A drinking-party. A symposium includes entertainments chosen by the host. These can range from drinking games and boisterous songs, through performances by hired entertainers, to intellectual debate presided over by the host. Ideally, the style and matter of a symposium should be original, or at least unexpected, agreeable to all the guests, and apposite.

In the Archaic Period symposiums are segregated by sex, and men are largely unaware that women have their own symposiums.

By the Classical Period, hetairas have emerged, a professional class of women who entertain at, and help to conduct, symposiums. Such hetairas as Aspasia, by their agreeable contributions to symposiums, have introduced a fashion for female company, and progressive men allow their wives and sometimes even daughters to come to sedate symposiums in private houses. More socially moderate men will allow their women to join in mixed symposiums at home, or in the houses of close relatives, but not in other houses.

By the Decadent Period the ball and soirée have evolved out of the mixed symposium, and the ‘stag’ symposium has been revived for purely masculine company.

Copyright © 1991 by Brett Evill. All rights reserved.