« PrejšnjaNaprej »
verse in the cleverest way he could. Of this practice we have happily a remarkable specimen in the Wasps, where the only real social talent displayed by the old dicast is in rounding off the scolia with political jokes and allusions.
The other stock contrivance was the ypîpos or riddle, which appears to have been a later fashion, and perhaps to have supplanted the scolia. The fashionable Taípaι were very celebrated for propounding these riddles, many of which are quoted by the grammarians. But of course, as among ourselves now-a-days riddles and acrostics and all such stuff are miserable substitutes for witty or even sensible conversation, so there seems in the philosophical dialogues of the Platonic age a silent contempt for such devices. They too, like music or tumbling, are inconsistent with a really good and general conversation.
It is from the very same stand-point that Menander, whose essentially refined and social temper belonged more properly to the Platonic than the Hellenistic age, complains of the misery of being invited to join a family party at dinner, whereas on the other hand he censures as vulgar the habit of crowding the table on such occasions with strangers (Mein. iv. 202). Thus a marriage feast is necessarily a family party, and to this the family alone, and old family friends, should be invited. For (fr. incert. 16) it is labour and sorrow to fall in among a company of relations, where the father keeping the bottle in his hand begins the conversation, and jokes in trite saws, then the mother comes next, then some grandmother puts in her talk, then a hoarse
old man, her father, and then some old woman that calls him her darling. But he nods assent to them all.'
It appears that well-bred ladies affected small appetites, and the Milesian and Cean maidens were even water-drinkers, in spite of the constant accusations of drunkenness brought against Greek women in Attic Comedy. Of course they were never present except at strictly family dinners. The ladies who frequented men's society, though they too affected the same modesty, were often I fear led away to greater indulgences than were consistent with the purest Attic salt.
Drunkenness was about as common and as reprehended, as it now is; but it is indeed a difficult problem to explain how the Greeks managed to get drunk on the very weak mixture they drank. Three parts of water to two of wine was the usual proportion, four to three was thought strong, equal parts made them mad,' as one of the comic fragments asserts1. I am unable to discover whether their wines were stronger, or their heads weaker, than ours. This is certain, that to them their wines were fully as strong as whiskey is to us. As to their various kinds and various value, it was as large a subject as it now is. There are in Athenæus endless discussions about them, which are now very uninteresting, as we cannot try the taste of the Greeks by any specimens. Putting snow and salt water into wine seems curious treatment. The most modern feature in Greek wine-drinking is the coming into
1 See on this point Meineke, iii. p. 529 and iv. p. 605. Also Bergk's Lyric Fragments pp. 594 and 1027.
fashion of dry wines, and the objections against them by the adherents of the old fashion; as in Homer, for example, sweetness was a special recommendation to wine. We hear that it was brought round in carts, like our city milk, and there are analogous complaints that it was watered before selling it (iii. 386, 405). Its bouquet seems to have been as important as with our wines, and there is a remarkable fragment of Hermippus (ii. 410) comparing the Mendean, the Magnesian, the Chian in this respect, giving however the palm to a wine called oаmpías, properly σαπρίας, rotten, but meaning very ripe, as we speak of Stilton Cheese 2.
These scattered details will give the reader some idea of Attic entertaiments, especially if he compare them with the detailed description in Plato's Symposium. I think that in spite of an element of love being admissible which is quite foreign to our notions, and which compensated for the loss of female society at these feasts, on the whole they were about as orderly as our gentlemen's parties, and intellectually something like an agreeable assemblage of university men, particularly among lively people, like the Irish. This is I think a juster verdict than taking Plato for an historical guide, as some Germans have done, and talking bombast about the loftiness and splendour of Attic conversation. To my taste indeed the description of his feast abounds
Posidippus (Meineke, iv. 526) says: Ainpós, añoтos ¿ μvpívηs å Tíos. This epithet dnpós (dry) has greatly puzzled the Germans. 2 The same epithet is applied by Aristophanes to a rich and luxurious peace, coming after the wants and hardships of war.
far too much in long speeches, which are decidedly tedious, and which would certainly not be tolerated at any agreeable party in Ireland, where this is the branch of culture thoroughly understood. But of course the scene of the banquet is only a secondary point with Plato, and he has done wonders to combine deep philosophical instruction with his scenery—I am far from censuring his great genius-I only wish to point out that for our present purpose his dialogue is not a safe guide.
There are, however, some excellent points of manners in the dialogue. Even Socrates dresses himself with peculiar care, and wears sandals contrary to his usual custom, owing to the fashionable nature of Agathon's entertainment. But despite of this he proposes to a friend whom he meets on the way to come with him unbidden; and stopping in one of his usual trances, the unbidden Aristodemus does not hesitate to proceed by himself. When he reached the house of Agathon (Jowett, ii. p. 492) he found the doors wide open, and a servant coming out met him, and at once led him into the banqueting-hall' in which the guests were reclining, for the banquet was about to begin, 'Welcome, Aristodemus,' said Agathon, ' you are just in time to sup with us; if you come on any other errand
1 Cp. on this hospitable feature the charming fragment of Apollodorus (Meineke, iv. p. 455), a writer of the New Comedy. He says: When you go to visit a friend at his house, you can perceive his friendliness the moment you enter the door, for first the servant who opens the door looks pleased, then the dog wags its tail and comes up to you, and the first person you meet hands you a chair, before a word has been said.'
put that off, and make one of us, as I was looking for you yesterday, and meant to have asked you, if I could have found you.' (I suspect this was a polite way of . speaking, not meant to be true.) But what have you done with Socrates?' Aristodemus explains that he himself had come at Socrates' invitation. You were quite right in coming' said Agathon, 'but where is he himself?" 'He was behind me just now, and I cannot think what has become of him." Agathon then sends out a slave, who finds Socrates in a portico, but comes back to say that he cannot stir him. When Agathon is assured that there is no use in farther messages, he acquiesces; and adds: 'My domestics, who on these occasions become my masters, shall entertain us as their guests. Put on the table whatever you like,' he said to them, as you do when there is no one to give you orders, which is my habit. Imagine that you are our hosts, and that I and the company are your guests, and treat us well and then we shall commend you.' Presently Socrates makes his appearance. Agathon is reclining himself at the end of the table, which was, I suppose, the proper place for the host.
When the meal is ended, the libations are offered, and then a poem is sung to the god, but as they were about to commence drinking, Pausanias reminded them that they had had a bout yesterday, from which he and most of them were still suffering, and they ought to be allowed to recover, and not go on drinking to-day.' They then agree not to drink hard, and Eryximachus next proposes, 'that the flute-girl, who had just made her appearance, be dismissed; she may play