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Plutarch and his Roman Readers$
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Philip A. Stadter

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780198718338

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198718338.001.0001

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Drinking, Table Talk, and Plutarch’s Contemporaries

Drinking, Table Talk, and Plutarch’s Contemporaries

(p.98) 6 Drinking, Table Talk, and Plutarch’s Contemporaries
Plutarch and his Roman Readers

Philip A. Stadter

Oxford University Press

Plutarch’s reported after-dinner conversations in Table Talk suggest an ideal world of social intercourse among friends both Greek and Roman. He insists that the purpose of a symposium or drinking party is to make friends and reinforce prior friendships through a shared experience of wine and intelligent conversation. The Muses, represented especially by such conversation, must join Dionysus, for without them communal drinking can rapidly descend into quarrels, ill-will, and even violence. It is the duty of the symposiarchos or leader of the drinking to moderate the party through understanding of each individual, if possible, and introducing appropriate subjects. Both the proems of the individual books and many conversations treat the proper topics for discussion, such as some problem of popular philosophy or literature, or the experiences of participants. Random chit-chat or mockery should be avoided. Plutarch thus implicitly corrects the less cultivated behaviour often to be found in his contemporary society, working through implication rather than reproof.

Keywords:   Plutarch, Table Talk, friends, dinners, Quaestiones conviviales, symposium, society, conversation, Muses, symposiarchos

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