The Easterner at the Drinking Party: The Role of the Other in the Ancient Greek Symposion

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


Athenian painted pottery from the late Archaic and early Classical period frequently depicts images of the symposion, a popular ancient Greek drinking banquet which played an important role in ancient Athenian society. Some of these depictions include images of Eastern foreigners alongside Athenian symposiasts, identified by clothing associated with ethnic groups from ancient Mesopotamia and regions around the Black Sea. Traditionally, scholars have accepted these images as literal depictions of Eastern foreigners in the symposion or as representations of a symposiarch's authority. However, a closer look at these images and their role in the symposion suggests a different interpretation of the Eastern figures. This thesis analyzes how images were perceived by viewers at the time in the social context of the symposion and how Athenian iconography of Eastern foreigners overlapped to create a generalized "Otherness" in the Athenian imagination. In this context, the common activities and images of the symposion reinforced a shared identity among the participants, using ancient Greek pottery to present the Eastern Other as an example of poor symposion behavior, thus associating Athenian identity with proper symposion behavior.



Symposion, Ancient Athens, The Other, Archaic Period, Ancient Greek Iconography