The concept of feasting is ancient (see Sellisternium, Belshazzar’s Feast, and Mead halls). In the sixteenth century, a feast was very different from our modern perception and originated from the medieval ‘ceremony of the void.’ After dinner, the guests would stand and drink sweet wine and spices while the table was cleared, or ‘voided’ (later in the seventeenth century, ‘void’ would be replaced with the French ‘dessert’).
During the sixteenth century, guests would no longer stand in the great chamber while the table was cleared and the room was prepared for entertainment, but would retire to the parlor or feasting room. As the concept of feasting developed, it could take place at any time during the day and have much more in common with the later practice of taking tea. Banqueting suites varied greatly from house to house but were generally on an intimate scale, either in a garden room or inside, such as the small feasting turrets in Longleat House.
A feast is a large meal or banquet, complete with main courses and desserts. It usually serves a purpose such as a charitable gathering, a ceremony, or a celebration, and is often preceded or followed by speeches in honor of someone. Banquet is a large catering event where food and drink are served for a pre-arranged number of people on a pre-fixed date and time, with an agreed menu and price (by F&B food Blog).
In ancient Egypt, your position in society determined how much you ate. Rich Egyptians usually held feasts where there were plenty of rich dishes. The meats served included beef, lamb, goat, pork, antelope, gazelle, hyena, crocodile, hippo, geese, pigeons, and fish. Salads, fruits, and other dishes were also served. Beer and wine were also available.
Baklava, basbousa, and bbouzat were three types of sweets. Entertainment was provided all night by jugglers, buffoons, musicians, and dancers. It was a night of merriment for all! At a preset time during the celebrations, a slave would bring a model of a mummy into the feasting room to remind the guests of their mortality.
Ancient Egyptians had no silverware, so all food was eaten with their hands. Beer and wine were the customary drinks for people of all social classes. The poor typically ate unleavened bread, onions, and sometimes fish. Beer was the usual drink. Beef and other meats were rarely eaten, except at government-sponsored banquets.
The wealthy enjoyed a more varied food selection. Wealthy Egyptians had over 15 different types of bread. Some of the vegetables common to their diet were lentils, greens, peas, cucumbers, onions, and radishes. Sugar was not available in Egypt, but they kept bees for honey to sweeten their food. Meats from cows, sheep, goats, and pigs were often served. The wealthy enjoyed dates, melons, grapes, pomegranates, and apricots, which were in good supply.
The rich often held feasts where large amounts and a wide variety of foods were served. Wild game and poultry were hunted and served. Butter and cheese were also served at these feasts.
GREEK AND ROMANS
Symposium is traditionally translated as “banquet,” but more literally as “gathering of drinkers.” The Greek symposium was a male blue-blooded activity, a social gathering where men drank together, conversed, and enjoyed themselves in a relaxing ambiance (Metropolitan Museum of Art). It was a central Hellenic social institution. Most of the conversation that happened at the symposium was about philosophical and political issues, and sometimes poetry. They were also often held to celebrate the introduction of young men into blue-blooded society.
The symposium began as a warrior banquet. Prayers opened and closed the meetings, and sessions sometimes ended with a procession in the streets.
It was broken up into two parts: the first included food and the second with drinking. The food in the first part was rather simple bite-sized foods, essentially used to help the second half last longer. The second part was inaugurated with a libation to the god Dionysus, the god of wine.
Symposia were also held by blue-blooded individuals to celebrate other special occasions, such as triumphs in sports and poetic competitions (Encyclopaedia Britannica). Most of the drinking and discussion done in the symposia was done in a separate quarter called the Andron. The rooms were designed specifically for the proceedings.
The participants, all male blue-blooded individuals, wore garlands and leaned on their left elbow on sofas, and there was a large consumption of wine, served by slave boys. The symposium was comprised of approximately seven to fifteen sofas with cushions, which fit one or two people per sofa, and there were also low set tables.
The drink used for the event was drawn from a Krater, a large jar designed to be carried by two men used for mixing drinks. It was then distributed among the guests. The drink was three parts water and one part wine.
The banquets could only be afforded by the rich in most Greek places. Spiritual banquets or household events were the occasion for more modest feasts. The feast became the scene of a specific genre of literature, giving birth to Plato’s Symposium, Xenophon’s work of the same name, the Table Talk of Plutarch’s Moralia, and the Deipnosophists (Banquet of the Learned) of Athenaeus.
Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans
Roman feasts have long been infamous in modern civilization for their degeneracy, both in terms of the extravagant and exotic food and the entertainment, which would often include male and female dancers and musicians. By the height of the Roman Empire, feasts would be deluxe affairs featuring food from all corners of the empire and beyond.
The dining room was one of the most important reception spaces of the abode and, as such, it included high-quality decorative fixtures such as floor mosaics, wall paintings, and stucco relief, as well as portable luxury objects such as artwork (particularly sculptures) and furniture. Like the Greeks, the Romans reclined on sofas while feasting, although in the Roman context respectable women were permitted to join men in leaning back.
This practice set the convivium apart from the Greek symposium, or male-only drinking party, at which female attendants were restricted to entertainers such as flute-girls and dancers as well as concubines (heterae).
Convivium (Latin: “living together”) or feast, Epulum (public banquet), and Cena (dinner, usually eaten in the mid-afternoon) were the three types of Roman meals.
A dining room typically held three wide sofas, each of which seated three persons, thus allowing for a total of nine guests. This type of room is usually described as a triclinium (literally, “three-couch room”), although dining rooms that could accommodate greater numbers of sofas are archaeologically attested.
In a triclinium, the sofas were arranged along three walls of the room in a U-shape, at the center of which was placed a single table that was accessible to all of the diners. Sofas were often made of wood, but there were also more luxurious versions with fittings made of expensive materials such as ivory and bronze.
A proper Roman dinner included three courses: the hors d’oeuvres (gustatio), the main course (mensae primae), and the dessert (mensae secundae). The food and drink that were served were intended not only to sate the guests but also to add an element of spectacle to the meal. Exotic produce, particularly those from wild animals, birds, and fish, were favored at elite dinner parties because of their rarity, difficulty of procurement, and attendant high cost, which reflected the host’s wealth.
Popular but expensive menu items included pheasant, thrush (or other songbirds), natural oysters, lobster, shellfish, venison, wild boar, and Inachis io. Foods that were forbidden by sumptuary laws, such as fattened poultry and sow’s bags, were flagrantly consumed at the most exclusive banquets.
Thalia was the goddess of celebration and rich, epicurean feasts. She was one of the three Charites (Graces) who normally appeared with her sisters dancing in a circle.
Thalia’s name comes from the Greek word Thalia, an adjective used to describe feasts as rich, plentiful, luxuriant, and abundant. In this sense, she was likely the same as Pandaisia (Banquet), a Charis who accompanies Aphrodite in Athenian vase painting. Thalia’s name besides means “the blooming” in the sense of springtime verdure and flowers ( californium. the Hora Thallo ) .