The great majority of Gehennese must work for their livings. And even those people who do not have to work for their livings often have some sort of duties to perform: looking in on their farms and businesses, or giving household slaves their instructions for the day. Except where special conditions dictate otherwise, the Gehennese do (or at least begin) their work first thing in the morning. The privilege of the leisured class is that their work ends early.

Gehennese people generally rise at dawn. Some may take a light snack, many start their days with a dose of coffee, tea, or coca. But breakfast is never a meal of any formality or substance. Most people go straight to work. Peasants trudge to their fields and paddies, fishermen put out in their boats. Artisans make directly to their workshops (which are, indeed, very often in the buildings in which they live). The early morning is an industrious time of day. Rich merchants are at their counting-houses, landowners and gentlemen-farmers survey their estates. In private houses the women and slaves clean and launder.

About mid-morning men of leisure in the age of the magistrate finish their private business, bathe, and turn their attention to public business. This is indeed often conducted in the public baths, especially in the Decadent Period, but mid-morning is the opening of business in the agora, and the time for court cases to begin.

Retailing activity begins at about the same time. Fishermen, market-gardeners, and poulterers bring their wares to market: women, having finished their morning chores, are shopping for fresh food for the main noon meal. Between mid-morning and noon is the busiest time in the agora and in the shops where artisans and manufacturers are retailing their wares.

Work on farms and in workshops is interrupted early for the noon meal. Court cases and public deliberations go into recess more-or-less promptly at midday. Retailing continues with scarcely any slackening, as merchants are busy dealing with working customers on their luncheon break.

Labour resumes after luncheon, even for magistrates (at least those who have really responsible positions). But the character of business in the agora changes, as by this time prosperous master craftsmen, substantial merchants and farmers, and such men of (modest) means have taken their baths and are resorting to the forum to meet their fellows. The agora fills with saunterers, hawkers of trinkets and refreshments, and retailers selling such goods as men are expected to buy: drugs, perfumes, made clothes, hunting gear, weapons, books, and stationery. In the later periods taverns open for business.

Work is interrupted a second time by the afternoon thunderstorms, which start in the inland at mid-afternoon and work their way to the coast. This is another occasion for refreshment: a light meal for labourers, a snack and tea or coffee for those with lighter duties. It is also the earliest time that people other than the imprudent and dissipated begin to take alcoholic drinks, bhang, and opium.

Work after the rains distinguishes the real working classes: peasants, labourers, artisans of low standing. A few retailers linger in the forum to sell fresh fish and poultry for the evening meal, and some artisans' shops are open to sell cheap goods to the labouring classes. Except for the 'leisure industry', business is pretty much over for the day.


The activities with which the Gehennese fill their free time are of course very diverse, but include the following:

Hunting and fishing

To some people these are work-type activities, but hunting, fishing, and sailing are also recreations. In general, they are not the pursuits of the urban poor and middle classes. Rural dwellers and the gentry hunt small game in the forests alone or (more often) with a small group of friends and relatives, using bows. Larger game, such as wild swine and kine, require more-organised techniques and larger groups. A boar-hunt is likely to be a collective undertaking by the men of a village, or else organised by rich men with hired beaters etc.

Tigers and leopards are too dangerous for sensible people to hunt them except when they must. If villagers and peasantry organise a tiger-hunt, it is because their lives or plough-oxen are under threat. Gentlemen might well join (or initiate) a tiger hunt because they feel that their leading social positions obliged them command such an important and dangerous communal venture. People who seek out tigers to hunt for sport (and there are some) are considered reckless and sport-mad, or worse.


Athletic exercise (including running, swimming, long-jumps, boxing, wrestling, archery, and javelin-throwing) is a very common pastime in Gehennum in all periods: so much so that the gymnasiums and stadiums set aside for them are major features of every Gehennese city. Training and casual contests are the expected, normal, default way for young people to pass their time. The gymnasiums and lagoons are the usual haunts of young men of leisure in the morning, and of poorer young men later in the day. Unmarried women also take exercise, but they tend (especially in the earlier periods) to do so in more secluded circumstances, as in private gardens and restricted gymnasia. Married women much more rarely have the opportunity to exercise.


Gehennese war-dances are elaborate and graceful combinations of weapons techniques and fighting manoeuvres, something like a cross between rhythmic gymnastics and a weapon kata done at full speed. They are taught to children and ephebes because they are supposed to teach weapon skills, and they have an established place as a way of displaying suppleness and prowess. Many people, especially soldiers and warriors, practise their weapon dances as part of their athletic training: groups doing the same dance to the same drummer are a common spectacle at the gymnasium. There is a common informal game in which several contestants dance together with the beat getting steadily faster: dancers drop out when they mistake steps and moves, or cannot keep up. The last person dancing is the winner.


Kukrim is game like volleyball, played with a light raffia or wicker ball between teams of indefinite size, on a court of indefinite size. In kukrim the ball may be kicked, kneed, head-butted, elbowed: anything, in short, so long as it is not touched with the hand, wrist, or forearm. Kukrim is played by boys and young men, often in circumstances which make a display of their agility and co-ordination (and any other attributes that happen to be visible at the time). For example, a kukrim net strung across a street is often to be found below the windows of the women's quarters of a large house.

As it requires little time and space, and little expensive equipment, kukrim is favoured over other forms of exercise by the urban poor.


In their quieter moods, the Gehennese play dominoes, backgammon, go, and dice-games such as hazard (craps). These are sometimes considered suitable pastimes for older people, though of course some people are inclined towards them from an early age. All of these games are used for gambling, and sometimes for very large stakes.

By their very natures, the different games appeal differently to different dispositions. Go is considered the most intellectual of the four, and the dice-games attract the least regard.

Go, backgammon, and dominoes are often played in taverns, over a quiet pipe or a few drinks. Taverns often keep sets of the equipment for these games to lend or rent to their patrons.


The common recreational drugs in Gehennum are coffee and tea (of which coffee is the more casual and tea the more ceremonious), bhang (marijuana, hemp), coca leaves, and opium. These are readily available from vendors in the forums and from taverns, and use of them is common at private parties.

Different drugs have different social statuses. Alcohol is ubiquitous, but beer is considered lower-class, being sold in taverns and made at home by peasants and artisans. Wine is drunk in upper-class homes. Spirits (which are available in the Decadent Period) are considered too strong for women and children.

Bhang is the second-most common recreational drug. Many men sit down for a quiet pipe at the end of the day, and even those who don't want to get stoned every night will chew a little bhang at a party every now and then. Bhang is burned like incense in many temples, has ritual use, is used therapeutically, and is useful to shamans and dreamer-weavers.

Coca is the drug of peasants, labourers, soldiers, and athletes. Because of the social status of the army and athletics, this makes it a very common drug in all classes, but more often used by men than by women. In some times and places it has high status from its association with the military. Coca is used at wild parties organised by young men, especially ephebes who have recently discovered its use. A coca habit picked up in the military may last a life-time.

Opium is not used socially, is not a party drug, and is the drug of which the users and the non-users are most clearly demarcated. Like bhang and coca, opium can be smoked, but it is very bitter in taste, and is not chewed. In the Classical Period and the Decadent Period it is possible to get opium as a tincture, dissolved in a mixture of water and alcohol, and it is in this form that many recreational and all therapeutic users get it.


Simple conversation is of course an important form of recreation, and the chief reason why people undertake other leisure activities socially is so that they can converse with their peers. Young men of leisure gather in the stadium and gymnasium, their fathers in the agora, and their grandfathers, in the temples chiefly to talk. The gymnastics training, public business, and religious duties that are carried on in these places are more or less an excuse to forgather. Women also gossip when they meet in the agora or when fetching water, but they also gather together to do their weaving, dyeing, washing, and so forth in groups, and pass the time in conversation while their hands are busy.

Educated Gehennese also enjoy a more structured type of conversation. They have a type of party called a symposium. There may be other entertainments, but the chief amusement at a symposium is speaking in turn subject to special rules, which are set by the host. One never knows what to expect at a symposium: at one the game will be capping quotes, at another extemporising verse, at a third the participants might take turns adding sentences to a story or other composition.

Music & dancing

The Gehennese sing, play music, and dance for recreation, especially at parties, celebrations, and ceremonies. They often sing and play along together, and also sometimes let individuals treat them to solos. They dance in groups, sets, and couples, sometimes all together, sometimes letting individuals and small groups dance narratives and war-dance for display and to entertain others.


In Gehennum theatrical performances are usually staged either on market days (when more people are at leisure), in the afternoon after the rain, or at night by the light of lamps and torches. (The theatres are often being used as courtrooms earlier in the day.)

The Gehennese theatre evolved out of forms that depended chiefly on singing and narrative dance. In the Classical Period the variants with speech and acting instead of singing and dancing are rather avant-garde. Even in the Decadent Period they are considered high-brow. The general run of audiences prefer a music-drama.

Public houses


An inn is a public house offering accommodation and collateral services to travellers.

Although often a bit hard to find in the Archaic Period, inns are plentiful in the Classical Period and the Decadent Period. The basic services offered by inns are rooms for hire, meals, laundry and baths. Of course these are available other than to travellers. There are inns which also act as taverns. In the Classical and Decadent Periods the services provided by inns are also available from hetairons, but one wouldn't normally hire a room at an hetairon to stay in.


A tavern is an establishment which sells drink, tea, coffee, drugs, and cooked food, mostly for consumption on the premises.

Entertainment is sometimes provided, but more often free-lance entertainers perform for tips from the clientele, especially in the cheaper places. Taverns are meeting-places, where men go to drink, smoke, talk, and to play go, dominoes, and backgammon. Equipment for these games is often available, as are water-pipes.

In the Archaic Period, the tavern is the closest thing to a restaurant that you can find. In the Classical Period and the Decadent Period the hetairon, a development of the tavern, provides the classier meals, while the tavern provides basic food for those eating out of routine necessity. Some taverns also offer the services of inns, and indeed in the Archaic Period taverns doing this on an irregular basis are more common than inns proper.

In rural areas, as opposed to inside walled settlements, the main room of a tavern is actually the front verandah, where the patrons can enjoy the open air.


First appearing early in the Classical Period as a development of the tavern, an hetairon is an establishment to entertain or hold parties at.

More than a restaurant, less than a brothel, an hetairon is a place to enjoy company— that of one's friends and that of the hetairai. An evening at an hetairon might include a bath, massage, a banquet with tea and wine, chamber music, dancing with of by the hetairai, story-telling, singing, intellectual, artistic, or flirtatious conversation, bhang, coca, or opium, and just possibly a night with one of the women. Prices vary from quite expensive to ruinous.

Different hetairons have different styles. Some are little better than up-market brothels. Some will provide any service for a price. The best offer no stunts or blandishments, simply elegance and excellence.


An hetaira is a woman who professionally entertains men in private and intimate circumstances, as at meals and parties, like a Japanese geisha. Although her sexual favours are probably available to an acceptable partner for the right price, an hetaira is an entertainer, escort, and hostess rather than a whore (though many whores call themselves hetarai). She will be a capable musician, well educated, a good conversationalist, attractive, and, ideally, capable of adapting herself to the different requirements of her various clients. Her job is to provide agreeable company at a symposium or less formal party. Early in the Classical Period the hetaira Aspasia demonstrated that a woman was capable of handling her own affairs to advantage and holding her own at the most intellectual conversation. She set a fashion for female company which eventually led to a considerable improvement in the status of women.

At the beginning of her career, an hetaira will play music, sing, and dance for the entertainment of the clients of an hetairon, or the guests at a symposium in a private house, and will fetch and carry. Later, she will wait on the clients and guests, and take a minor part in their party. It is in these early phases that an hetaira is most likely to have to sell her sexual favours. Once she is sufficiently accomplished, she will gradually take her place as companion of one of the members of a party, then, if she is talented, as mistress of ceremonies for parties. This is the pinnacle of her career, and she may be a very fashionable, though never quite respectable, figure in society.

By tradition hetairai do not discusses their fees or prices, and are not paid in cash. Their customers are billed for the food and drink the hetairai consume, and send gifts to the girls the following day. Gifts that meet actual needs or that can be readily converted into cash are the most universally acceptable.

Costume & nudity

In their hot and sweaty climate, the Gehennese wear few and scanty clothes. By our standards, they are very casual about nudity, but in many cities it is improper for a woman to go completely naked, as men often do.

The Gehennese go nude to swim and bathe (which they do in streams and public baths), and in most forms of athletic exercise, even at public athletic contests. Nudity is also usual in pursuits that would damage clothes, such as fishing, farm work, and hunting, not to mention cleaning fish and butchering livestock. Smiths wear leather aprons to protect themselves from burns, but no clothes as such. Nevertheless, nudity is not appropriate to all circumstances. For a rough guide, going nude in Gehennum is like wearing a singlet and shorts (or perhaps a swimming costume) in Australian society.

Gehennese clothes are simple. A single garment is the rule, and this is usually made of one piece of uncut cloth. Gehennese clothes are always draped, never tailored.

The single piece of cloth which constitutes a Gehennese suit may be worn in any of a multitude of ways. The simplest garments are sarongs tied around the waist or above the breasts. The scantiest are loincloths tied like a Melanesian pelau or an Aztec maxcatl (which is wound around the hips and drawn between the legs, with one end hanging down before and one behind). Other variants resemble a Greek peplos (wrapped around one side of the body, pinned on both shoulders, and girt), a Greek khlamys (draped over one shoulder and pinned on the other), an Indian dhoti, and Indian sari and a Roman toga. The most sophisticated is a sleeveless tunic of fine cloth like a Greek khiton, originally worn under a cuirass to prevent chafing.

Gehennese, having no pockets, carry their purses on thongs around their necks. Footgear does not exceed the wearing of straw or leather sandals. Broad-brimmed, low-crowned straw hats are sometimes worn outdoors.

The style of wearing of hair in Gehennum can be significant. Girls wear their hair loose or in long braids: putting the hair up at about fifteen is a sign of womanhood. Among men, flowing hair is a sign of status, a claim of prowess. It is worn with a headband, of which the colour and pattern often proclaim status, purpose, or group affiliation. Short hair is worn by men who cannot afford to be encumbered by loose hair, such as labourers and keen wrestlers. Men often cut their hair as a sign of mourning, or when undergoing a rite of passage such as becoming an ephebe at eighteen, coming-of-age at twenty, or resignation from the military at about forty.

In the Classical Period, for some reason, there is a contrary fashion for men to wear their hair cropped short. In the Decadent Period this fashion persists in Thekla, at Court, and among the nobility. In other parts and social strata, as in the Archaic Period, short hair marks the wrestler, the labourer, and the adherent of the central government of the Marshal.

In Gehennum the colour of clothes can often have an explicit significance. Purple, for example, is worn at celebrations (especially weddings), black when acting under oath, mauve when mourning, scarlet to signify gallantry. Undyed clothes are for slaves and the very poor.

Copyright © 1991 by Brett Evill. All rights reserved.