The Politics of the Sumposion

Fiona Hobden

in The Oxford Handbook of Hellenic Studies

Published in print August 2009 | ISBN: 9780199286140
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History

The Politics of the Sumposion

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  • Classical Studies
  • Ancient Greek History
  • Historical Archaeology



Among other institutions important for displaying and shaping social identity, one thinks particularly of the formalized drinking-party, the sumposion, structured as a microcosm of polis life. This article notes that the symposium provides a safe context for what might otherwise be potentially subversive reflection on the city itself, but also, and at the same time, for the individual's reflection on himself as a member of the city. As it happens, the institution also illustrates in microcosm the way in which the historical polis perpetuates itself as an idea, or ideal of hellenicity: for it is quickly elevated from historical contingency to an enduring literary genre, still alive and well in the period of Roman occupation through writers such as Plutarch and Athenaeus.

Keywords: social identity; formalized drinking-party; symposium; polis life; Plutarch; Athenaeus

Article.  4605 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Ancient Greek History ; Historical Archaeology

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