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That “drinking games are a time-honored tradition” has a whole new meaning – at least ever since Professors Heather Sharpe and Andrew Snyder of West Chester University in Pennsylvania, and their students, researched and recreated a drinking game called kottabos that goes way, way back, far preceding college fraternities, all the way to Ancient Greece.

“As an art historian, I have long been fascinated with kylix drinking cups and the painted imagery on them,” Prof. Sharpe explains to TNH as the motivation behind this project.

“Kylikes are exceptionally beautiful in shape and design, but I often wondered how truly functional they were. There are other standard cup shapes that were made by Greek potters, but for some reason the kylix was one of the preferred cups for the Greek symposium as well as for playing the game drinking game known as kottabos.”

Sharpe explained that “the game of kottabos has been described by Ancient authors and is frequently depicted on Greek vases. Nonetheless I often wondered about how the game was actually played and how difficult it was. I tried to explain this game to my students but had a lot of unanswered questions about how it was actually played. As I work in the Department of Art and Design at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, I was able to collaborate on this project with my colleague, ceramics Professor Andrew Snyder.

For Snyder, the biggest challenge was creating the clay and 3D kylikes. “Greek kylikes of the Archaic and Classical period are richly decorated and require considerable technical finesse to recreate some of the elaborate black-figure and red-figure painted decoration.” Prof. Snyder simplified the design and painted decoration of his clay kylikes as replicating designs from original Greek pottery is so difficult to master. For the 3D kylix, he created a design using Rhinoceros, a modelling software program. “Even 3D printing the kylix was challenging, as it took 6 ½ hours to print our small (6 inch diameter) kylix,” Snyder said.


As the event was held on campus, Sharpe, Snyder, and their students did not use actual wine. “Instead, we used diluted grape juice (mainly so that we could more easily see/record the liquid being thrown in photos and video), Sharpe said. At some point, she added, “we would like to try this with actual wine, although the wine drunk by Ancient Greeks was considerably different from what we drink today. She explained: “it was typically diluted (e.g. wine to water ration of 1:2 or 1:3), and there are references in ancient Greek and Roman literature that wine was flavored with various additives such as pine resin, chalk, sea water, honey, pepper, juniper berries, marjoram and saffron.

“Interestingly,” Sharpe added, there was a gender pattern. The women were more successful than the men: “perhaps they relied more on finesse than throwing power.”


Neither Sharpe nor Snyder are of Greek descent, but their intellectual curiosity has drawn them to the country and the culture. Sharpe, in particular, has a significant connection to Greece. Her specialty is Greek and Roman art.

A specialist primarily in Ancient Bronze sculpture, Snyder says that based on the tremendous interest in the kottabos project, “I may have to consider switching specialties!”

Sharpe has more of a connection to Greece, as “I have traveled there often. I did my dissertation work there (focusing on Greek and Roman bronze statuettes) and am a frequent visitor to the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA – a school and research center that helps to coordinate American research and archaeological activities in Greece). I especially enjoy my work in Greece and at the ASCSA. I have had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout Greece and never tire of exploring its beautiful scenery and amazing archaeological and cultural sites. I find Greeks to be very warm and welcoming and especially passionate about Greece’s art and history. It has been very tough to see so many Greeks go through such difficult economic times in the last few years.”

Sharpe is “primarily a specialist in ancient bronze sculpture…but considering the interest generated by our kottabos project, I may have to consider switching specialties!”

A total of 15 people played the kottabos game at West Chester University, Sharpe said, and as it took place during the end of final exam week, “it proved to be a great stress reliever!”

Perhaps we can try our hand at kottabos here at the Herald. But does that mean from then on we’d have to call ourselves the Ethnikos Kylix?








The post University in Pennsylvannia Recreates Ancient Greek Drinking Game appeared first on The National Herald.

Source: The National Herald
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