Kottabos Is A Wild Ancient Greek Drinking Game That Required Throwing Wine


SPILLING RED WINE MAY BE the ultimate party foul, especially if it lands on the host’s couch or carpet. But for the ancient Greeks, a party wasn’t good unless the wine flowed freely. The Greeks didn’t just fling their glasses of wine about willy-nilly, though. This game of wine-slinging—known as kottabos—had a discernible target, and both pride and prizes were on the line.

Kottabos had two iterations. The preferred way to play, which is the iteration often depicted in plays and especially on pieces of pottery, involved a pole. Players would balance a small bronze disk, called a plastinx, on top of it. The goal was to flick dregs of one’s wine at the plastinx so that it would fall, making a clattering crash as it hit the manes, a metal plate or domed pan that lay roughly two-thirds down the pole. The competitors reclined on their couches, arranged in a square or circle around the pole a couple of yards away. Each then took turns launching their wine from their kylix, a shallow, circular vessel with a looping handle on each side.


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