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And concerning the Cretan banquets, or συσσίτια, Dosiades speaks in the fourth book of his treatie on Cretan Affairs, speaking as follows:—“But the Lyctians collect men for the common meal (συσσίτια) of the nation in this way:— Every one brings a tenth part of the fruits which his land produces and throws into the common stock of the mess; [p. 232] and they also bring their share of the taxes due to the city, which the chief magistrates of the city distribute among each separate family. And each one of the slaves pays an Aeginetan stater1 a head. The citizens are all divided into messes; and they call them ἀνδρεῖα. And a woman has the superintendence of their meals, having-three or four of the people under her to obey her orders. Now each one of the company is followed by two servants bearing wood; and their title is calophori. And there are in every town of Crete two houses set apart for these συσσίτιαι, one of which they call the men's house, and the other, that, namely, in which they receive strangers, they call the sleeping house. And in the house which is set apart for these public meals, there are first of all two tables set out, called the strangers' tables, at which those foreigners who are present sit; and after that tables are laid for the rest. And the younger men have half the quantity of meat; and they touch none of the other dishes. Then a bowl of wine is placed on each table, mingled with water; and all drink of this in common at the common table; and when they have finished supper then another bowl is put on the table. But for the boys one common bowl is likewise mixed; but the elders have liberty to drink more if they feel inclined to. And the woman who has the superintendence of the mess takes away from off the table, without any disguise or concealment, the best of what is served up, and puts it before those who are distinguished for warlike achievements or for wisdom. And when they have finished supper, then, first of all, they are in the habit of deliberating on the affairs of the state; and then, after that, they converse about exploits which have been performed in war, and extol those who have behaved like valiant men, and so exhort the younger men to acts of valour and virtue.” And Pyrgion, in the third book of his treatise on Cretan Laws, says—“At their public meals the Cretans sit and feast merrily. And those who are orphans have dishes served up to them without any seasoning; and the youngest of them minister to the others; and having uttered words of good omen they pour libations to the gods, and distribute the dishes served up to all the guests. They distribute some also to the sons who are sitting just behind the seat of their [p. 233] fathers; giving them one-half as much as is given to men; but the orphans have an equal share. And whatever is served up to them has no seasoning nor any luxurious mixtures compounded in it. There were also three seats designed for strangers, and a third table, on the right hand side as you went in to the house where the men ate; and that they called the table of the Jupiter of Hospitality, and the table of Hospitality.”
1 A stater was about 3s. 3d.
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