Common consumption of food, and of alcoholic beverages in particular, is one effective way of creating and reinforcing social bonds. At the risk of over-simplifying, the ancient Mediterranean world knew three major varieties of such events, in each of which different social concepts and goals found expression: oriental banquets must be compared and contrasted with Greek symposia, and the latter in turn with Roman convivia.
The bonds created by the drinking party in Greece typically united male aristocrats. As such, group loyalties were generated, and situations created in which special rules and a code of honor, sometimes opposed to those of the polis, prevailed. Political intrigues as well as plots of various sorts were likely to be hatched there. The freedom and equality which the members of the drinking group felt towards one another, however, must not be abused. Although tongues have been loosened by alcohol, expressions of camaraderie such as mutual joking and frivolity should not exceed the bounds of good taste and yield to unbridled insult; the good symposium can easily degenerate into a bad one.
Albert I. Baumgarten, “Rabbinic Literature as a Source for the History of Jewish Sectarianism in the Second Temple”, Dead Sea Discoveries, Vol. 2, No. 1 (April 1995), 40-41.