Classic Court

Serving Drinks

The symposium was overseen by a symposiarch, a sort of master of ceremony whose job was crucial to the success of the party. The most important duty of the symposiarch was in determining the strength of the wine to be served. Greeks did not drink pure undiluted wine because they viewed it as uncivilized, so it was often mixed with water. The symposiarch therefore had to be vigilant and observant, calling for more wine when boredom rose or conversation waned, and more water when the guests became too unruly.

The following vessels were used in the serving of wine:

Amphora (Storage Jar)

The wine was typically kept in a clay storage vessel, an amphora (from the Greek for “two-handled”). Wine could be stored in such vessels, which often had an airtight seal of cork or terracotta, for long periods of time.

Krater (Mixing Vessel)

The wine was next poured into a large bowl called a krater (from the Greek “to mix”), where it was mixed with water to the exact strength called for by the symposiarch.

Oinochoe (Pitcher)

From the mixture of wine and water in the krater, slaves would fill up a pitcher, or oinochoe (Greek for “wine-pourer”), to be ready to fill and re-fill the drinking cups of the eager guests.

Kylix (Drinking Cup)

The shape of the kylix, a wide, shallow cup, usually with a foot and two handles, was convenient to drink from while reclining, as was customary at a symposium. The open shape also helped aerate young, strong wine before drinking. Scenes painted on the underside could be enjoyed by fellow diners, but the inside decoration was seen by the drinker alone as he drained his red wine.