have felt
• The arrangement of couches did not create a hierarchy; none of the seats were better or worse
(but this changes in Rome where there are triclinium and parties had a strict seating
arrangement including places for honor and places for “lesser” guests).
Boardman - Sympotic Furniture
• The principle item of furniture for a symposium is the kline. Both the formalities and the
architecture associated with a symposium are determined by it.
• It is likely that the Greeks picked up the idea of reclining at a feast from the East. In the
beginning they probably used their best bedroom furniture until specific sympotic furniture
• The first knowledge we have of kline is in Greek geometric art of the 8th century B.C.: the
scene is of a dead body displayed on a bier in the prothesis, or perhaps carried to a funeral in
the ekphoros. The assumption is that its basic function is a bed. What does seem clear is that it
was not used for feasting just yet, considering the lack of evidence in art and Homer. In 7th
century B.C., the evidence for furniture is slight, but the kline as a bier for the dead is still
shown in attic art.
• The laying-out-of-the-dead (prothesis) is a semi-public event, attracting family, guests and
mourners. On geometric vases the kline is shown by the tomb. There might be evidence that the
dead were buried or burned with them. In cases that show kline in tombs it is not represented as
a death-bed but a sympotic couch, with a side-table and with the dead man reclining upon it an
feasting. Perhaps this is related to the death-feast, the Totenmahl, where the dead man is shown
feasting, sometimes with hiw wife seated near him, very much likeAshurbanipal.
• The message of death an heroization associated with symposia and their furniture goes back
some ways toward what we may discern as the origins of sympotic behavior in Greece.
Whatever the association may have been in the early days, they were explicit enough in the
Classical period, and out understanding of both the symposium and the heroization of the dead
must be influenced by them.
• Later on the gods still retained the archaic style of feasting - sitting, rather than reclining. It
was only acceptable for demi-gods to be shown reclining. This exception is so as not to reduce
the status of the goddesses, by showing them sitting when the gods recline.Athens seems to
have set the standards for the depiction of Olympians and the symposia in the Late-Archaic
• Conveniently, the arrangement of the seven klinai appears with out first attested use of the
word. This suggests that a drinking group of that size was already familiar, and possibly
standardized, dictated in part by the shape and size of furniture.
• The symposiast reclines on his left side, a cushion supporting him. With in his free hand he
manipulates food and drink. Typically near the kline is a three-legged side-table, which is
standard for the second half of the 7th century on Corinthian and attic vases. • Distinct types of beds are apparent in Ne