The Ancient Library

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On this page: Syria Da – Syrinx – Syssitia – Tabellarius – Taberna – Table



Syria D6a. A doity of generation and fecundity worshipped in Syrian Hierapfllls under the name Atargdtis, whom the later Greeks and the Romans simply called the Syrian goddess. Prom the time of the sove­reignty of the Seleucidse, when the ancient paganism was highly honoured in Hiera-polis, the worship of this goddess spread among the Greeks, and from them found its way to Rome (where she had a temple in the days of the Empire) and to other parts of Italy, and still farther west. The old idea of her attributes had so widened in the course of time that she shared those of Juno, V8nus, Rhea, Cybele, Minerva, Diana, the Parcae, and other goddesses. She is represented on Roman monuments, seated on a throne between two lions. Her priests were generally eunuchs. They were in the habit of making excursions into Greece and Italy to extend the worship of the goddess by means of ecstatic dances and prophecies, and to collect pious alms for her sanctuary.

Syrinx. An Arcadian Nymph, daughter of the river-god Ladon; she was changed by her sisters into a reed in her flight from the enamoured Pan. Pan cut this reed into seven (or nine) pieces, and joined them together with wax in gradually decreasing lengths, to form the instrument called a syrinx or " Pan's pipe." This was chiefly used by herdsmen and shepherds, and is one of the attributes found in pictorial repre­sentations of Pan.

Syssitia (neut. pi.). The common meals taken in public among the Dorians in Sparta and Crete, and confined to men and youths only. In Sparta, all the Spartiatai, or citi­zens over twenty years of age, were obliged to attend these meals, which were there called pTieialtld. 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 indis­pensable for election. The messmates were called tent-companions, as they actually were in time of war. The table-companions of the two kings, who had a common table, were those who formed their escorts in the field. Accordingly, the generals of divi­sions in the army had the control of the syssitia. The principal diah was the well-known black broth (meat cooked in blood, seasoned with vinegar and salt), of which each person received only a certain amount, together with barley bread and wine, as much as they liked. This was followed by a course of cheese, olives, and figs. Besides this, the table-companions were allowed (and indeed were sometimes required as a penalty for small offences) to give a second course, consisting of wheaten bread, or venison caught by themselves in the chase ; no one was allowed to obtain this by pur­chase. In Crete the people always sat down while eating, and in Sparta this was originally the custom; but after a short time they were in the habit of reclining on wooden benches.

In Crete there was a public fund for the syssitia. This absorbed one-half of the State revenue, and every citizen contributed to it a tithe of the produce of his land, as well as an annual sum of money for each slave. This fund not only bore the expense of the meals of the men and boys above a certain age, but also paid a sum sufficient to defray the expenses incurred by the women, children, and slaves in dining at home. These companies, which dined in common, were here called hetcertoe. The boys, who sat near their fathers on the ground, only received meat to the extent of one-half the portion of an adult. The youths dined together and had to wait upon their elders; they had also to be content with an amount of wine which was measured out to them from a large bowl of mixed wine, whilst the older men could replenish their cups as they pleased. Here, as in Sparta, there were penalties for intemperance. After the repast some time was spent in conversation on politics and other sub­jects, principally for the instruction of the youths.

Tabellarins. A letter-carrier or courier. (See letters.)

Taberna. (1) a shop (see house) ; (2) a tavern (see inns).

Table (Gr. trdpezci ; Lat. mensa). Tables served in ancient times only for the sup­port of vessels necessary for rheals; not (as with us) for writing and reading as well.

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