Kottabos - Gastro Obscura


The ancient game of wine-flicking is as difficult as it is messy.

Even when reclined and full of wine, the ancient Greeks knew how to compete. And they married their love of feast and contest in the strategic wine-flinging game known as kottabos.

The game became a festive feature of symposia (a more erudite word for drinking parties) in the 5th century BC. Attendees reclined on couches around a center pole and held their wine in handled shallow vessels known as kylix. To win, players flung their wine in the hopes of hitting the plastinx, a bronze plate teetering atop the pole. A well-placed toss would cause the plastinx to tumble downward, clattering noisily onto a metal plate below.

Given the difficulty of lobbing liquids, the game was likely as messy as it sounds. Beyond accidental spills, there may have also been intentional splashing of opponents. In one Greek play, even the great Odysseus gets tormented by a wine-slinging rival. And while the true story of kottabos’ decline in the 4th century BC remains a mystery, the possibility of taunting and the inevitable mess could have been factors.

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