chapter
Bizarre banquets, topsy-turvy tables
WithAnderson Graham
Pages 11

Greek and Roman dinner parties are the focus of creative literature for a variety of reasons. Symposia provide the standard social occasion in Antiquity, and as such offer a marker for morals and manners. Moreover, the relatively early establishment of Plato’s Symposium as a literary classic set a standard for others to emulate. The element of fantastic as well as imaginative effort is well established in Plato’s own Symposium: a bizarre myth about the origins of sexual orientation is appropriately assigned to Aristophanes, as a guest at the dinner in his own right, explaining the origins of homosexual and heterosexual love in the halving of double human bodies. The symposium, then, is a natural framework for fantastic situations; many attach to the satirical treatment of the gourmet and his likely comeuppance, but unusual happenings from the joke on the un-gutted pig to the arrival of Arion rescued by dolphins can be readily fitted in.