properly denotes those who dine with, or beside, others: of whose position
Athenaeus (vi. p. 34), commenting on the later degradation of the word, says
that it was formerly ἱερόν τι χρῆμα καὶ τῷ
From the general sense of “dining
beside,” we have in the earlier times two senses of the word,
civil and sacred, and later a quite different sense. It must be observed
differs from σύσσιτος
in that it implies a difference of rank
and status; and, whereas the σύσσιτοι
those who dine together ex officio,
are those who are invited to
join: them. Hence in the original civil
were those who dined in the
Prytaneum (or in the Tholos) not being magistrates, but invited guests: that
this was originally the case is shown by the fact that Solon forbade the
same parasite σιτεῖσθαι πολλάκις
25). After the separate official dinners in the
Tholos were instituted, the terms παράσιτοι
included those subordinate clerks, &c. ( “parasites” of
the Prytaneis) who were, some time after the Roman conquest, termed ἀείσιτοι.
] The παράσιτοι
of the priests were ministers in the temples above the
rank of mere temple servants who assisted the priests in the sacred rites,
and dined with them after the sacrifice; and when the word is used to denote
a distinct office, it has this meaning. Athenaeus (l.c.
) in his account quotes various laws and decrees, but he is
clearly not quite certain of their meaning. From the obscurely-worded law on
p. 235 c, we should infer that the παράσιτοι
had, besides their ritual duties, to collect (as if
) certain dues of corn for
their temple, that they stored the offerings of corn in a παρασίτειον
(which, however, from analogy we
should have expected to mean the lodgings of parasiti in the temple
precincts), that they were charged with providing food therefrom for those
who came for religious purposes to the temple, and that out of funds
committed to them they had to pay for repairs of the temple buildings. What
the sense of ἐκ τῆς βουκολίας ἐκλέγειν
can be, it is impossible to say. There is no warrant for giving to βουκολία
the sense of a “country
district,” attached to the temple, whence corn was due, which might
give an intelligible meaning. Schweighäuser's emendation ἐκτὸς βουκολίας,
“absque dolo malo,” is ingenious, but not a probable
expression. Various deities are mentioned in the passages cited by
Athenaeus, in whose temples there were parasiti, but there is no reason to
suppose that their employment was limited to those temples. When it is said
that the archons are to choose parasiti from the demes, the civil parasiti
are probably meant (as in ἄρχοντες καὶ παράσιτοι
p. 234f.). From the analogy of πάρεδροι,
the assistants of magistrates, we may
imagine that the priest of the temple chose his παράσιτοι.
From the fact that the priest received one-third of the victim and the
the same amount, it is clear
that there was always more [p. 2.344]
than one παράσιτος
in a temple, since the priest's share
would certainly be larger than his subordinate's.
Parasites in the modern sense no doubt existed in early times: the comedies
of Aristophanes testify to them, and Philippus, who is introduced in the
of Xenophon, is a good specimen
of the class (cf. Epicharm. ap. Athen.
); but the name παράσιτος
was only so applied in writers of. Middle and New Comedy (the first who so
used it is said to have been Alexis), upon which the honourable sense
gradually fell into disuse. In these later comedians (from whom numerous
passages are quoted by Athenaeus, vi. pp. 236-248) the parasites are
The features common to all these parasites are importunity, love of sensual
pleasures, and above all the desire of getting a good dinner without paying
for it. According to the various means which they employed to attain this
object, they may be divided into three classes. The first are γελωτοποιοί,
or jesters (cf. Theophrast. 11.4;
Jebb ad loc.
), who, in order to get an invitation,
not only tried to amuse, but endured the grossest insults and even personal
maltreatment (Alciph. Ep.
3.6, 7, 49). This profession of
voluntary enslavement was so systematic that they had note-books with a
collection of jests (Plut. Stich.
3.2, 1; Pers. 3.1, 67).
Among these we may class Philippus in the Symposium
of Xenophon, Ergastilus in the Captivi,
and Gelasimus in the Stichus.
The second class are the κόλακες
or flatterers (see
d), who by praising vain persons endeavoured
to obtain an invitation. Such were Gnatho in the Eunuchus,
and Artotragus in the Miles
The third class are the θεραπευτικοί,
or the officious, who by service even of the
lowest and most degrading description tried to win favour (Plut. de
23; de Educat.
Characters of this class are the parasites in the Asinaria
especially Curculio in the Persae
in the Phormio.
We find the parasites haunting
the market, the palaestrae, the baths, and other public places in search of
a patron. Some examples of the disgusting humiliations which parasites
endured are mentioned by Athenaeus (vi. p. 249) and Plutarch
7.6; cf. D. L. 2.67
Epictet. 4.1.55; Dio Chrys. vi. p. 602, ῥαπιζόμενοι
καὶ αἰσχρὰ λέγοντες
). Under the Roman empire the parasite
seems to have been constantly at the tables of the wealthy Roman, and to
have been treated in much the same way. (Hor. Sat.
2.7, 102; Mart. 2.18
58.) Their position is described particularly
in Juvenal, Sat.
v. (where see Mayor's notes),
and Plin. Ep. 2.6
502; Hermann, Gr. Alt.