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Ancients' feasts, games and rituals (8)

Feast in honor of distinguished persons


ARGOS (Ancient city) ARGOLIS
Antinoeia, annual festivals and quinquennial games, which the Roman emperor Hadrian instituted in honour of his favourite, Antinous, after he was drowned in the Nile, or, according to others, had sacrificed himself for his sovereign, in a fit of religious fanaticism. The festivals were celebrated at Athens, Eleusis, in Bithynia, at Argos, and Mantineia, in which places he was worshipped as a god. Afterwards this festival appears to have been discontinued. (Spart. Hadr., c. 14; Dio Cass. lxix. 10; Pans. viii. 9, 4)

Festivals for gods and gods' deeds


Heraea (Heraia) is the name of festivals celebrated in honour of Hera in all the towns of Greece where the worship of this divinity was introduced. The original seat of her worship, from which it spread over the other parts of Greece, was Argos; whence her festivals in other places were, more or less, imitations of those which were celebrated at Argos (Muller, Dor. ii. 10,1).
  The Argives had three temples of Hera: one (Heraeon) lay between Argos and Mycenae, 45 stadia from Argos; the second lay on the road to the Acropolis, and near it was the stadium in which the games and contests at the Heraea were held (Paus. ii. 24,2); the third was in the city itself (Paus. ii. 22,1). Her service was performed by the most distinguished priestesses of the place; one of them was the high-priestess, and the Argives counted their years by the date of her office (Thucyd. ii. 2). The Heraea of Argos were celebrated every fifth year, and, according to the calculation of Boeckh (Abhandl. der Berl. Akad. von 1818-19, p. 92 ff.), in the middle of the second year of every Olympiad.
  One of the great solemnities which took place on the occasion, was a magnificent procession to the great temple of Hera, between Argos and Mycenae. A vast number of young men--for the festival is called a panegyris--assembled at Argos, and marched in armour to the temple of the goddess. They were preceded by one hundred oxen (hekatombe, whence the festival is also called hekatombaia). The high-priestess accompanied this procession, riding in a chariot drawn by two white oxen, as we see from the story of Cleobis and Biton related by Herodotus (i. 31) and Cicero (Tuscul. i. 47, § 113). The hundred oxen were sacrificed, and their flesh distributed among all the citizens (Schol. ad Pind. Ol. vii. 152, and ad Nem. x. 39). The sacrifice itself was called lecherna (Hesych. s. v.) or the bed of twigs (Comp. Welcker on Schwenck's Etymologische Andeutungen).
  The games and contests of the Heraea took place in the stadium, near the temple on the road to the Acropolis. A brazen shield was fixed in a place above the theatre, which was scarcely accessible to any one, and the young man who succeeded in pulling it down received the shield and a garland of myrtle as a prize. Hence Pindar (Nem. x. 41) calls the contest agon chalkeos. It seems that this contest took place before the procession went out to the Heraeon, for Strabo (viii. p. 556) states that the victor went with his prizes in solemn procession to that temple. This contest was said to have been instituted, according to some traditions, by Acrisius and Proetus (Aelian, V. H. iii. 24), according to others by Archinus (Schol. ad Pind. Ol. vii. 152; Hermann, Gottesd. Alterth.52, n. 1).

The Heraea or Hecatombaea of Aegina were celebrated in the same manner as those of Argos (see Schol. ad Pind. Isthm. viii. 114; Muller, Aeginet. p. 149; Hermann, Gottesd. Alterth. § 52, n. 19).

The Heraea of Samos, which island also derived the worship of Hera from Argos (Paus. vii. 4,4), were perhaps the most brilliant of all the festivals of this divinity. A magnificent procession, consisting of maidens and married women in splendid attire, and with floating hair (Asius, ap. Athen. xii. p. 525), together with men and youths in armour (Polyaen. Strat. i. 23, vi. 45), went to the temple of Hera (Heraeon). After they arrived within the sacred precincts, the men deposited their armour; and prayers and vows were offered up to the goddess. Her altar consisted of the ashes of the victims which had been burnt to her. (Paus. v. 13,5).

The Heraea of Elis were celebrated every fifth year, or in the fourth year of every Olympiad. (Corsini, Dissert. iii. 30.) The festival was chiefly celebrated by maidens, and conducted by sixteen matrons who wove the sacred peplus for the goddess. But before the solemnities commenced, these matrons sacrificed a pig, and purified themselves in the well Piera (Paus. v. 16,5). One of the principal solemnities was a race of the maidens in the stadium, for which purpose they were divided into three classes, according to their age. The youngest ran first and the oldest last. Their only dress on this occasion was a chiton, which came down to the knee, and their hair was floating. She who won the prize received a garland of oliveboughs, together with a part of a cow which was sacrificed to Hera, and might dedicate her own painted likeness in the temple of the goddess. The sixteen matrons were attended by as many female attendants, and performed two dances; the one called the dance of Physcoa, the other the dance of Hippodameia. Respecting further particulars, and the history of this solemnity, see Paus. v. 16,2; Hermann, Gottesd. Alterth.51, n. 3.

Heraea were celebrated in various other places; e. g. in Cos (Athen. xiv, v), at Corinth (Eurip. Med. 1379; Philostrat. Her. xix. 14), at Athens (Plut. Quaest. Rom. vii), at Cnosus in Crete (Diod. v. 72), at Pellene in Achaia (Schol. ad Pind. Ol. vii. 156; ad Nem. x. 82; Aristoph. Av. 1421; Krause, Gymn. i. pt. 2, p. 715; Hermann, Gottesd. Alterth.51, n. 28.)

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


Agrionia, a festival which was celebrated chiefly at Orchomenus, in Boeotia, in honour of Dionysus, surnamed Agrionios, i. e. the wild or boisterous. . .
Agrionia of a similar kind were celebrated also at Thebes and at Argos (Hesych. s. v. Agriania, which seems to be only another form for Agrionia). At Thebes the festival was celebrated with games and contests, while at Argos it was a festival of the dead (nekusia).


Agrania. A festival celebrated at Argos, in memory of one of the daughters of Proetus, who had been afflicted with madness.
(agriania). Probably the same festival as the agrania, and celebrated in Argos and Thebes.

  And having shown the Thebans that he was a god, Dionysus came to Argos, and there again, because they did not honor him, he drove the women mad, and they on the mountains devoured the flesh of the infants whom they carried at their breasts. (Apollod. 3.5.2)
  And Acrisius had a daughter Danae by Eurydice, daughter of Lacedaemon, and Proetus had daughters, Lysippe, Iphinoe, and Iphianassa, by Stheneboea. When these damsels were grown up, they went mad,(1) according to Hesiod, because they would not accept the rites of Dionysus, but according to Acusilaus, because they disparaged the wooden image of Hera. In their madness they roamed over the whole Argive land, and afterwards, passing through Arcadia and the Peloponnese, they ran through the desert in the most disorderly fashion. But Melampus, son of Amythaon by Idomene, daughter of Abas, being a seer and the first to devise the cure by means of drugs and purifications, promised to cure the maidens if he should receive the third part of the sovereignty. When Proetus refused to pay so high a fee for the cure, the maidens raved more than ever, and besides that, the other women raved with them; for they also abandoned their houses, destroyed their own children, and flocked to the desert. Not until the evil had reached a very high pitch did Proetus consent to pay the stipulated fee, and Melampus promised to effect a cure whenever his brother Bias should receive just so much land as himself. Fearing that, if the cure were delayed, yet more would be demanded of him, Proetus agreed to let the physician proceed on these terms. So Melampus, taking with him the most stalwart of the young men, chased the women in a bevy from the mountains to Sicyon with shouts and a sort of frenzied dance. In the pursuit Iphinoe, the eldest of the daughters, expired; but the others were lucky enough to be purified and so to recover their wits.(2) Proetus gave them in marriage to Melampus and Bias and afterwards begat a son, Megapenthes. (Apollod. 2.2.2)
1. Compare Bacch. 10.40-112, ed. Jebb; Hdt. 9.34; Strab. 8.3.19; Diod. 4.68; Paus. 2.7.8; Paus. 2.18.4; Paus. 5.5.10; Paus. 8.18.7ff.; Scholiast on Pind. N. 9.13 (30); Clement of Alexandria, Strom. vii.4.26, p. 844, ed. Potter; Stephanus Byzantius, s.v. Azania; Verg. Ecl. 6.48ff.; Ov. Met. 15.325ff.; Pliny, Nat. Hist. xxv.47; Serv. Verg. Ecl. 6.48; Lactantius Placidus on Statius, Theb. iii.453; Vitruvius viii.3.21. Of these writers, Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, and, in one passage (Paus. 2.18.4), Pausanias, speak of the madness of the Argive women in general, without mentioning the daughters of Proetus in particular. And, according to Diodorus Siculus, with whom Pausanias in the same passage (Paus. 2.18.4) agrees, the king of Argos at the time of the affair was not Proetus but Anaxagoras, son of Megapenthes. As to Megapenthes, see Apollod. 2.4.4. According to Virgil the damsels imagined that they were turned into cows; and Servius and Lactantius Placidus inform us that this notion was infused into their minds by Hera (Juno) to punish them for the airs of superiority which they assumed towards her; indeed, in one place Lactantius Placidus says that the angry goddess turned them into heifers outright. In these legends Mr. A. B. Cook sees reminiscences of priestesses who assumed the attributes and assimilated themselves to the likeness of the cow-goddess Hera. See his Zeus, i.451ff. But it is possible that the tradition describes, with mythical accessories, a real form of madness by which the Argive women, or some portion of them, were temporarily affected. We may compare a somewhat similar form of temporary insanity to which the women of the wild Jakun tribe in the Malay Peninsula are said to be liable. "A curious complaint was made to the Penghulu of Pianggu, in my presence, by a Jakun man from the Anak Endau. He stated that all the women of his settlement were frequently seized by a kind of madness--presumably some form of hysteria-- and that they ran off singing into the jungle, each woman by herself, and stopped there for several days and nights, finally returning almost naked, or with their clothes all torn to shreds. He said that the first outbreak of this kind occurred a few years ago, and that they were still frequent, one usually taking place every two or three months. They were started by one of the women, whereupon all the others followed suit." See Ivor H. N. Evans, "Further Notes on the Aboriginal Tribes of Pahang," Journal of the Federated Malay States Museums, ix:1, January 1920, p. 27 (Calcutta, 1920).
2. According to Bacch. 10.95ff., ed. Jebb, the father of the damsels vowed to sacrifice twenty red oxen to the Sun, if his daughters were healed: the vow was heard, and on the intercession of Artemis the angry Hera consented to allow the cure.


Hecatombaea (Hekatombaia). A festival celebrated in honour of Here by the Argives and people of Aegina. It received its name from hekaton and bous, being a sacrifice of a hundred oxen, which were always offered to the goddess, and the flesh distributed among the poorest citizens. There were also public games, first instituted by Archinus, a king of Argos, in which the prize was a shield of brass with a crown of myrtle


Anthesphoria. A flower-festival ... were also solemnized in honour of other deities, especially in honour of Here, surnamed Antheia, at Argos.


Festival of Beacon-fires

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