Byzantine cuisine basically evolved from the ancient Greek gastronomic tradition. The type of ingredients, preparation methods and quite often the names of foods employed in both periods are testimony to this fact. Byzantine cuisine had already developed at a time when the European diet was still frugal and unrefined.
As in ancient times, formal Byzantine dinners were called symposia (symposiums), a word which in modern Greek evolced into tsimbousia. These festive events were noted for their ritual character, lavishness, variety of dishes and touch of refinement. After a few centuries, the anaklindra (type of couches) on which the Byzantines would recline and eat were substituted for a trapeza (large table). The latter was cleaned with a sponge soaked in water and balsam. The table was laid with a cloth that was usually white and decorated with embroidery – the elaborateness of which was determined by the host’s social position, along with table napkins and several utensils which, depending on the financial status of the household, were made of wood, clay, silver or gold.
Other than the requisite tableware, standards of social conduct were also observed. Guests were expected to arrive on time and remain until everyone had finished their dinner. Strict rules of etiquette governed the seating arrangement, as well: the host occupied the top of the long, narrow table, while guests would sit hierarchically on his right. The problems that emanated from this type of arrangement led to the invention of the round table, at which all guests sat at an equal distance from the center. Diners seated themselves onthronia or stools covered with small rugs. Women and men never attended these formal dinners together.