But every banqueting party among the ancients was referred to the gods; and accordingly men wore garlands appropriate and peculiar to the gods, and used hymns and odes. And there were no slaves to attend upon the guests, but free youths acted as the cupbearers. So the son of Mænelaus, although he was the bridegroom, and at his own wedding, acted; and in the poem of the beautiful Sappho, even Mercury acts as the cupbearer to the gods. And they were free men who prepared everything else for the guests. And after they had supped they went away while it was still daylight. But at some of the Persian feasts there were also councils held, as there were in the tent of Agamemnon with respect to the further conduct of the Trojan war. Now as to the entertainment given by Alcinous, to which the discourse of Ulysses refers where he says— [p. 307]
How goodly seems it ever to employHe refers also especially to his reception of straners, since the Phæacians themselves were devoted to luxury and yet if any one compares that feast made by Alcinous with the banquets of the philosophers, he will find that the better regulated of the two; although that also embraced much cheerfulness and spirit, only not in any unbecoming manner. For after the exhibition of gymnastics the bard sings—
Man's social days in union and in joy;
The plenteous board high heap'd with cates diviner
And o'er the foaming bowl the laughing wine;
The heav'n-taught poet and enchanting strain,
These are the products of a peaceful reign.
The loves of Mars,a certain lay mingled with some ridiculous incidents, and one which suggested to Ulysses some hints for the slaughter of the suitors; since Vulcan, even though he was lame, got the better of the most valiant Mars.