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LESCHE (λέσχη) seems to be connected with λέγω, though the history of the form which it takes is not quite clear (Curtius, Greek Etym. 366). It means conversation, and hence a place of conversation or council. The definition in Photius is λέσχας ἔλεγον δημοσίους τινὰς τόπους, ἐν οἷς σχολὴν ἄγοντες ἐκαθέζοντο πολλοί . . . . ἐξέδραις δὲ ὁμοίας γενέσθαι. In early times they were the places for lounging and gossip, such as could be found in the village smithy, παρ᾽ δ᾽ἴθι χαλκεῖον θῶκον καὶ ἐπαλέα λέσχην (Hes. Op. 491). (Compare the mention of furnus as a place for gossip in Horace.) In Od. 18.329 the λέσχη seems to be mentioned as distinct from the smithy, though both are mentioned as places for gossip. It is probable that even in those early times there were covered places, porticoes or verandahs, open to the sun (ἀλεεινοὶ τόποι, as Hesychius calls them, and this is probably the sense of ἐπαλής), which were used as a sort of village club. We gather from the grammarians that there were commonly in Greek cities such places called λέσχαι, where the idle resorted for conversation, the poor to find warmth and shelter; at Athens it is said that there were several. (Eustath. ad Od. 1. c.; Proclus ad Hes. l.c.; Kühn ad Ael. VH 2.34; C. I. 93, 23.)

In the Dorian states especially we find the word used for a sort of club-room and as a place for meeting and consultation. At Sparta every phyle had its lesche. Pausanias names two, one called the λέσχη Κροτανῶν, the other (from its decoration) the λέσχη ποικίλη (Paus. 3.14.240; 15.245). Plutarch (Plut. Lyc. 25.55) speaks of them as used for business also, but especially for the relaxation of the citizens (ἥδυσμα τοῦ πόνου), in contrast to their severe bodily exercises and drilling; in fact, “The proper home of the Spartan art of speech, the original source of so many Spartan jokes, current over all Greece, was the Lesche, the place of meeting for men at leisure near the public drilling-grounds, where they met in small bands and exchanged merry talk, as soldiers do by the watch-fire in the camp. Here men learnt the give-and-take of Spartan speech” (Curtius, Hist. of Greece, E. T., vol. i. p. 205). No doubt those at least mentioned by Pausanias had some architectural pretensions, [p. 2.32]and we find others such elsewhere, especially those in connexion with the temples of Apollo (which suggests that, though in vogue among Ionians also, they belonged more particularly to Dorians); and hence Apollo as their guardian is called λεσχηνόριος. Most famous of all was the Lesche of the Cnidians at Delphi, a court surrounded by colonnades or cloisters and painted in the colonnades on the right and left by Polygnotus: the Trojan war on the right, with the taking of the city and the loosing of the fleet; the realms of death, into which Ulysses descended, on the left. The paintings are elaborately described by Pausanias (10.25-31.859 sq.), who was fortunate enough to have seen them.

[P.S] [G.E.M]

hide References (3 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 10.25
    • Homer, Odyssey, 18.329
    • Aelian, Varia Historia, 2.34
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