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11 The Rituals of Hospitium: The Tesserae Hospitales

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Chapter Summary

In this chapter, relying on both the literary and especially on the epigraphical evidence, the author intends to develop a case for understanding more precisely how hospitium facilitated exchange and understanding on the Roman frontier. During the last decades of the Republic, and perhaps connected to the extension of citizenship to all Italians, hospitium was applied to include "hospitable" arrangements even between Roman citizens. The author suspects that the connections were formed in a self-evident way: names were noted; services and gifts were exchanged, benefactions conferred and remembered. In some cases, the exchanges may have led to the establishment of formal hospitium, but informal relationships surely also developed and were valued. The earliest tesserae (tokens) may have been of earthenware, having the head of Jupiter Hospitalis stamped upon them. Such tesserae confirm the conclusion that the practice and rituals associated with hospitium have a universal quality.

Keywords: epigraphical evidence; hospitium; Jupiter Hospitalis; Roman citizens; tesserae



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