called a ‘kotla,’ with a fireplace; here they work, eat, &c. A poor man attaches himself to the ‘kotla’ of a rich one, and is considered a child of the latter.” Thus the clan-family is also a poor-relief association.
Studies in folklore bring to light many relations between the charity of the old world and that of our own day.
In regard to the charity of the early community, we may take the 8th century B.C. as the point of departure. The Odyssey (about 800 B.C.) and Hesiod (about 700 B.C.) are roughly parallel with Amos (816–775), and represent two streams of thoughtThe early community. that meet in the early Christian period. The period covered by the Odyssey seems to merge into that of Hesiod. We take the former first, dealing with the clan-family and the phratry, which are together the self-maintaining unit of society, with the general relief of the poor, with hospitality, and with vagrancy. In Hesiod we find the customary law of charity in the earlier community definitely stated, and also indications of the normal methods of neighbourly help which were in force in country districts. First of the family and brotherhood, or phratry. The family (Od. viii. 582) included alike the wife’s father and the daughter’s husband. It was thus a clanlike family. Out of this was developed the phratry or brotherhood, in which were included alike noble families, peasants and craftsmen, united by a common worship and responsibilities and a common customary law (themis). Zeus, the god of social life, was worshipped by the phratry. He was the father of the law (themis). He was god of host and guest. Society was thus based on law, the brotherhood and the family. The irresponsible man, the man worthy of no respect or consideration, was one who belonged to no brotherhood, was subject to no customary law, and had no hearth or family. The phratry was, and became afterwards still more, “a natural gild.” Outside the self-sustaining phratry was the stranger, including the wayfarer and the vagrant; and partly merged in these classes was the beggar, the recognized recipient of the alms of the community. To change one’s abode and to travel was assumed to be a cause of reproach (Il. ix. 648). The “land-louper” was naturally suspected. On the other hand, a stranger’s first thought in a new country was whether the inhabitants were wild or social (δίκαιοι), hospitable and God-fearing (Od. xiii. 201). Hospitality thus became the first public charity; Zeus sent all strangers and beggars, and it was against all law (θέμις) to slight them. Out of this feeling—a kind of glorified almsgiving—grew up the system of hospitality in Greek states and also in the Roman world. The host greeted the stranger (or the suppliant). An oath of friendship was taken by the stranger, who was then received with the greeting, Welcome (χαῖρε), and water was provided for ablution, and food and shelter. In the larger house there was a guests’ table. In the hut he shared the peasant’s meal. The custom bound alike the rich and the poor. On parting presents were given, usually food for the onward journey, sometimes costly gifts. The obligation was mutual, that the host should give hospitality, and that the guest should not abuse it. From early times tallies were exchanged between them as evidence of this formal relationship, which each could claim again of the other by the production of the token. And further, the relationship on either side became hereditary. Thus individuals and families and tribes remained linked in friendship and in the interchange of hospitalities.
Under the same patronage of Zeus and the same laws of hospitality were vagrants and beggars. The vagrant and loafer are sketched in the Odyssey—the vagrant who lies glibly that he may get entertainment, and the loafer who prefers begging to work on a farm. These and the winter idlers, whom Hesiod pictures—a group known to modern life—prefer at that season to spend their time in the warmth of the village smithy, or at a house of common resort (λέσχη)—a common lodging-house, we might say—where they would pass the night. Apparently, as in modern times, the vagrants had organized their own system of entertainment, and, supported by the public, were a class for whom it was worth while to cater. The local or public beggars formed a still more definite class. Their begging was a recognized means of maintenance; it was a part of the method of poor relief. Thus of Penelope it was said that, if Odysseus’ tale were true, she would give him better clothes, and then he might beg his bread throughout the country-side. Feasts, too, and almsgiving were nearly allied, and feasts have always been one resource for the relief of the poor. Thus naturally the beggars frequented feasts, and were apparently a recognized and yet inevitable nuisance. They wore, as part of their dress, scrips or wallets in which they carried away the food they received, as later Roman clients carried away portions of food in baskets (sportula) from their patron’s dinner. Odysseus, when he dresses up as a beggar, puts on a wallet as part of his costume. Thus we find a system of voluntary relief in force based on a recognition of the duty of almsgiving as complete and peremptory as that which we shall notice later among the Jews and the early Christians. We are concerned with country districts, and not with towns, and, as social conditions that are similar produce similar methods of administration, so we find here a general plan of relief similar to that which was in vogue in Scotland till the Scottish Poor Law Act of 1845.
In Hesiod the fundamental conceptions of charity are more clearly expressed. He has, if not his ten, at least his four commandments, for disobedience to which Zeus will punish the offender. They are: Thou shalt do no evil to suppliant or guest; thou shalt not dishonour any woman of the family; thou shalt not sin against the orphan; thou shalt not be unkind to aged parents.
The laws of social life are thus duty to one’s guest and duty to one’s family; and chastity has its true place in that relation, as the later Greeks, who so often quote Hesiod (cf. the so-called Economics of Aristotle), fully realized. Also the family charities due to the orphan, whose lot is deplored in the Iliad (xxii. 490), and to the aged are now clearly enunciated. But there is also in Hesiod the duty to one’s neighbour, not according to the “perfection” of “Cristes lore,” but according to a law of honourable reciprocity in act and intent. “Love him who loves thee, and cleave to him who cleaveth to thee: to him who would have given, give; to him who would not have given, give not.” The groundwork of Hesiod’s charity outside the family is neighbourly help (such as formed no small part of old Scottish charity in the country districts); and he put his argument thus: Competition, which is a kind of strife, “lies in the roots of the world and in men.” It is good, and rouses the idle “handless” man to work. On one side are social duty (δίκη) and work, done briskly at the right season of the year, which brings a full barn. On the other side are unthrift and hunger, and relief with the disgrace of begging; and the relief, when the family can do no more, must come from neighbours, to whose house the beggar has to go with his wife and children to ask for victual. Once they may be helped, or twice, and then they will be refused. It is better, Hesiod tells his brother, to work and so pay off his debts and avoid hunger (see Erga, 391, &c., and elsewhere). Here indeed is a problem of to-day as it appeared to an early Greek. The alternatives before the idler—so far as his own community is concerned—are labour with neighbourly help to a limited extent, or hunger.
Hesiod was a farmer in Boeotia. Some 530 years afterwards a pupil of Aristotle thus describes the district and its community of farmers. “They are,” he says, “well to do, but simple in their way of life. They practise justice, good faith, and hospitality. To needy townsmen and vagabonds they give freely of their substance; for meanness and covetousness are unknown to them.” The charitable method of Homeric and Hesiodic days still continued.
Part II.—Charity among the Greeks
Society in a Greek state was divided into two parts, citizens and slaves. The citizens required leisure for education, war and government. The slaves were their ministers and servants to enable them to secure this leisure. We have therefore to consider, on the one hand,The Greek state. the position of the family and the clan-family, and the maintenance of the citizen from public funds and by public and private charities; and on the other hand the condition of the slaves, and the relation between slavery and charity.
The slaves formed the larger part of the population. The census of Attica, made between 317 and 307 B.C., gives their numbers at 400,000 out of a population of about 500,000; and even if this be considered excessive, the proportion of slaves to citizens would certainly be very large. The citizens with their wives and children formed some 12% of the community. Thus, apart from the resident aliens, returned in the census at 10,000,