Terracotta model representing a lion's paw tripod table, 2nd–1st century BC, from
The Greeks had three to four meals a day.
Breakfast (ἀκρατισμός akratismos) consisted of
barley bread dipped in wine (ἄκρατος akratos), sometimes complemented by
figs or olives.
 They also ate
pancakes called τηγανίτης (tēganitēs), ταγηνίτης(tagēnitēs)
 or ταγηνίας (tagēnias),
 all words deriving from τάγηνον (tagēnon), "frying pan".
 The earliest attested references on tagenias are in the works of the 5th century BC poets
Tagenites were made with
wheat flour, olive oil,
curdled milk, and were served for breakfast.
 Another kind of pancake was σταιτίτης (staititēs), from σταίτινος (staitinos), "of flour or dough of
 derived from σταῖς (stais), "flour of spelt".
Athenaeus in his
Deipnosophistae mentions staititas topped with honey,
sesame and cheese.
lunch (ἄριστον ariston
) was taken around noon or early afternoon.
Dinner (δεῖπνον deipnon), the most important meal of the day, was generally taken at nightfall.
 An additional light meal (ἑσπέρισμα hesperisma) was sometimes taken in the late afternoon.
 Ἀριστόδειπνον / aristodeipnon, literally "lunch-dinner", was served in the late afternoon instead of dinner.
Men and women took their meals separately.
 When the house was too small, the men ate first, the women afterwards.
Slaves waited at dinners.
Aristotle notes that "the poor, having no slaves, would ask their wives or children to serve food." Respect for the father who was the breadwinner was obvious.
The ancient Greek custom of placing
terra cotta miniatures of their furniture in children's graves gives us a good idea of its style and design. The Greeks normally ate while seated on chairs; benches were used for banquets.
 The tables, high for normal meals and low for banquets, were initially rectangular in shape. By the 4th century BC, the usual table was round, often with animal-shaped legs (for example lion's paws). Loaves of flat bread could be used as plates, but terra cotta bowls were more common.
Dishes became more refined over time, and by the Roman period plates were sometimes made out of precious metals or glass. Cutlery was not often used at the table: use of the
fork was unknown; people ate with their fingers.
 Knives were used to cut the meat.
 Spoons were used for soups and broths.
 Pieces of bread (ἀπομαγδαλία apomagdalia) could be used to spoon the food
 or as
napkins to wipe the fingers.
As with modern dinner parties, the host could simply invite friends or family; but two other forms of
social dining were well documented in ancient Greece: the entertainment of the all-male symposium, and the obligatory, regimental syssitia.
symposium (συμπόσιον symposion), traditionally translated as "banquet", but more literally "gathering of drinkers",
 was one of the preferred pastimes for the Greeks. It consisted of two parts: the first dedicated to food, generally rather simple, and a second part dedicated to drinking.
 However, wine was consumed with the food, and the beverages were accompanied by snacks (τραγήματα tragēmata) such as
beans, toasted wheat, or honey cakes, all intended to absorb alcohol and extend the drinking spree.
The second part was inaugurated with a
libation, most often in honor of
 followed by conversation or table games, such as
kottabos. The guests would recline on couches (κλίναι klinai); low tables held the food or game boards. Dancers, acrobats, and musicians would entertain the wealthy banqueters. A "king of the banquet" was drawn by lots; he had the task of directing the slaves as to how strong to mix the wine.
With the exception of
courtesans, the banquet was strictly reserved for men. It was an essential element of Greek social life. Great feasts could only be afforded by the rich; in most Greek homes, religious feasts or family events were the occasion of more modest banquets. The banquet became the setting of a specific genre of literature, giving birth to
Xenophon's work of the same name, the Table Talk of
Moralia, and the Deipnosophists (Banquet of the Learned) of
The syssitia (τὰ συσσίτια ta syssitia) were mandatory meals shared by social or religious groups for men and youths, especially in
Sparta. They were referred to variously as
hetairia, pheiditia, or andreia (literally, "belonging to men"). They served as both a kind of aristocratic
club and as a military
mess. Like the symposium, the syssitia was the exclusive domain of men — although some references have been found to all-female
syssitia. Unlike the symposium, these meals were hallmarked by simplicity and temperance.