Kottabos, the Ancient Greek Drinking Game that Was the Beer Pong of Athens

The Classical Athenians had a pretty nifty drinking game that actually involved a good deal of skill.

The game was to fling the last portion of wine left in your cup towards a lamp stand with a little statue on top holding a tiny disc. You had to knock the disc (called a “plastinx”) off the stand with your wine so they it fell off and landed on on a big disc on the pole made a *ding* sound. And you had to stay in the slouched position you were sitting and use only your drinking hand.

“Who shall clean up this mess? Not us, I say!”Photo: Marie-Lan Nguyen

You actually had to be pretty skilled to be good at this drinking game, and it likely got more difficult (or perhaps easier) as you drank more. It was typically played at symposia (Greek drinking parties).

Variations

Kottabos had many variations. In Kottabos with an oxybaphon saucers were set in a bowl full of water, and you had to sink the saucers by throwing your wine in.

It was said that players would typically say loudly something or someone they desired as they flung their wine glob at the figurine.

Other verions had the player try to fill the big disc with enough wine to tip it over. Another version had the big disc at the top of the lamp stand that you aimed at instead.

Whatever the variant, the basic idea involved flinging your wine at objects while shouting passionately.

“And they think we come here to talk about philosophy! Hahaha!”

The cups

Not exactly red solo cups, the “kylixes” were wide but shallow, and had two handles.

Large eyes were apparently painted underneath the cups so you would basically look like you’re wearing a mask as you took a swig. On the inside, sexual images were slowly revealed as the liquid level went down. Kind of sounds like a game made by and for clever drunk men with too much time on their hands.

It’s believed that Kottabos originated in Sicily, and spread throughout Greece, with Athens being the most passionate about the game. There are numerous accounts of the game in Greek texts by a variety of different writers, and images appear on vases of Kottabos players in the middle of a game.

Here’s a video of modern players recreating Kottabos (for science, of course):

Top photo: Marie-Lan Nguyen

More information:
Wikipedia
Vintage News
Daily Mail

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