The Politics and Society of Athens, 460-399BCE
Prof. James Davidson and Dr David Fearn discuss ancient Greek bards and their booze.
The study of classics is the study of the consumption of alcohol. Archaic and classical Greek culture was steeped in spirit: the ancient elite recited lyrical poetry during drinking parties; large cohorts of Greek citizens celebrated the god of wine by performing tragedies and comedies at annual festivals; the common crowd enjoyed the pleasures of the pub, at least in democratic cities; and the pots produced in their hundreds of thousands with their beautiful paintings illustrate that the Greeks took drinking very seriously indeed.
And lest we forget: philosophy also drew on drink. Socrates famously could outdrink them all. Plato celebrated love and lust in his work The Drinking Party, better known as the Symposium. He demonstrates that our desire for beautiful objects and people can lead us to the idea of the pure good. ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’
But how did the Greeks organise their drinking parties? Why did wine play such a central role in classical Greek culture? And is it really true that most of Greek art and literature is intimately connected with alcoholic orgies?
AIE resources illustrate the relevance of ancient Athenian inscriptions, especially those of the classical period (the fifth and fourth centuries BC, c. 500-300 BC), to pre-18 education in the UK and beyond. They aim to support teachers who wish to introduce inscriptions into their teaching as a way of captivating their students’ imagination and fostering enthusiasm for the ancient Greek world.
These resources, consisting of teachers’ notes and slides for classes, underline the textual and visual potential of inscriptions for those engaged with learning about ancient Greek history and civilisation. The idea of an inscription being carved and read “in real life” is a way of fostering the curiosity of students about the past. Accordingly, through inscriptions, learners benefit from the bringing to life of the ancient world, perhaps in a way that helps it seem less abstract and initially less complicated. At the same time, they hope that introducing students at pre-18 level to inscriptions will encourage them to explore ancient source material of their own accord, and will help them to ‘bridge the gap’ into University study if they chose to pursue it. In their Introduction to AIE for Teachers resource you will find more ideas about using inscriptions in the classroom. They also offer a set of slides which introduce learners of all ages to Greek inscriptions: see Introduction to ancient Athenian inscriptions.