The Symposion - only wine, women and singing?

31st March 2023 - 29th October 2023

The exhibition in the Pompejanum presents different aspects of the ancient symposium: Precious drinking vessels illustrate the religious acts, but also the social processes. The highlights on display from the vase collection of the State Collections of Classical Antiquities in Munich provide a direct glimpse into antiquity, albeit mostly through a man's eye.

Men in ancient Greece usually drank wine in company. It was a religious act to feel the effect of Dionysus in one's own body. The power of the god was feared, because he brought people not only the light tingling sensation that promoted communication, but also drunkenness to the point of total loss of control - madness. The wine was therefore served diluted with water from wide bowls, which allowed only very slow drinking. This was done to control the effect of the god.

The symposium was also a social act. The number of participants was limited because the rooms of Greek private houses were not large. Who did one want - who did one have to invite, and who did one have to offend because they had been passed over?

Female musicians could be hired for the background music and prostitutes were also frequently ordered. It would never have occurred to a Greek to have his own wife at the symposium. Not infrequently, the situation escalated because alcohol - or God - had gained the upper hand. Afterwards, the men would roam the town making a loud noise and waking up the neighbourhood. Pictures of women drinking wine usually show hetaeras, the prostitutes present.