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to herself, if she have a mind, or to the women who are within!' So then it appears that the character of these flute girls did not prevent them from being received, for amusement's sake, in respectable ladies' apartments. 'But on this day let us have conversation instead.' What follows is indeed not properly conversation, but long speeches in honour of love.
These are suddenly interrupted by a great knocking at the door of the house as of revellers, and the sound of a flute-girl is heard. Agathon tells the attendants to go and see who were the intruders. 'If they are friends of ours,' said he, 'invite them in, but if not, say the drinking is over.' Here we again have great politeness at the expense of truth. A little while afterwards they hear the voice of Alcibiades resounding in the court; he was in a great state of intoxication, and kept shouting, 'Where is Agathon?' and at length supported by the flute-girl, and by some of his companions, he made his way to him.
I shall not follow up the very strange scene that ensued, but recommend all those desirous of seeing how far Greek ideas on some subjects differ from ours, to read Alcibiades' speech which follows. The feast is however again interrupted by another band of revellers, apparently strangers, who suddenly enter (p. 538) and spoil the order of the banquet.' Someone who was going out having left the door open, they had found their way in, and made themselves at home; great confusion ensued, and everybody was compelled to drink large quantities of wine.' Aristodemus having at last fallen asleep, is awakened towards daybreak
by the crowing of the cock, and finds that the others were either asleep or gone away; 'there remained awake only Socrates, Aristophanes, and Agathon, who were drinking out of a large goblet which they passed round, and Socrates was discoursing to them. Aristodemus did not hear the beginning of it, and he was only half awake, but the chief thing which he remembered was Socrates insisting to the other two that the genius of comedy was the same as that of tragedy, and that the writer of tragedy ought to be a writer of comedy also. To this they were compelled to assent, being sleepy, and not quite understanding his meaning.'
Such is the scene drawn by Plato of a fashionable banquet of young men of quality at Athens. It strikes us as strangely similar to one of the supper parties that most of us remember in our College days. Acute argument and philosophical discussion combined with hard drinking and perhaps some ribald talk-late in the evening an open door to any exhilarated passer by, who is attracted by the sound of revelry. In one point the Greeks had the advantage, there was none of that noisy singing, or of those stupid personal compliments in the shape of toasts, which degrade modern supper parties.
The general tone of Xenophon's Symposium is not dissimilar, though he admits, not drunken revellers, but professional makers of pleasure, such as the joker Philippus, and the Syracusan jugglers. The feast was given by the rich Callias at his sea residence in the Peiræus, and properly for a beautiful young friend Autolycus, whom he invites with his father. He meets on his way the Socratic
party, five in number, and presses them to join him. 'At first,' says Xenophon as was seemly they declined the invitation with thanks (πρῶτον μὲν, ὥσπερ εἰκὸς ἦν, ἐπαινοῦντες τὴν κλῆσιν, οὐχ ὑπισχνοῦντο συνδειπνήσειν) but when they saw that he would be vexed at their refusal, they went with him.' At first however they are all so struck with the beauty of Autolycus, that they keep their eyes fixed on him, and are speechless, some of them too show signs of awkward constraint (èxμaτίζοντό πως). So then they dined in silence as if ordered to do so by a superior.
At this moment Philippus the joker knocks at the door, and tells the servant to announce who he is, and why he desires admission. It would be disgraceful,' says Callias, 'to shut the door against him, let him come in.' But the company is too serious, and will not appreciate his jokes, at which he gets very angry, and is appeased with politeness by the host. course of this feast results in a mixture of conversation with professional entertainment, which may have made a pleasant evening, in spite of Plato's strictures on such devices. It is to be observed that Autolycus goes off to bed before the last scene (of Ariadne and Bacchus) introduced by the Syracusan-a scene which could hardly have been considered suitable before so young and innocent a guest.
It seems plain from both these dialogues, especially from the end of Xenophon's, that even when the guests became intoxicated and went out in procession through the streets, there was no other place of resort for them but the houses of their friends, especially of friends who
had company on the same night; failing these they invaded the houses of strangers. This corroborates what I said above, that we find no trace of gambling houses, hells, and other such establishments so common in modern cities, which are only frequented at dead of night, and generally by men tired of drinking at private houses 1.
The great and striking feature in all this convivial society I have kept back for a special discussion-I mean the peculiar delight and excitement felt by the Greeks in the society of handsome youths, and the attachments of this kind which were common all through historical Greece. This it was, which gave to almost every feast of men the same sort of agreeable zest which the young men of our own time feel in the company of young ladies. But such an entertainment as the modern ball would have appeared to the old Greek profoundly immoral and shocking, just as we are apt to regard his attachments as contrary to all reason and sense of propriety. There is no field of enquiry, where we are so dogmatic in our social prejudices, and so determined by the special circumstances of our age and country. I need not go so far away or so far back as the Greeks, to find a judgment on our evening parties, which will prove how grossly men may mistake the entertainments of other nations.
1 There are some disreputable pothouses alluded to in the Attic orators, but they appear to have been frequented only in the day. I suppose they were either outside the walls, or closed by law at night. Cp. Lysias, pp. 122, 125, Isocrates, ii. p. 169 (Teubner), Isæus, p. 53 (Tauchnitz).
A well known French writer on social subjects notices with wonder that he was present at a ball in England, where a large party of young people of opposite sexes were dancing and talking together, and that though no chaperon or elderly person of any kind was immediately present, he nevertheless could hear or see no indecency or impropriety whatever! Verily a striking commentary on his own nation1!
I can, however, easily imagine a modern Irishman transplanted to an old Greek symposium, and there observing that in spite of the romantic feelings existing between the men present, nothing was done, or even hinted at, inconsistent with the strictest taste and propriety. I will not deny that this sentiment in the Greek mind did ally itself with passion, and lead to strange and odious consequences, but we should not forget the modern parallel, that in the midst of all the romantic and chivalrous respect with which ladies are treated in society, there are also cases where sentiment allies itself with passion, and leads to consequences socially more serious, though less revolting (of course) to our tastes.
While there exist sexes and passions-the wild beast, as Plato calls it, within the frame of every strong manwe can (socially) guard against their dangers by two methods only, by strict seclusion or supervision of the weaker sex, as was done in old Greece, and as is done
1 Thus many religious people of strict lives have notions about dancing parties, and about theatrical performances, totally at variance with facts. Either they or their informants seem to have obtained their knowledge in some strange places of amusement.