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Syssitia

τὰ συσσίτια). The meals taken in public and in common among the Dorians in Sparta and Crete, and confined to men and youths only. In Sparta all the Spartiatae, or citizens over twenty years of age, were obliged to attend these meals, which were there called φειδίτια. 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 necessary for election. The principal dish at the syssitia was a black broth (μέλας ζωμός) with pork, served with mixed wine. The tables were superintended by a woman of free birth, who had several men to assist her. She gave the best fare to those present who were most eminent in the service of the State. See Hoeck, Kreta, iii. 120-139; Bielchowsky, De Spartanorum Syssitiis (Breslau, 1869); and Gilbert, Gk. Const. Ant. p. 67 (1895).

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