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Form: neut. pl..
The common meals taken in public among the Dorians in Sparta and Crete, and confined to men and youths only. In Sparta, all the Spartiatoe, or citizens over twenty years of age, were obliged to attend these meals, which were there called pheiditia. No one was allowed to absent himself except for some satisfactory reason. The table was provided for by fixed monthly contributions of barley, wine, cheese, figs, and money to buy meat; the State only paid for the maintenance of the two kings, each of whom received a double portion. The places where the syssitia were held were called tents, and the guests were divided into messes of about fifteen members, vacancies in which were filled up by ballot, unanimous consent being indispensable for election. The messmates were called tent-companions, as they actually were in time of war. The table-companions of the two kings, who had a common table, were those who formed their escorts in the field. Accordingly, the generals of divisions in the army had the control of the syssitia. The principal dish was the well-known black broth (meat cooked in blood, seasoned with vinegar and salt), of which each person received only a certain amount, together with barley bread and wine, as much as they liked. This was followed by a course of cheese, olives, and figs. Besides this, the table-companions were allowed (and indeed were sometimes required as a penalty for small offences) to give a second course, consisting of wheaten bread, or venison caught by themselves in the chase; no one was allowed to obtain this by purchase. In Crete the people always sat clown while eating, and in Sparta this was originally the custom; but after a short time they were in the habit of reclining on wooden benches. In Crete there was a public fund for the syssitia. This absorbed one-half of the State revenue, and every citizen contributed to it a tithe of the produce of his land, as well as an annual sum of money for each slave. This fund not only bore the expense of the meals of the men and boys above a certain age, but also paid a sum sufficient to defray the expenses incurred by the women, children, and slaves in dining at home. These companies, which dined in common, were here called hetoerioe. The boys, who sat near their fathers on the ground, only received meat to the extent of one-half the portion of an adult. The youths dined together and had to wait upon their elders; they had also to be content with an amount of wine which was measured out to them from a large bowl of mixed wine, whilst the older men could replenish their cups as they pleased. Here, as in Sparta, there were penalties for intemperance. After the repast some time was spent in conversation on politics and other subjects, principally for the instruction of the youths.
Type: Standard
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