Kottabos, Anatolio Scifoni, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A Fascinating Ancient Greek Drinking Game

Kottabos, an ancient Greek drinking game popular in Athens and southern Italy during the 6th to 4th centuries BCE, involved skillfully throwing wine towards a target. Played at symposiums, it used a metal pole, plate, and central disk. While celebrated by Greek playwrights, it faded in Roman society. The intentional wine spillage made Kottabos a distinctive and intriguing part of ancient social gatherings, leaving a lasting legacy in Greek history and culture.

The Original drinking game

In the 6th to 5th centuries BCE, the renowned game of Kottabos was a fashionable pursuit in Athens and became a widespread passion in southern Italy until approximately the 4th century BCE. Rooted in the concept of the “artful throwing of wine,” participants engaged in this unique drinking game by flinging wine from a bowl (kylix) or mug (skyphos) towards a target, typically done with the right hand facing or looking away from the target.

The game featured a candelabra-like tall metal pole with a small, loose plate, adding an element of skill and precision. The objective was to throw the wine in such a way that the plate fell with a metallic sound. The device had a central metal disk serving as both a target to destabilize the pole and a source of a bright sound when hit. Originating in the Greek colonies of Sicily, Kottabos also found popularity among the Etruscans. Despite its acclaim in ancient Greek and Italian cultures, Kottabos did not garner as much favor in Roman society and gradually faded into obscurity.

Prominent playwrights of the time, including Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, and Antiphanes, not only described the game but also actively participated in and enjoyed it. A prevalent feature at symposiums, Kottabos was a game enjoyed by both men and women. The winner, who successfully knocked down the plate, was awarded a prize, the nature of which varied for each event.

Kottabos stands out among ancient drinking games for its intentional spillage of wine, adding a captivating and distinctive element to social and recreational gatherings. Despite its historical decline, Kottabos remains a fascinating glimpse into the aristocratic and leisurely lifestyle associated with the Greek symposium culture, leaving an enduring legacy in the annals of ancient Greek history.

The Distilling Culture


Embark on a global journey, and you’ll find that cultures possess tales that harken back to their ancient beginnings of distillation, brewing, and winemaking.


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