In his Quaestiones Convivales, Plutarch is, if not the first, one of the first to fuse the genres of
problem-collection with more traditional symposiastic literature. Later works like Athenaeus’
Deipnosophistae and parts of Aulus Gellius’ Noctes Atticae show that the hybrid remained a popular
one. This is surely at least partially a function of the lively nature of the Quaestiones themselves.
Is another part of the attraction the opportunity to look through a window at Plutarch, his
private life, and family? If so, does it matter whether or not these dinner parties actually took
place? Yes and no, depending on the reader’s viewpoint. The literal reality of the dinner parties
is a tactic, part of the arsenal of techniques with which Plutarch will lead us to a greater reality
that is much more meaningful.