Hospitality among the Romans

John Nicols

in The Oxford Handbook of Social Relations in the Roman World

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780195188004
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History

 Hospitality among the Romans

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  • Classical Studies
  • Ancient Roman History
  • Marriage and the Family


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This article discusses the notions of hospitality, or hospitium, among the Romans and how this affected their social relations. It shows that the practice of hospitality was viewed in a positive light, and may have been important in lessening conflicts. It then differentiates between guest friendship and hospitality, and looks at the sacred character of hospitality. The article also discusses the tokens given as a sign of guest friendship and the exchange of gifts and provision of services by the hospites. It also cites some instances where hospitality failed to meet the expectations of one or both of the parties involved.

Keywords: hospitality; hospitium; guest friendship; sacred character; tokens; gift exchange; hospites

Article.  6469 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Ancient Roman History ; Marriage and the Family

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