Ancient Literary Culture and Meals in the Greco-Roman World: The Role of Reading during Ancient Symposia

Was reading literary texts common during ancient symposia? What is the relationship between reading and other forms of dinner entertainment? Was the meal the common place for the so-called recitatio, the reading of unpublished literary works by its authors? Can we assume that biblical texts where read during early Christian meals? The proposed paper addresses these questions by giving an overview of the relevant Greco-Roman sources, which refer to reading practices during ancient meals. It will be shown that the symposium was not the primary social setting for reading longer literary texts. On the contrary, one can detect the convention to only read short portions of literary texts, serving as a stimulus for the table talk. These findings have significant impact for the question of the primary setting of reading longer New Testament texts as well as for the question of the development of the New Testament Canon.