How to Plan an Ancient Greek Theme Party

A plate of baklava.
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Scale the Olympian heights with a party straight out of Homer and a cast of gods and goddesses to cause mischief and mayhem as they decimate your buffet table. From the first hint of the bacchanal to come, to the last soggy triangle of baklava, plan your fete with more attention to detail than the invasion of Troy. Keep everybody moving with Greek music and activities to build up a thirst for those ouzo shots.

1 Divine Proclamation

Print invitations on parchment-style vellum using a Greek font and black letters. Send the invites rolled up in mailing cylinders decorated to look like Greek columns. Make it very clear that this is a costume party and that guests might wear their choice of a simple chiton and sandals or the dress of the god or goddess they will represent. For guests who might be unfamiliar with classical Greek mythology, include a partial list of likely suspects: Poseidon with a trident and a "seaweed" crown; Zeus with a thunderbolt and gold crown; Athena, wise goddess of war, with an owl perched on her shoulder and a fashionable helmet; Artemis with her bow and headdress with a crescent moon; Hermes wearing his famous winged hat and sandals.

2 Beside the Wine Dark Sea

The decor sets the scene and you can transform your basement or your pool patio with simple embellishments. Empty cardboard construction columns from the hardware store make fabulous temple pillars. Paint them white with gray "indentations" and add cardboard Ionic, Doric or Corinthian capitals -- you don't need historical accuracy, just atmosphere. Set columns flanking the entrance to the party space or scatter a number of them around the room or yard. Cover buffet tables with white cloths edged in the blue Greek key pattern and use party plates and napkins in blue, white and gold. Inside, fill the ceiling with blue, white and gold helium balloons with dangling silver and gold ribbons. Break glow sticks in about a third of them before the party starts. Outside, crisscross fluttering banners of blue and white pennants with twinkling light strings overhead.

3 Food for the Gods

Greek dishes are party food -- much of it invites munching and tasting and can be eaten with the fingers. Put out big platters heaped with mini spanakopita -- spinach and feta pastries, tabbouleh salad wrapped in grape leaves, Greek cheese, herbs and sun-dried tomato in phyllo rolls, zucchini fritters topped with a cream cheese-grape leaves spread and grilled shrimp, chick pea dip with pita chips, and mini lamb gyros with fresh mint and yogurt sauce. Serve-yourself Greek desserts could include baklava; little squares of custard pie; kourabiethes - almond shortbread cookies dusted with sugar; and slices of lemon pound cake made with yogurt and served with a dollop of fresh fruit salad. Stock the bar with ouzo, retsina, metaxa, cold beer and white wine, as well as juices and sparkling waters for non-drinkers.

4 Mischief and Mayhem

You know your crowd, but don't hesitate to move them out of their comfort zones and into a mythology trivia contest with a gold laurel wreath for a prize. Play lots of Greek music and encourage guests to link arms for traditional Greek folk dancing: line, circle, leaping dances, soustas -- a group circle dance with linked, crossed arms, repetitive footwork and an in-out circle pattern -- and other uninhibited choreographed aerobics. A Greek folk dance instructor with a big personality will get even the reluctant deities out of their seats and on the dance floor. Be sure to give a "best costume" prize for sartorial excellence, and a "least likely to be allowed on Mount Olympus" prize for that knotted bed sheet with the rubber flip flops.

Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .