In ancient Greece, the symposium was a social occasion for men, one for drinking and conversation. The only women who were included were slaves and flute-girls, who were courtesans hired for the occasion to entertain the men with music. The attendees would recline on couches around the walls of the room in the men's quarters of the host's house, drinking, eating, and talking. There was always a symposiarch, the leader who decided how much the offered wine would be watered, and on what course the discussions might be guided. The gods were always honored at these gatherings, but which ones and how were also up to the symposiarch. It was a rite of passage for a boy to be included at his first symposium, where he sat, rather than reclined, and only listened.
At some gatherings, drinking games were played, and the attendees enjoyed singing competitions structured much like the various games of 'tag' here at Pan. Musicians and other entertainers provided the backdrop for the discussions and merriment. But the main point of the Greek symposia was talk, and talk they did, making speeches concerning the topic up for discussion and competing in verbal contests. There are many mentions of symposia in Greek literature. Socrates was the originator of this form of philosophical dialogue. The Socratic method typically involved two speakers, each asking questions in turn to explore a given subject.
Plato wrote the most familiar description of an evening with Socrates. His Symposium was a philosophical and satirical discussion of the nature of love. There were seven participants, each of whom made a speech on a different aspect of the topic, according to their professions.
Another account is provided by Xenophon, who was a Greek historian and a student of Socrates. Xenophon's Symposium centers around a conversation in which the two main participants, Socrates and Callais, are describing that of which each is most proud. In part a parody of Plato's earlier work, Xenophon's dialogue contains more lighthearted banter and omits the long serious speeches of Plato.
We have our own version of the ancient symposium here atPan, where both men and women are welcomed to discuss whatever subjects interest them most. Combining Plato's serious speeches and Xenophon's more lighthearted approach, a wide range of topics including Scotland, Philosophy and Ethics, World War II and Everyday Conveniences awaits your input. We even have a bar, in case your tongue needs a bit of loosening before you make your point. Do come join our discussions!