Christian Jacob, The Web of Athenaeus
Chapter 1. On the Art of Planting Cabbage
Chapter 2. Banquet, Symposium, Library
Chapter 3. “Athenaeus is the Father of this Book”
Chapter 4. Banquet and Sumposion
Chapter 5. An Art of Conviviality: Plutarch and Athenaeus
Chapter 6. Larensius’ Circle
Chapter 7. Writing the Symposium
Chapter 8. Forms of Collection
Chapter 9. Accumulation and Structure
Chapter 10. Serving the Dishes, Quoting the Texts: The Unfolding of the Banquet
Chapter 11. How to Speak at Table?
Chapter 12. Libraries and Bibliophiles
Chapter 13. Scholars’ Practices
Chapter 14. Words and Things
Chapter 15. The Deipnosophists as a Text: Genesis, Uses
Chapter 16. The Web of Athenaeus: The Art of Weaving Links
Chapter 17. The Epitome of the World
Chapter 18. When a Culture Reflects on Itself
Chapter 8. Forms of Collection
There are words that allow one to obtain a view from above the labyrinth, to seize one of its principles of structural coherence. For example sunagōgē, which means “collection”. It is one of those keywords that invite one to unravel Ariadne’s thread in Athenaeus’ labyrinth. Indeed, not only does the activity of collection appear, it is one of its constitutive elements.
When Athenaeus turns to Timocrates at the end of Book 2 to put an end to his catalogue of vegetables and of quotations relating to them, he uses the word sunagōgē (2.71e); likewise, at the end of Book 11 (509e), when the catalogue of wine cups has just been given. Sunagōgē also describes the assembly of scholars at the Museum of Alexandria (5.203e), as it does that of the guests at the symposium (5.192b).  Moreover, the neuter plural sunagōgima is sometimes used as a synonym for “banquets”, and sunagōgion for “symposium” (8.365b–c). As a quotation by Antiphanes shows, three guests are “gathered” on a triclinium (2.47f). It is, however, also texts that are “gathered”, for example playful epigrams (2.321f). Sunagōgē can be used of a lexicon, that is of a collection of words (7.329d; see also 1.5b). This passion for collections of words is also characteristic of Ulpian: he “collects thorns” (i.e. thorny questions) in everything he runs into (3.97d). Sunagōgē is used, more generally, for any erudite collection (9.390b; 13.579d–e, 609a). Books can also be collected (in which case one has a library). Larensius, with his sunagōgē of books, surpasses all his most illustrious predecessors (1.3b; see also 12.515e).
Collecting, gathering, and accumulating are essential gestures in Athenaeus’ universe. Larensius’ guests are a gathering of scholars that recalls the Museum of Alexandria. Larensius’ library, that prodigious collection of books, constitutes the horizon of the banquet. It is also the horizon of Athenaeus’ text, a text that is at the same time a compendium and a map of the library. The Deipnosophists contains collections of facts, of quotations, of texts, but also of words and of things. Athenaeus’ text is at the same time a symposium, a library, a collection of curiosities, and a lexicon.
[ back ] 1. On “assembling” a dinner party or a banquet, see also 4.143a; 5.186b, 187a, 187f, 211c 216f; 6.246c; 10.420e.