A Banquet for Demodocus

by cheri block sabraw

Last weekend, we held a banquet  for Joe’s 78th Birthday.

Banquets are a major motif in Ancient Greek literature, and in some Roman literature too, so hosting a dinner  tailored for Joe seemed entirely in keeping with the spirit of the man.

In Greek times, when seafaring strangers anchored their ships out in the cove, and sent small boats of guests on shore to meet and greet the hosts, Greek tradition proscribed the following protocol:

Guests first showered.

Then, they were oiled and massaged.

Finally, they dressed and entered the hall for dinner.

They ate unabashedly, drank, and womanized.

They smoked, talked, rhapsodized about their journeys.

After all that, the host asked the guests who they were.

At that point, the stories began, stories of long arduous journeys in which the crews tangled with loose women, monsters, and the elements—wind, fire, water.

Sometimes the hosts did not fit into the above model.

When Odysseus and his crew land at the island of the Cyclops, the Cyclops Polyphemus eats some of the men for dinner instead of serving them crackers and cheese with lamb pate. The Cyclops, uncivilized creatures with no law, no decorum, and certainly no concerns about hosting a dinner, provide a foil for the ideal Greek banquet.

In the Ancient Greek world,  banquets afforded opportunities for the following:

  • Devotion to the Gods
  • Trading
  • Friendship
  • Hospitality
  • Giving of gifts
  • Alliances

Joe is Sicilian. He is not shy. He ordered his banquet: Cornish game hens, wild rice, steamed broccoli, fresh Dungeness crab, olives, and for dessert–tapioca pudding.

The cook delivered.

A banquet for six people.

No oiling, massaging, carousing.

Just philosophic conversation from the master.

After dinner, King Alcinous served port.

Joe predicted the future.

About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
This entry was posted in On fiction, People and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to A Banquet for Demodocus

  1. andreaskluth says:

    Why no oiling and massaging?

  2. Cheri says:

    That’s funny. I asked the same thing.

  3. Peter G says:

    “After all that, the host asked the guests who they were.”

    Sounds like a state dinner at the White House.

  4. Tyler says:

    Great comments!

    Cheri, I think it’s about time I meet Joe.

  5. Brighid says:

    Sounds like a few office parties that I’ve attended.

  6. Brighid says:

    LOL amoung other things.

  7. The Village Gossip says:

    How about an evening out?

  8. Cheri says:

    Interesting that most comments on my blog are one-liners, compared with the books written on Andreas Kluth’s blog.

    Must be the nature of my posts. I need to take credit for initiating such deep thoughts.

    It’s enough to develop an insecurity complex.

    • The Village Gossip says:

      You must by now, Cheri, realise that I am innocent, naive and little travelled. Angel in England, by contrast, has flown everywhere. Unkind people, tell me travel broadens the mind. I say to myself, “And staying in one place deepens it”. Ha! … but there again, you are well travelled and deep. Another hypothesis out of the window! I already have an insecurity complex.

    • Peter G says:

      Perhaps your readers think you’re Bill O’Reilly. (“Please be pithy when writing to us!”)

  9. Masseuse says:

    My rates are very competitive.

  10. Village Gossip says:

    I’ll have to reset my grandfather clock to California time and silence the chimes.

    Angel in England is laying out my hair shirt.

  11. Pissog says:

    Bring some sand dabs, Cheri – they’re good for my sole. And you can bring Judge Blah’s bed over from the turkey shoot.

    I’m not sure which way this is going. Are you inviting Socrates or Profumo? (The point with point with Profumo is that he lied to the House – everything else was highly commendable).

    Time and place, everyone? You’re messing with an Englishman now.

  12. Village Gossip says:

    Moderation in all things.

  13. Cheri says:

    Double Fooey!!

    No one is invited except Aristotle. Period. Amen. End of conversation.

    I need to write a new blog post…

  14. thecriticalline says:

    It is a dangerous place to be, a beach in a storm. Rising and angry waters on the one hand, Poseidon stirring the deep, and the bayers for blood on the other.

    Why is it that I constantly return to this perilous edge? Do I seek my own annihilation? Is it the real but malign attention? Could it be the nightmare of the classroom from half a century ago that threatens to take hold and try me yet again?

    No, none of these. Here it is that I meet my friends. I stoop and run grains of waterlogged sand between my fingers and wonder at the atoms of silicon. It is night-time and lightening, for a moment, floods all in a stunning blue light, a symbolic, primordial birth.

    A tall, stooping, deceptively stern figure approaches and entreats me to return home to shelter. With childish idiocy, I turn and walk away, yet pause and look again. He discusses with another friend. They disappear and leave me alone. Why do all my friends go far away? Is it something I say, something I do? They are harsh in judgment. I yearn the enfolding, protecting wings of my angel.

  15. Man of Roma says:

    Hi Cheri,

    I like the way this post is written, concise, effective, with a gentle touch. Your face looks as gentle as your words and thoughts, although I’ll wait till I peruse your blog further, you might turn out an ogress or an insidious priestess 😉 … you know, the risky web encounters.

    I had come here much earlier but then I had been eaten up by the discussions over at our Hannibal man. I’m curious about this Sicilian old guy and the connection you might have with him. Sicily is a bit of a mystery even to Roma. I’ll definitely have to get into that one day.

    So I think he plays a very good Demodocus in your scene. When one meets people from out there, the voice, the tone, everything has … substance, I lack words. It’s like an Italy as it used to be. Wrong, it’s a world of its own. Btw, I’m going to Siracusa to spend there the New Year’s eve vacations with some friends.

    Nooo, I can’t believe it! I just read the post about HIM, about Joe!!

    So he was your mentor, your humanities instructor … I’ll jump overt here and comment.

    Ciao Sybil Cheri

  16. Cheri says:

    Welcome to my blog (which really is a holding cell for my essays…) I may turn them into my book after I cull out the weak ones.

    I really enjoyed your post on the Jews of Roma.

    Joe is a brilliant character, both in my essays and in real life. He has a double major in philosophy and English from U.C. Berkeley, but most of all, he is Sicilian. He tutors me every week in philosophy and literature.

    But perhaps you can help as well. Studio Dante (di nuovo) questa primavera. Forse lei può aiutarmi!

    My characters in my essays cannot compete with the characters who come to this blog.


  17. Man of Roma says:

    Ma, parli italiano Sibilla? Questo è curioso. Sembri di aspetto così inglese. Scusa, mi puoi dare del ‘tu’. I was saying, your look seems so English – or hyperborean – to me.

    I have taught Dante for 15 years. I forgot a lot of it since I was badly corrupted by computer engineering for the following 15 y., but I can always brush it up

  18. Man of Roma says:

    Forgot: Buona fortuna per il tuo libro!

  19. Cheri says:

    I am a multi (bene) hybrid–German, Russian, Scotch-Irish, and Polish.

    Dante— I studied the Inferno in Florence (actually in Fiesole) but have never read Purgatorio or Paradiso. My class will arrive at Dante this spring (symbolic of the Inferno, no?)

    My nephew Tyler helps me with any Italian (the language, that is… 😀 )I need to know.

    Ditto!! ( Italian for Right back at you! )

  20. Man of Roma says:

    A hybrid heritage is the best! I lived almost one year in Russia and know some German (passive knowledge,) while Russian, well, I tried, but total failure.

    Purgatorio and Paradiso are excellent too, especially Paradiso, even though it’s tougher. Only in Paradiso one perceives the tremendous power of Dante’s contemplation of beauty. The poet, the philosopher, the mystical and the rationalist – all come together in a wonderful unity of vision. So reading only Inferno is like coitus interruptus – you miss the final fireworks.

    Ciao Cherie,


    (Chatter-Box Of Roma)

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