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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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Leading the Party, Leading the City

Leading the Party, Leading the City

The Symposiarch as politikos

(p.108) 7 Leading the Party, Leading the City
Plutarch and his Roman Readers

Philip A. Stadter

Oxford University Press

Plutarch’s description in Table Talk of a symposiarchos or leader of a dinner party (Quaestiones Conviviales 1.4, 620A–622B) offers many similarities to the political leader described in Praecepts for Politicians. Both aim at reducing division and rivalry and encouraging concord. It is desirable that the guests know each other and the host: problems may arise when one guest invites another unknown to the host, or especially when a prominent person, such as a Roman official, arrives with a whole retinue. In these cases the risk of offence or ill-temper is greater. The symposiarch himself should be sympotkotatos, devoted to the symposium and the friendship and concord of its participants. Politics is to be avoided as a subject, as all mockery and insult. In the ninth book, Plutarch’s teacher Ammonius is an admirable leader, carefully regulating the party with conversation and music. Plutarch stresses that neither a city nor a party is ever in a stable state: the leader must always exercise constant care.

Keywords:   Plutarch, Table Talk, dinners, Quaestiones conviviales, symposium, concord, guests, conversation, statesman, Praecepts for Politicians

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