Ancients' feasts, games and rituals AGRYLI (Ancient demos) ATHENS - GTP - Greek Travel Pages

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Ancients' feasts, games and rituals (3)

Festivals for gods and gods' deeds

The Lesser Eleusinia Mysteries at Agrae

   These were held in the spring at Agrae, a place on the Ilissus, southeast of the Acropolis. Initiation of Heracles. (Vase from Panticapaeum.) There is no doubt that they were held in the month Anthesterion, when there were the first signs of returning vegetation just after field-work began. The exact date cannot be fixed, but Mommsen's suggestion is most probable, that the chief day was the 20th, the same day of the month as the Greater Mysteries were held on in Boedromion, to which the Lesser Mysteries had many points of similarity, even in matters connected with the calendar--e. g. the same length of the mystery truce. Mommsen supposes that the 19th was a day of preparation, and the 20th and 21st the special mystery days. These Lesser Mysteries were considered as a prelude to the Greater (Schol. on Aristoph. Plut. 845), being on a much smaller scale; but initiation in the Lesser was generally required before the candidate could present himself for initiation into the Greater.
    The mysteries at Agrae consisted probably to a large extent of purifications, for which the water of the Ilissus was much used. They were held more especially in honour of Persephone, called Pherrephatta here, than of Demeter. It appears that the carrying off of Persephone was the most important representation in these mysteries. Again we hear that at Agrae the fate of Dionysus was pourtrayed (mimema ton peri ton Dionuson, Steph. Byzant. s. v. Agrai). The death of Dionysus-Zagreus took place on the 13th of Anthesterion, the day on which the festival of the Chytri was held; so perhaps on the ninth day after, the 21st (for funeral rites on the ninth day after death, the enata, see Aesch. Ctesiph. 225), the funeral ceremony may have been held and his violent death related in a drama. A great many, especially strangers, were initiated into these mysteries who did not proceed to initiation into the regular Eleusinia; the legend, too, said it was for the purpose of initiating Heracles, who was a stranger and according to the primitive regulations could not be initiated into the Eleusinia, that these Lesser Mysteries were established.

This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Nov 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


The Mysteries at Agrae (ta en Agrais). These were held in the spring at Agrae, a place on the Ilissus, S.E. of the Acropolis. There is no doubt they were held in Anthesterion, when there were the first signs of returning vegetation just after field-work began. The exact date cannot be fixed, but Mommsen's suggestion is most probable, that the chief day was the 20th, the same day of the month as the Greater Mysteries were held on in Boedromion--to which the Lesser Mysteries had many points of similarity, even in matters connected with the calendar, e. g. the same length of the mystery truce. Mommsen supposes that the 19th was a day of preparation, and the 20th and 21st the special mystery days. These Lesser Mysteries were considered as a prelude to the Greater (Schol. Aristoph. Plut. 845, esti ta mikra hosper prokatharsis kai proagneusis ton megalon), being on a much smaller scale, but initiation in the Lesser was generally required before the candidate could present himself for initiation into the Greater (Plat. Gorg. 497 C; Plut. Dem. 26). At Eleusis there were temples to Artemis Propylaea, to Triptolemus and to Poseidon, as well as to Demeter; similarly at Agrae there was a temple to Demeter, and altars to Artemis and Poseidon, and a statue of Triptolemus (Mommsen, p. 377). The mysteries at Agrae consisted probably to a large extent of purifications, for which the water of the Ilissus was much used (Polyaen. v. 17). They were held more especially in honour of Persephone, called Pherrephatta here, than of Demeter (Schol. on Aristoph. Plut. 845, yet cf. Bekk. Anecd. 326). It appears that the carrying off of Persephone was the most important representation in these mysteries. Again we hear that at Agrae the fate of Dionysus was pourtrayed (mimema ton peri ton Dionuson, Steph. Byz. s. v. Agrai). The death of Dionysus-Zagreus took place on the 13th of Anthesterion, the day on which the festival of the Chytrae was held: so perhaps on the ninth day after, the 21st (for funeral rites on the ninth day after death, the enata, see Aeschin. Ctesiph. ยง 225), the funeral ceremony may have been held and his violent death related in a drama (Mommsen, p. 378). A great many, especially strangers, were initiated into these mysteries who did not proceed to initiation into the regular Eleusinia: the legend, too, said it was for the purpose of initiating Heracles, who was a stranger and according to the primitive regulations could not be initiated into the Eleusinia, that these Lesser Mysteries were established (Schol. on Aristoph. Plut. 845, 1013). A representation of the initiation of Heracles on a vase found at Panticapaeum is given in Baumeister's Denkmaler, p. 475. For the appearance of Aphrodite, cf. Themist. Or. xx. p. 288, Dind. There is a very similar one on a Pourtales vase in the British Museum, which Baumeister also alludes to (cf. Wieseler, ii. 112).

This extract is from: A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890) (eds. William Smith, LLD, William Wayte, G. E. Marindin). Cited August 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Agroteras Thysia

Agroteras Thysia, a festival celebrated at Athens in honour of Artemis, surnamed Agrotera (from agra, chase), in consequence of a vow made before the battle of Marathon. It was solemnised, according to Plutarch (De Malign. Herod. 26), on the sixth of the month of Boedromion, and consisted in a sacrifice of 500 goats, which continued to be offered in the time of Xenophon (Xenoph. Anab. iii. 2, 12). Aelian (V. H. ii. 25) places the festival on the sixth day of Thargelion, and says that 300 goats were sacrificed; but as the battle of Marathon, which gave rise to this solemn sacrifice, occurred on the sixth of Boedromion, Aelian's statement appears to be wron. (Plut. de Glor. Athen. 7).
  This festival is said to have originated in the following manner :
When the Persians invaded Attica, Callimachus, the polemarch, or, according to others, Miltiades, made a vow to sacrifice to Artemis Agrotera as many goats as there should be enemies slain at Marathon. But when the number of enemies slain was so great that an equal number of goats could not be found at once, the Athenians decreed that 500 should be sacrificed every year. This is the statement made by Xenophon; but other ancient authors give different accounts. The Scholiast on Aristoph. (Equit. 666) relates that the Athenians, before the battle, promised to sacrifice to Artemis one ox for every enemy slain; but when the number of oxen could not be procured, they substituted an equal number of goats. It is not improbable that annual processions from Athens to the temple of Hecate at Agrae, in remembrance of the victory of Marathon, may have been connected with the sacrifice to Artemis Agrotera. (Plut. de Malign. Herod. 26)

This text is from: A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890) (eds. William Smith, LLD, William Wayte, G. E. Marindin). Cited July 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


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