Syssitia


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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Our picture of the Cretan syssitia, derived from contemporary and later sources, accords well with Schmitt-Pantel's definition of the "civic institution" in the Archaic Greek city, in which rituals of commensality are viewed as fluid social practices.
60-76, for the Cretan syssitia, and Chaniotis 1999b, pp.