A conference is a meeting of many people who assemble to discuss some important matters and issues. Conferences are of various natures and types. The topics or matters discussed at a conference-event determine what type of meeting it is. The purpose or aim of every conference-event is to enlighten people on diverse matters so that they feel qualified to take positive decisions. A conference should add real value to the lives of all the attendees who attend it, i.e. if attendees arrive at the meeting feeling benighted, they should go away feeling enlightened and edified.
Birth of the Conference
People have conferred with each other from time immemorial. People of the Stone Age would confer with each other to take decisions on behalf of their clans. Men and women of the Paleolithic, Mesolithic and the Neolithic Periods would often converge in caves and caverns, in the midst of dense forests and in other primitive places to elect tribal chiefs, to discuss how to kill more game, to fix totems, to cook raw meat. They would talk amongst each other in languages that are unintelligible to us but that made sense to them. Sometimes, such conferences would end in bloody tussles and some of the attendees would be impaled to death by the crude tools and implements of the other attendees. Sometimes, when things were more peaceful, issues were solved mutually, through ‘dialogue’.
Conferencing during the New Stone Age
As man became more civilized, the conference changed in form and substance. People of the New Stone Age met in a better fashion than people of the Old Stone Age. Meetings were based on conversations instead of on brute strength. In the Neolithic Period or the New Stone Age, people began to live in hutments comprising mud bricks. Life was mostly pastoral though animals were slain for meat and hides. Land was cultivated and animals and livestock were tended and reared. Meetings took place in the open air, under the skies, in the midst of idyllic farmlands, which served as naturally rustic meeting venues. Now tell me, do we not go scouting for meeting venues in open spaces, which have the sky serving as a ceiling as well as a backdrop? Do we not have to cough up a huge amount for hosting an event at such a spot? But the funny thing is that organizing a conference in the open air in landscaped terrains was something that was remarkably easy and dirt cheap for Neolithic men and women. That is because they dwelled in spacious rural areas that were superb meeting venues per se. Therefore, they could host ‘conventions’ at the drop of a hat.
However, all was not hunky-dory with these village inhabitants of the New Stone Age. Sometimes, conferences would turn violent and brutal with tribes and tribal warlords maiming and killing each other viciously. Violence would also surface in meetings in which rites and rituals were executed. Albeit, the people of the Neolithic Period were for the most part, serene and engaged themselves in the art of pottery and making bronze and iron tools. There were frequent gatherings where the knowledge of making of pots and pans, tools and implements were exchanged between attendees.
The Greeks Ensured Not To Leave Things All Greek to Us
With the steady march of civilization, the face of the conference underwent a colossal transformation. Conventions and meetings began to be hosted and conducted on a grand scale. In the ancient Hellenic islands, conferences were held in large open spaces known as the agorae. The citizens of different Greek cities would gather here to discuss and sort out various issues. The agora represented the confluence point for the ancient Greeks. All religious rituals, business transactions, political and social affairs were carried out in the agora. Judges would also dispense justice from the agora. Much like modern convention centers that are located in bustling city spots, the agorae were situated in the heart of Greek cities and were encompassed by temples and public edifices.
If you are attending a glamorous symposium in a fabulous hotel, do remember to thank the Greeks. The word symposium originated in ancient Greece. A symposium was hosted in Greece to celebrate learning and knowledge. In ancient Greece, a symposium was a lavish banquet that was attended by the rich and aristocratic men of Greece. The men assembled at the symposium to talk about politics, philosophy and poetry. The symposium was originally an assembly of fighters. Warriors met here and ate and drank and regaled themselves to their hearts’ content. Symposium rooms were decorated elaborately only for the dining and wining. Just as modern seminar rooms are adorned to suit the tastes of the participants, ancient Greek halls where symposia were hosted were bedecked in a way to match the needs of the occasions celebrated within their precincts. An ironical fact that needs to be mentioned is that with the forward march of civilization, women started to occupy second place in society. Greek society was strictly patriarchal as opposed to Neolithic society, which was matriarchal.
To return to the subject of conferences, symposia were attended by aristocratic Greek men who wore rich garlands. The symposia commenced and ended with prayers. Some symposia were followed by pageants.
Assemblies were also organized in ancient Greece from time to time. Assemblies were also conferences where the Greeks met to discuss burning topics of the day.
The Areopagus was yet another form of conference in ancient Greece. The Areopagus was a council that was attended by Greek aristocrats. Initially, the Areopagus was attended by the king’s closest advisers. Members could attend for life. However, later the structure of the Areopagus was altered.