The Spartan syssitia (army messes or dining clubs) were designed to foster familiarity and loyalty between the soldiers of each particular military unit. The syssition was considered to be more important than family and only preoccupation with worship or the hunt was considered grounds enough to refuse to attend each evening. A man who failed in his duties to his syssition would be relegated to inferior status and stripped of political rights.
This extent of esteem is evident in the term the Lacedaemonians employed to describe them; phitidia, a combination of philia (friendship) and editia (which refers simply to eating); this observation was made by Plutarch in his “Life of Lycurgus”. It bears note that the mandatory quota of food each member of a syssition was expected to contribute was markedly higher for some than others, thereby indicating the existence of and maintaing socio-economic stratification even within the ranks of the so-called homoioi (equals).
Spartan boys also often attended, with the intent that they might observe the discussions which occurred therein and learn what was regarded to be proper conduct. Essentially, the army messes were contrived to forge a united fighting force and to ensure rigidity of discipline.