When you hear the word Symposium, what do you think?

A conference, probably. A dry, boring conference where people discuss academic topics that, unless you’re passionate about the field, you might not enjoy. Symposium brings images of people standing at a lecturn with 300 slide PowerPoint decks and 90 minutes to speak, followed by 30 minutes of question and answer.

Imagine my surprise when someone suggested I go look up what Symposium meant in Ancient Greece, where the term originated.

From Wikipedia: Symposium originally referred to a drinking party (the Greek verb sympotein means “to drink together”) … Symposia were usually held in the men’s quarters of the household. Singly or in pairs, the men would recline on couches arrayed against the walls of the room. Food, wine (usually mixed with water and served by nude young men), and entertainment was provided, and depending on the occasion could include games, songs, flute-girls, slaves performing various acts, and hired entertainments. What are called flute-girls today were actually prostitutes or courtesans who played the aulos, a Greek woodwind instrument most similar to an oboe, hired to play for and consort with the symposiasts while they drank and conversed. Symposiasts could also compete in rhetorical contests, for which reason the term symposium has come to refer to any event where multiple speeches are made.

Heaven help the next person who suggests a Podcasting Symposium. If it’s the Ancient Greek style, it’ll make a heck of a video podcast.

Bring on the Symposium!

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