Editors:
Floris van den Eijnde
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Josine H. Blok
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Rolf Strootman
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Free access

Preface

Feasts play a crucial role in human society. They mark the rhythm of the seasons, the life cycles of individuals and the (re-) configuration of communities. Comparative anthropological and historical analysis illuminates how feasts act as a driving force of social interaction, the communal consumption of food and drink serving as a powerful tool for status negotiation. They provide venues for social cohesion and exclusion, formal and informal authority and economic redistribution.

In ancient Greece, feasts played a fundamental role in the emergence of the polis, including those institutions that helped define and transform polis society, culture and politics. Transmitting both formal and informal societal codes to next generations, Greek feasting rituals were responsible to an important degree for the great resilience of the polis, Greece’s most characteristic form of political organization, which endured well over a millennium.

Two types of feasts have been and still are studied in depth: the religious festival, where sacrificial meat was offered to the gods and consumed by cult-participants during religious banquets, and the symposion, where the drinking cup was dexterously passed among a select group of social peers. This volume explores how these forms of feasting, the sacrificial feast and the symposion, emerged and evolved, but more importantly, how they stood at the core of the religious and political institutions that defined Greek society.

This book is the product of a three-day conference held at Utrecht University on January 16–19, 2014, made possible by the Utrecht University strategic scheme Institutions for Open Societies and the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). The editors would like to thank the series editors and proofreaders of Mnemosyne Supplements (History and Archaeology of Classical Antiquity), the publishers at Brill—Tessel Jonquière, Giulia Moriconi and Mirjam Elbers—as well as Jennifer Palinkas for her astute proofreading and Alma Kant for her help in compiling the indices.

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