Syssitia


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Syssitia

 

(also feiditia), in certain ancient Greek states, especially Sparta and Crete, common meals mandatory for all full citizens.

The syssitia were based on customs of the clan system. Ancient tradition ascribes their introduction in Sparta to Lycurgus. In order to take part in the syssitia, Spartans had to have reached their majority and contribute regular dues in the form of food and money. Participants were seated in groups belonging to particular military units. The syssitia were held at outdoor tables, where everyone received the same modest fare. The syssitia gradually ceased to be “communes of equals” and became festive dinners. Attempts by King Agis IV and Cleomenes III to revive the syssitia in the third century B.C. did not meet with success. During the Roman period syssitia were called magistrates’ dinners.