In his work On Proverbs, Clearchus writes that “the solution of riddles (griphoi) is not alien to
philosophy, and the ancients used to make a display of their knowledge by means of them. For
in propounding riddles in their drinking-bouts they were not like the people of today who ask
one another, what is the most delightful form of sexual commerce, or what fish has the best
flavour”. Symposiastic riddles were in fact a very popular sub-literary genre, as is witnessed
by some epigrams of the Greek Anthology (book 14th) and by the Latin Aenigmata Symposii or
Symphosii, but in order to find the ‘philosophical riddles’ mentioned by Clearchus we must turn
to literary banquets. The topics dealt with in Plato’s and Xenophon’s Symposia (the praise of the
god of Love; the definition of the most beautiful thing in the world) are in fact philosophical
questions (what is love? What is the most beautiful thing in the world?).
This paper deals with Plutarch’s position regarding the riddles (griphoi and aenigmata) banqueters
were asked to solve in real symposia and the questions (problemata) banqueters were addressed
in literary symposia; particular attention is devoted to two of Plutarch’s works, the Quaestiones
convivales and the Convivium septem sapientium.