2 March 2023 Start
2 March 2023 End
17:00 (UK)/19:00 (GR) Time

“Dorian” “Civic” Dining? Rethinking the Syssition on Crete and at Sparta

Thursday, 2 March, 2023

The Centre for Spartan & Peloponnesian Studies of the University of Nottingham and the City (Dimos) of Sparti are pleased to invite you on Thursday 2 March at 17:00 (UK)/19:00 (GR) to the next Sparta Live! webinar by  Sarah M. Norvell (Princeton University),

“Dorian” “Civic” Dining? Rethinking the Syssition on Crete and at Sparta


The institution of civic commensal dining, known primarily at Sparta as the syssition and on Crete as the andreion, was identified by ancient authors as one of the unique sociopolitical features shared between these regions. Typically understood in opposition to the symposion, the private drinking party characterized in ancient sources by its tendencies towards excess, elitism, and exclusivity, dining at a common mess came to be construed as an ethno-cultural marker of “Dorianism” and was associated with qualities such as austerity, egalitarianism, moderation, and militarism. Together with other institutions attributed both to Spartan and Cretan societies in the Late Archaic and Classical periods, the common messes contributed to the rise of various narratives that explained the perceived cultural and ideological links between these regions as the result of peripatetic lawgivers and/or colonization events. In this paper, I challenge traditional readings of the ancient literary sources that present the syssition-andreion as a civic, secular, Dorian institution. Arguing that the characterization of this practice in the literary sources has been overly determined by the generic tropes of ancient political philosophy, I refocus attention instead on the archaeological evidence for commensal dining practices at Sparta and on Crete. In pursuing an evidence-based approach rooted in the identification of assemblages suggestive of commensal dining, I build upon recent identifications of commensal dining assemblages from Crete and emphasize that many of these assemblages retain important religious aspects. Returning to the Spartan evidence, I suggest that several assemblages that have previously been understood as votive deposits associated with local hero cults in Lakonia may in fact present evidence for commensal dining taking place near these sites. I suggest that, as on Crete, commensal dining among Spartiates involved the activation of a complex nexus of social, political, military, and religious concerns, and I posit a link—both ideological and physical—between the worship of heroes in Lakonia, commensal dining, and the initiation of new citizens.

All welcome!

Please register for this free event by following this link:,yAcG_Z5T8EmR13ugxiCwtQ,D2JueNqxWU-HjO91RtJb8Q,qGRPaD8Kg0CYyzwFeO0J8g,mdJFX5AJckyXqcKFZ4IpJQ,lkMp2Ugs9EaPuijhe_0Q-A?mode=read&tenantId=67bda7ee-fd80-41ef-ac91-358418290a1e