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[1272a] [1] and also both have public mess-tables, and in old days the Spartans called them not ‘phiditia’ but ‘men's messes,’ as the Cretans do, which is a proof that they came from Crete. And so also did the system of government; for the Ephors have the same power as the magistrates called Cosmi in Crete, except that the Ephors are five in number and the Cosmi ten; and the Elders at Sparta are equal in number to the Elders whom the Cretans call the Council; and monarchy existed in former times, but then the Cretans abolished it, and the Cosmi hold the leadership in war; and all are members of the Assembly, though it has no powers except the function of confirming by vote the resolutions already formed by the Elders and the Cosmi.

Now the Cretan arrangements for the public mess-tables are better than the Spartan; for at Sparta each citizen pays a fixed poll-tax, failing which he is prevented by law from taking part in the government, as has been said before; but in Crete the system is more communal, for out of all the crops and cattle produced from the public lands, and the tributes paid by the serfs, one part is assigned for the worship of the gods and the maintenance of the public services, [20] and the other for the public mess-tables, so that all the citizens are maintained from the common funds, women and children as well as men; and the lawgiver has devised many wise measures to secure the benefit of moderation at table, and the segregation of the women in order that they may not bear many children, for which purpose he instituted association with the male sex, as to which there will be another occasion1 to consider whether it was a bad thing or a good one. That the regulations for the common mess-tables therefore are better in Crete than at Sparta is manifest; but the regulations for the Cosmi are even worse than those regarding the Ephors. For the evil attaching to the office of the Ephors belongs to the Cosmi also, as the post is filled by any chance persons, while the benefit conferred on the government by this office at Sparta is lacking in Crete. At Sparta, as the election is made from all the citizens, the common people sharing in the highest office desire the maintenance of the constitution, but in Crete they do not elect the Cosmi from all the citizens but from certain clans, and the Elders from those who have held the office of Cosmos, about which regulations the same comments might be made as about what takes place at Sparta: their freedom from being called to account and their tenure for life gives them greater rank than their merit deserves, and their administration of their office at their own discretion and not under the guidance of a written code is dangerous. And the fact that the common people quietly tolerate their exclusion is no proof that the arrangement is a sound one; for the Cosmi unlike the Ephors make no sort of profit,

1 This promise is not fulfilled

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  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Antigone, 677
  • Cross-references to this page (1):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), SYSSI´TIA
  • Cross-references in notes to this page (2):
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