Dennis E. Smith

The dinner entertainment at Greek and Roman banquets often included prostitutes and musicians. In contrast, a fifth-century B.C.E. funerary relief from Athens shows a wife sitting respectably upright at the foot of her reclining husband.

Among the Greeks, respectable women, if present at a banquet at all, sat rather than reclined. Among the Romans, however, respectable women often attended banquets and reclined along with the men. In Luke 10:39, Mary Magdalene joins Jesus at a banquet and sits upright at his feet, as in the Athenian relief. (Jesus, of course, would have been reclining.) The vessel held by the husband in this relief is a rhyton or drinking horn with a hole in the end for sipping the wine. (The serving boy at left stands ready to refill the man’s rhyton when he has drained it.)