Before the invited guest went to the entertainment he made his toilette: that is, he bathed, perfumed himself, and donned his best clothes and shoes.
The table was usually spread in the andronitis, or reception room for men, and the guest, after exchanging salutations with his entertainers, took the place assigned to him, the most honorable being that at the side of the host. Servants removed the shoes of the guests and purified the feet from the dust of the streets. Then they reclined upon couches with bright coverings and hangings, resting the left arm upon a cushion, so as to leave the right hand free. As a rule, there were two guests to each couch. Before each the slaves placed a table spread with viands, and brought meat, fish, and sauces in dishes, and bread, cakes, and fruit in baskets. The guest had no plate nor knife for himself, and as for forks, they were unknown, but a spoon was placed at his disposal. The meat was served cut into small pieces, which he took with the fingers of the right hand, and dipped into the sauces. After the meal, as before it, the servants carried around water to wash the hands, and during the meal the fingers were wiped, if necessary, on bread or a piece of dough placed for the purpose.
The repast usually consisted of two courses, of which the first was fish and meat, with the vegetables and other hors-d'aeuvres, and the second the dessert of pastry, cakes, and fruit.
While the meal proper continued, there was no drinking, nor was it the custom to converse while eating. Conversation began with the second part of the entertainment, the symposion or carousal, for which the tables were removed, and the floor cleansed of all fragments. Other tables were then brought in by the servants, covered with salted cakes - a kind of bretzels - cheese and other viands provocative of thirst.
The great mixing bowls were brought in, also pitchers of water cooled in snow, and jugs of unmixed wines, ladle-shaped dippers, beakers, and cups deep and shallow, of graceful forms, and the queer horn-shaped vessels, called rhyta. The youngest and handsomest slaves were chosen to wait on the guests, who crowned their heads and garlanded their breasts with myrtle and violets, ivy and roses, not merely as a sign of festivity, but to cool their glowing temples, and, as they thought, to counteract the heady qualities of the wine. Music was then brought in, song and dance delighted ear and eye, and Bacchos, attended by the Muses and the Graces, ruled the hour, often until all were sunk in intoxication.
The Greek loved wine, and honored it in art and song. He loved it not merely as a means of sensual enjoyment: he used it as the care-dispeller, the bringer of joy and mirth. Wine raised the spirits of the youth, and taught age to forget its gray hairs and disregard its infirmities.