A game for Foundation Day

Several of Dionysos’ winter festivals contained a game called askolia, “to dance on a wineskin” which the Suidas describes in the following manner:

Askos en pakhnêi (a wine skin in a frost) : . . . A wineskin when heated becomes porous and when inflated it swells, but in the frost it is hardened and frozen. Also wineskin of Ktesiphon; Aristophanes writes: ‘According to our customs, at the trumpet signal drink your pitchers; whoever drains his first will win the wineskin of Ktesiphon.’ (Aristophanes, Acarnanians 1000 ff.) For in the Pitchers there was a contest concerning who could drain his pitcher first, and the winner was crowned with a wreath of leaves and got a skin of wine. At a trumpet signal they would drink. Ktesiphon was ridiculed for being fat and paunchy. An inflated wineskin was set forth in the festival of the Pitchers, on which those drinking in the competition would stand. The first one to finish his drink won, and got a wineskin. They drank a certain measure, a choa, of wine [2.8 litres]. Also to bear a wineskin (askophorein). In the Dionysiac processions, some things were done by the townspeople, but others had been assigned to the metics to do by the lawgivers. Accordingly the metics would put on chitons which had a crimson color and carry troughs;wherefore they were called tray-bearers (skaphêphoroi). The townspeople wore whatever clothing they wanted and carried wineskins on their shoulders, wherefore they were called ‘wineskin-bearers’ (askophoroi). Also a proverb: to be frightened by a wine skin (askôi mormoluttestêai), applied to those who are frightened absurdly and for no good reason. Also askoliazô; the Athenians had a winter festival in which they would hop on wineskins to the honor of Dionysos. The goat appears to be a natural enemy of the vine. There is an epigram addressed to a goat that goes like this: ‘devour me to the root, yet all the same I will bear fruit; enough to pour a libation for you, goat, as you are being sacrificed.’ ‘Dance on a wineskin’ meaning to dance on the other leg; strictly askôliazein is to hop on wineskins for sport. In the middle of the theatre they placed wineskins which were inflated and oiled and when they hopped onto these they slipped; just as Euboulos says in Damalia: ‘And in addition to these things, they put wineskins in the middle and hopped and guffawed at those who fell off the track.’

In the absence of a goatskin you can have participants play Twister. If you want to increase the fun and competitiveness – as well as likelihood for broken limbs! – cover the mat with olive oil or lube before the start. If the group is well acquainted and up for it, you can play Naked Twister. With or without the oil.