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Polytheism and Society at Athens$

Robert Parker

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199216116

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199216116.001.0001

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Festivals and Their Celebrants

Festivals and Their Celebrants

(p.155) 8 Festivals and Their Celebrants
Polytheism and Society at Athens

Robert Parker (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the question of who performs festivals in ancient Athens, where, and the social behaviour of celebrants. An event is a festival if large numbers of the group celebrating it (citizens, for a festival of the city; demesmen, for a deme, and so on) are involved. It would contrast with the many sacrifices on behalf of the Athenian people conducted by a small group in private. That hypothesis deals easily with festivals widely celebrated in individual households, such as the Kronia, with women's festivals, and also with those that offered such obvious draws as mass sacrifices or competitions. Other festival celebrants might include craftsmen such as bronze-workers, metics, and non-citizens. At one or two festivals, however, the only public element was apparently a procession. Whether they participated directly or not, Athenians seem to have thought of the festival as a part of their collective life.

Keywords:   festivals, processions, ancient Athens, metics, women, religion, non-citizens, social behaviour

The tradition of studying ‘Athenian festivals’ is one that goes back to antiquity. One aim of this book is to break with that tradition, in so far as it isolated the festivals from all the other activities and imaginings relating to the gods that took place in Athens. But the festivals cannot simply be ignored. The best introduction to the subject is not to survey the dry assemblage of antiquarian facts that dimly illustrate the goings on at this or that festival, but to note the many contexts in which festivals are mentioned in Aristophanes, sometimes at length, as in Acharnians and Thesmophoriazousai, sometimes, still more revealingly, in glancing and casual allusions.1 No careful reader of the comic poet can doubt how central the festivals were to the shared religious experience of the Athenians.

But how are they to be treated? We are familiar, from the standard handbooks, with a way of presenting Athenian festivals that in many respects derives from the ancient scholars who wrote on the same subject. The festivals are treated one by one (whether they are listed month by month or god by god). Each is dated and assigned to a god. The ritual activities are described, and an attempt is made to identify their purpose. The sum of the accounts of the individual festivals constitutes the sum of available knowledge about Attic festivals. This convenient principle of arrangement has its limitations. To take an easy illustration, ancient scholars were uncertain what god two festivals (Skira, Oschophoria) belonged to, and the controversy has continued into modern times. But in both cases it seems that it is the principle of ‘one god per festival’ that is at fault. More generally, in this tradition of study, festivals tend to be seen as a set of ritual actions directed to a goal. The question of who performs these actions, and where, is of very subordinate interest. Ancient sources, at least in the form in which they reach us, often present actors in rituals with maddening imprecision as ‘they’; and moderns are much less maddened by the imprecision than they should be. But rituals are not machines, the handles of which anyone can pull in any place to achieve a desired result. The traditional arrangement, one festival after another, also tends to discourage thought about the Athenian festivals as a class, whether about interrelations between individual festivals or about the social functions of the whole set. Even the question of what constitutes a (p.156) festival tends not to be posed. And this neglect affects not only the concept of ‘festival’ itself but also what one might call the forms of festal action. A large number of Athenian festivals included, for instance, a παννυχὶς an ‘all night’ celebration in which women were the main participants. Everyone in the ancient world knew what a pannychis was, but we moderns need to think about the institution systematically.

A different topic on which we need to reflect is, alas, the randomness of the evidence that is available to us for Attic festivals. Presented in book upon book and article upon article, the familiar festivals come to masquerade as a canon,2 as if they were indeed not ‘some’ but ‘the’ festivals of the Athenians. Doubtless, thanks to comedy and oratory, no genuinely popular festivals have vanished wholly from the record, and in that sense we have much fuller knowledge about Attic festivals than about those of any other Greek state. But it is striking that an early text, a decree of the deme Skambonidai of about 460 BC, appears to name four festivals of which three are familiar (Dipolieia, Panathenaea, Synoikia) and the fourth (Epizephyra—partly supplemented) otherwise quite unknown. A string of festivals of Demeter (Chloïa, Kalamaia, Antheia) appear only in inscriptions, and the deme calendar of Erchia quite recently revealed an unknown Erosouria at which Athena received a sacrifice; a number of other festivals appear in single lexicographical notices alone. A penteteris—a rather grand kind of celebration—held at Sunium and attended by ‘the leading Athenians’ appears only in Herodotus’ account of a political incident of the sixth century.3 Metageitnia, Boedromia, and Pandia are festivals, no doubt once great, that survived into the classical period as little more than names. Some of these shadowy rites had perhaps ceased to be celebrated by the fourth century, some may have been of local significance only, some may have been short-lived. But we are reminded if so that the festival programme constantly varied in ways that our handbooks, with their picture of a fixed set of rites repeated unchangingly in perpetuity, constantly disguise. Written calendars may have had the effect that practices were in reality somewhat more stable in the fourth century than they had been in the seventh: the Proerosia, a rite that varies in spelling, date and even chief honorand from deme to deme, counts by then as an exception.4 But a further quite factitious impression of stability—in the festivals that were celebrated, (p.157) and in the ways in which they were celebrated—is a product of our static sources. The celebration of festivals is a form of social activity and society changes from day to day; despite the ideal of ‘in accord with tradition’ festivals too had to be replanned before each celebration (are two ‘Royal Weddings’ ever identical?), and it is inconceivable that they should have escaped from the law of perpetual change.5

The most important festivals, we noted above, are doubtless all known; and some impression of their relative popularity can be gained from the number and character of allusions that are made to them. (But even here contingent factors play a part. Athletic festivals such as the Eleusinia and the Herakleia at Marathon are visible in Pindar, invisible in comedy, though they certainly had not all ceased to be held; only the discovery of a play of Menander revealed that the Tauropolia could attract participants from Athens itself; the survival of actual prize vases shows the Anakeia to have been less obscure than the absence of literary allusions suggests ….6) But as to what actually took place, except at the athletic and dramatic festivals, almost any information that is preserved is preserved by chance. At the Tauropolia, a mock human sacrifice was enacted; stuff fetched from under the earth at the Thesmophoria was mixed with the seed corn; the Athenians performed three ‘sacred ploughings’, at different sites; here are three items of evidence prominent in any account of Attic festivals, each one of which is mentioned in a single source that might well not have mentioned it or might well not have been preserved.7 Had Pausanias not chanced to hear and proudly recount facts not widely known, the doings of the arrephoroi would have been about as obscure as those of the aletrides with whom they are mentioned in a famous passage of Aristophanes; even about the ‘bears’ of Brauron who appear in the same passage there was little to be said, until the excavation of their sanctuary revealed an unexpected new world.8 If one allows the mind to play on the many no less important items of evidence that are, no doubt, lost, it is hard not to despair. But we must abandon the illusion that the debris of facts which have come to rest on the pages of the handbooks necessarily suffice, by a happy chance, to allow us to interpret whatever festival may be in question. As an illustration and a cautionary tale, the example of the Skira is discussed in detail in an annexe to this chapter.

Even if the ritual actions performed at many festivals were much more fully known than they are, would it be possible, after describing the programme of a given festival, as it were to add up the sum and state its meaning or purpose (p.158) in simple words? Such is the assumption, in part again inherited from the ancients, that underlies most older accounts of Attic festivals.9 But few modern students of ritual would find it at all plausible.10 In a certain sense, doubtless, rituals are performed for a purpose. At the broadest level, the well-being of the state depends on the celebration of all the traditional rituals at the proper times. Every individual festival has the same highly important goal: to give the god concerned his or her due meed of honour. More narrowly, a particular rite might be conducted on a particular occasion for a particular purpose: to bring rain, to quell winds, to avert a plague. And one imagines that some (though perhaps not all) participants in some (though perhaps not all) the annually recurrent rites might have been able to identify practical goals that it was hoped they might achieve; such goal-directed explanations, however, would always have had to compete with others that appealed to tradition or spoke of ‘imitation’ or ‘commemoration’ of past events.

The real objection to a goal-directed or ‘instrumental’ explanation of rituals,11 an explanation that looks above all for an effect in the external world that they are supposedly designed to achieve, lies in the contrast between the simplicity and generality of the goals and the complexity and specificity of the rituals that, it is said, are straining towards them: too much is being explained in terms of too little. To take a simple but striking example, the Thesmophoria, celebrated at the time of ploughing, was doubtless understood to have something to do with the fertility of the fields. But those who see this as the main goal of the festival need to explain why the married women of Athens had to leave their homes and camp out for three days en masse in order to achieve it. Had Anacharsis asked an Athenian, ‘What are the Thesmophoria?’, what answer might he have received? ‘The rite our wives perform to make the crops grow’? Or rather, ‘the festival at which women gather for three days on their own’? Festivals are, above all, forms of collective activity, but those who interpret them in terms of goals are hard put to it to explain why this should be so, or why they constitute, in fact, the most important form of festivity for societies that take them seriously. The Mysteries, says Aristotle (fr. 15), were an experience πάθημα not a form of learning (p.159) (μάθημα): he thus emerges as a precursor (if in relation to just one festival) of the modern theoreticians who see ritual, surely rightly, not as goal-directed action nor yet primarily as cognition but as, perhaps, a specialized form of drama and at all events a performance, one in which the identity of the actors is just as important as the acts which they are called on to perform. The meaning of such a performance cannot be squeezed out into a formulation in a few words any more than can that of a play or other work of art; and labels such as ‘rites of passages’ or ‘calendrical rites’ are legitimate only for use in crude preliminary sorting, not by way of final explanation. Unfortunately, if this approach to the understanding of ritual is sound, the vast gaps in our knowledge become all the more damaging. One might with luck be able to grasp the main aim of an action many details of which were obscure. But fragments of a performance mean little, and the quality of an experience can emerge only from a continuous description.

Is the best policy then in regard to the festivals to give up? Ought centuries of enquiry to be terminated? The situation is not quite that desperate. No Attic festival, it is true, and probably no Greek festival can be studied with that close attention to the complexities of symbolic evocation, that sense of the developing drama of the long procedures, that alertness to the ways in which rituals reflect, shape, distort the order of the surrounding society which are to be found in the richest anthropological studies. But the main elements of a fair number of the major festivals are known. What we should perhaps back off from is the attempt to make sense of every minor festival and every little known rite. We can try instead to answer some broader questions about what might be called the shape of Attic festivals.

One basic issue has already been studied: we have distinguished between ‘single site’ and ‘dispersed’ festivals, and considered various contexts—deme, grouping of demes, phratry, city—in which festivals might take place. Smaller organizations such as orgeonic groups and thiasoi seem normally to have spoken of their rites as ‘sacrifices’, not as ‘festivals’.12 But that is a reminder of the need to look at the concept of ‘festival’ itself.13 It proves difficult to catch hold of. No one perhaps will deny that the Athenians had a concept, that of heorte, and a set of practices that resemble English ‘festival’ to a considerable degree. The Panathenaea, for instance, is unquestionably a festival; it is a multiple sequence of ritual actions, publicly financed, involving participation (active and passive) on a large scale; other business of the city comes to a halt during it; it is spoken of as a heorte, and its name has the neuter plural form (p.160) in –a already noted by Herodotus to be characteristic of festivals.14 The question is how many of these characteristics can be removed and still leave a festival. It has been suggested, for instance, that no gloomy rite was seen as a heorte by the Greeks, since the metaphorical applications of the words heorte and heortazein all concern good cheer.15 The melancholy and ill-omened rite of Plynteria would therefore have to count as something (of nature unknown) other than a festival. But it may be pure chance that no extant source applies the word heorte to the Plynteria. We should perhaps rather, guided by the characteristic neuter plural name form, accept the Plynteria as a heorte, and conclude that good cheer was a common but not a defining characteristic of a festival. (The mood of the Plynteria may in fact have been mixed, like that of the Diasia.)

Even, however, if all rites with the –a ending are to count as festivals, it need not follow that others which lack it are to be excluded. A rite known simply, in early texts, as ‘the sacrifice to Zeus Soter’ was the occasion of a public holiday in the fourth century.16 Here emerges a new and important criterion. One can sit at Athens for a year without being able to get a hearing with the council or people, said critics of the democracy: not only was the pressure of business huge, but the Athenians had ‘twice as many’ festivals to celebrate as any of the Greek states, during which ‘it is less possible for business of the city to be conducted’. Festivals were indeed normally holidays for courts and council, and counted as periods of special, sacred time (p.161) (hieromenia) during which for instance, the state could shed no blood.17 The ‘day of the sacrifice to Zeus Soter’ has therefore the strongest claim to be considered a festival. But we cannot simply say that festivals and holidays at Athens always went hand in hand. It was not only on festival days but also on ‘impure days’ (which might or might not coincide with the former) that the courts and council did not sit; conversely, it was perhaps possible for men’s business to be conducted during parts even of official women’s festivals, to say nothing of unofficial events such as the Adonia which were certainly in some sense felt to form part of the familiar festival round. Meetings did occasionally occur during festivals, and it may be that there was no fixed holiday programme but decisions were taken (except perhaps in regard to ‘impure days’ and the very greatest events) year by year.18 Above all, as a rule we simply do not know whether lesser rites such as the Arrephoria or Oschophoria earned council and courts a day off or not; but it is precisely the status as ‘Athenian festivals’ of the lesser rites that is in doubt.

A possibility is that our uncertainty about the scope of ‘festivals’ merely reproduces theirs. A Greek religious calendar was a list of publicly financed sacrifices, not of festivals;19 we have seen that there seems to have been no fixed programme of public holidays, and that the same event could be described as either ‘sacrifice’ or ‘festival’:20 there was probably no context in which it was relevant to press the question ‘what is a festival?’ very hard. If I continue to press it for a while, it is not with a view to getting a firm answer; the issue is about the contexts in which Athenians may have been rather more, or rather less, likely to apply the term.

Most festivals contained a mixture of elements specific to themselves—the offering of a robe to Athena at the Panathenaea, for instance, or the drinking-parties of the Anthesteria—with applications, again individual to themselves, (p.162) of more standard types: sacrifices, processions, competitions, ‘all-nighters’. But how many such elements did a ceremony need in order to count as a festival? More than one, it might be argued; a simple sacrifice was not a festival. Undoubtedly some complexity was the norm. But a few recognized festivals appear quite simple. At the Diasia, little happened to our knowledge except that numerous groups of kinsmen met and sacrificed together, at Agrai, to Zeus Meilichios. It is not clear that any public spectacle accompanied the celebrations of Kronia and Hieros Gamos in private houses.21 One can always postulate lost elements, and not at all implausibly, a procession here or a pannychis there that has slipped out of our sources. But it may rather be that Diasia and Kronia and Hieros Gamos were festivals because, simple though they were, they were observed by a great proportion of the households in Attica.

Perhaps the real mark of a festival is in fact breadth of participation: an event is a festival if large numbers of the group celebrating it (citizens, for a festival of the city; demesmen, for a deme, and so on) are involved. It would contrast with the many sacrifices ‘on behalf of the Athenian people’ in fact conducted by a small group in private.22 That hypothesis deals easily with festivals widely celebrated in individual households, such as the Kronia, with women’s festivals, and also with those that offered such obvious draws as mass sacrifices or competitions. Of the Chalkeia, a festival of Athena, the Suda claims that it was ‘a festival of the people long ago, but later celebrated by craftsmen only’ and another source speaks of it as ‘common to craftsmen, particularly bronze-workers’.23 No other festival seems to have been, as it were, a guild fair—for even the Hephaisteia, especially attractive though it must have been to workers with fire, contained competitions designed to give it broader appeal—and the Suda’s claim that the Chalkeia had once been more than this is surely correct; it was at this festival, for instance, that the weaving of the panathenaic peplos was inaugurated.24

There remain some difficult cases. At one or two festivals, such as the Plynteria or the annual rite of the Semnai, the only public element was apparently a procession. What then is a procession? Greek processions were, both etymologically and in reality, an ‘escorting’ (πὲμπω) of something somewhere; they were, therefore, strongly goal-directed.25 But they were (p.163) usually in no great hurry to arrive; and the vocabulary of ‘spectacle’ and ‘spectators’ was regularly applied to them.26 ‘What would be the use of a procession, if people had all to lie down upon their faces, so that they couldn’t see it?’, wondered Alice, wisely. If Alice was right that processions were designed to be viewed, even the Plynteria had its own positive way of drawing the public in. Negatively, they were involved perforce, since the day was one of ill-omen on which no serious business could be undertaken.27 The Arrephoria was performed, in secret, by two maidens; but in its one occurrence in an early source the word is a feminine singular (Lys. 21.5), and it should perhaps be reclassified as the name of a ritual activity (like kanephoria, basket-bearing) rather than of a festival.28 The only celebrants of the Iobaccheia and Theoinia of whom we know are a college of fourteen women, the gerarai, and certain unspecified genos-members; but we know very little at all of the two rites.29 If we set them (and the equally obscure Procharisteria) aside as too ill attested to allow judgement, and the Arrephoria as probably not a festival, we are left with no clear exception to the principle of broad involvement. As proof of his devotion to the familiar gods of the state, the Socrates of Xenophon points out that everybody could see him ‘sacrificing at the common festivals’.30

Whether they participated directly or not, Athenians seem to have thought of the festival as a part of their collective life. Xenophon speaks of the Plynteria as being celebrated by ‘the city of Athens’. When a momentous event occurred during a festival, the coincidence was remembered: Chabrias’ victory at Naxos in 376 was won during the Great Mysteries, but the same festival was marred in 322 by the arrival of Antipater’s Macedonian garrison; Demosthenes died on the gloomiest day of the Thesmophoria, and the execution of Phocion stained the procession of Zeus (Olympios) with public blood.31 (p.164) Most remarkably, according to Polyaenus, the great sea-battle fought at Alyzia in 375 between the Athenians under Timotheus and the Spartans fell on the day of the festival Skira.32 ‘On this day, Timotheus garlanded the triremes with myrtle and raised the signal. He put out to sea, fought and won. His soldiers fought with great confidence because they thought that they had the divine as ally.’ Thus the Athenian sailors off Leukas were somehow involved with this festival celebrated by their wives at home in Attica. The great battle of Mantinea of 362 also seems to have coincided with the Skira, and, to judge from a remark of Plutarch that Athenian valour on that occasion ‘made the day more holy’,33 the festival acquired a new function as a kind of commemoration of the battle.

A related concept that stresses breadth of participation is panegyris, ‘assembly of everybody’. All panegyreis were festivals, even if not all festivals (those celebrated principally in private houses, for instance) were panegyreis. The word could be used of Attic rites no less than of the panhellenic games. To have a lavish supply of goods for sale, says Demosthenes, is the virtue of a market or panegyris, not of a city. Crowds in their festival best, swarming around the food booths and the stalls piled with children’s toys, must always have a place in our picture of Attic festivals.34

So too must the phenomenon of festival food. In modern western society, little remains of many festivals but the foodstuffs traditionally associated with them—beliefs come and go, pancakes abide—and the principle of such an association may be an inheritance from the ancient world; at all events the phenomenon was very common in antiquity. Unfortunately, not every reference to a food eaten at a particular festival can be taken to prove that the two were as closely associated as lamb and Easter. By this cautious criterion, we will not take the consumption of sausages at the Apatouria, haggis at the Diasia, barley-soup at the Theseia, thick soup at the Panathenaea to be necessarily characteristic of the festival in question, though it very probably was in several cases.35 But three festivals (Pyanopsia, Thargelia, and the obscure Galaxia) contained a reference to foodstuffs in their very names. What these festival foods may have evoked will be considered elsewhere. What matters here is the way in which through them the festival penetrated, as it were, into every Attic household. The domestic bustle, the anxious buying and preparation of food, so familiar from our own, very impoverished experience of festivals needs to be included also in our picture of those of the Athenians. Even at festivals such as the Panathenaea, where the main feast was publicly (p.165) provided, many banquets took place on the margins, whether organized by groups such as the genos of Salaminioi or by individuals.36

Individuals could participate in festivals in many different ways. One could handle or come close to sacred objects, walk or ride in a procession, dance, eat sacrificial meat or simply watch. Ancients as well as moderns had the habit of speaking of ‘women’s festivals’ but not of ‘men’s’:37 men are taken to reflect the norm, and do not require special labelling. But even if women’s festivals, as a category, are a product of hierarchical assumptions, there were real differences in the ways in which the two sexes participated. It appears to be taken for granted that all married citizen women will normally take part in certain ‘women’s festivals’, the Thesmophoria above all.38 In a sense such festivals of all the women are simply mirror images of the many festivals in which all the men were, if not expected, at least entitled to participate. But though men were absolutely excluded from women’s festivals, it is not clear that there were at Athens (though there were elsewhere in Greece) any festivals from which women were so barred; even where only one woman, the priestess, was in fact present, she establishes that the principle of exclusion was not one of gender alone. And men were never required, as were women at the Thesmophoria, to camp out for three days en masse, to fast, to sit on the ground on mats containing objects pertaining in some way to their sexuality. In male religious experience the closest parallel to the intensity of the Thesmophoria might be initiation at the Mysteries, which was neither obligatory nor restricted to the one sex.39 Women then are more positively engaged as participants in women’s festivals than are men in men’s. More generally, at the level of festival activity which involves close contact with sacred objects, they are at least as fully engaged as men—as priestesses, as basket-bearers, as (in one case) a wife for the god Dionysus, and so on.

In the important matter of the sacrificial feast, the case is quite different. At many festivals in Athens or the Piraeus, a major attraction was a ‘meat-distribution’, κρ∈ανομία on a large scale: a portion belonged by right to each person enrolled in a deme, and women—some priestesses and other active participants aside—were therefore, we assume, excluded. The case must normally have been the same with the ‘common banquets of the demes’; in the calendar from Erchia one offering alone, to Dionysus, is marked as being ‘for handing over to women’.40 Only at women’s festivals did women feast (and even then the food seems to have been provided by husbands of the richer women as a liturgy rather than by the deme or city). Even though the exclusion of women from these sacrificial feasts was gender-related only at (p.166) one remove41 (the sign hung up was not ‘no women here’ but ‘deme-members only’—women, however, were not members of demes), its practical implications for their participation were obviously very large. Another striking exclusion is that women had no place in any of the major athletic or literary competitions. Five hundred boys and 500 men danced in the dithyrambs at the City Dionysia each year, 250 at the Thargelia, and no single woman or girl.

In another form of festival activity, however, women unquestionably had the main part. ‘All nighters’, pannychides, are attested for at least eleven state festivals—Panathenaea, Mysteries, Stenia, Haloa (?), Pyanopsia, Tauropolia, Bendidea, Epidauria, Asklepieia, Heroa, and very probably Brauronia42—and two of demes (Aixone’s sacrifice to Hebe; the Nemesia of Rhamnus); privately organized rites such as the Adonia or Sabazia or a sacrifice to Pan or even the tenth-day celebrations for a child could borrow the same form. At Mysteries, Panathenaea, Tauropolia and, surely, Brauronia, virgins took part in the panny-chis, and in each case except the first may have had the chief role; from those at ‘women’s festivals’ (which were normally de facto married women’s festivals) such as the Stenia, however, they are likely to have been excluded. Men were present as, at most, bystanders or spectators.43 How participants were selected is unfortunately quite unknown. The mood of a pannychis was often one of gaiety, but this was also a form of religious action powerful to earn a god’s favour; thus in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter the women appeased the angry goddess by their all-night devotions (292–3). The pannychis was marked, according to one charming definition, by ‘la bonne humeure efficace’.44 Once again, women as a group appear to act on the gods more directly than do men.

Often men sacrificed meat by day and women danced by night. But the modalities of ‘separate development’ practised at festivals were probably quite (p.167) various. The Haloa, a maddeningly obscure festival of mid-winter, is chiefly known from a remarkable scholion on Lucian:

At this festival a rite for women (γυναι̂κ∈ς perhaps ‘married women’) is conducted at Eleusis and there are many jokes and jibes. Women go in by themselves and are free to say whatever they want. They do in fact say the most shameful things to one another on that occasion, and the priestesses going up to the women secretly urge them to adultery, whispering in their ear as though imparting a secret. And all the women say shameful and disgusting things to one another aloud, and handle unseemly images of the body, both male and female. Here much wine is laid out and tables full of all the foods of sea and land except those subject to the mystic ban, that is pomegranate and apple and house birds and eggs and, of sea creatures, mullet, erythinos, melanouros, crayfish, and dogfish. The magistrates set out the tables and leaving them inside for the women then withdraw; they stay outside, displaying to all the visitors that civilized food was first discovered among them and shared out to all mankind from them. On the tables are also genitals of both sexes fashioned from cake.

Women therefore feasted within while men were differently employed outside;45 inscriptions suggest that there were sacrifices and perhaps other entertainments for men too, in a festival that may have lasted more than one day. As we shall see, men apparently had some role at the Skira, another ‘women’s festival’, and a public sacrifice by the prytaneis was even made on the occasion of the Stenia;46 one may wonder whether the Thesmophoria was unusual in its rigorous exclusion of men.

Thus far the picture is not unclear. We turn now to a variety of festival contexts in which women may or may not have been free to participate alongside men. Multiple uncertainties arise at once, and vast gaps in our knowledge of the day-to-day order of Athenian society are revealed. At some festivals, the food seems largely to have been provided by the participants themselves. In contrast to festivals financed by public bodies to which they did not belong, there was no reason why women should not have taken part in these. Athenians converged on Agrai from all Attica to feast at the Diasia with their ‘relatives’. But did they bring their wives (and unmarried daughters)? Children could attend, which must increase the likelihood that their mothers could too.47 We looked in an earlier chapter at ‘family reliefs’, many of them dedicated as it happens to the god of the Diasia, Zeus Meilichios. Did the group sacrifices which such reliefs commemorate (at least as an ideal) occur at festivals, or was the occasion a private one? The question cannot be answered with certainty. Similar considerations and similar uncertainties apply to the meetings of the phratries at the Apatouria. An item of evidence that bears (p.168) directly on a related case is a decree passed by a group of orgeones—a form of association probably closely linked to the phratry—in perhaps the fifth century. At the association’s annual sacrifice, ‘Meat is to be distributed to the orgeones who are present and to [their children] a half share and to the free wives of the orgeones [ … ] an equal share and to their daughters a half-share and to a single (female) attendant a half-share. The portion of the wife is [to be handed to] the husband.’48 Since the female attendant must surely have been present to earn her share, it is probable that the wives and children were there too, or were entitled to be. But it remains possible even so that they sat somewhat apart from the men. The same can be said about those festivals of which important parts took place in individual houses: women as well as men no doubt participated, but not necessarily in the same way. It can reasonably be doubted, for instance, whether women took part in the hectic drinking competitions of the Anthesteria.

Festivals were the great context for spectacle in the ancient world, and the question arises of the extent to which women were permitted to spectate. In respect of drama it has been much discussed, without a consensus emerging,49 but there are many further aspects. Whatever conclusion is reached for drama should probably also be reached for dithyramb, for which evidence is entirely lacking. If so, and if we exclude women from the tragic and comic theatre, we must sadly conclude that the 500 Athenian mothers whose sons competed, gorgeously arrayed, in the dithyrambs each year, could do no more than wave them good luck from the door. We are no better informed about the practice at athletic competitions, whether those of the Panathenaea or the various local festivals. ‘Often, Telesicrates, have maidens seen you victorious at the seasonal rite of Pallas and prayed that you could be their darling husband or son’, says Pindar—rites in Telesicrates’ homeland Cyrene, commentators assure us, and not as the scholiast supposed the Attic Panathenaea. But the passage at least shows that the supposed exclusion of all women except the priestess of Demeter Chamyne from the stadium at Olympia does not represent a universal Greek norm.50 Thucydides observes that there was of old a gymnic and musical competition on Delos to which the Ionians and (p.169) neighbouring islanders went as spectators ‘with their wives and children’ (he knows all this from the Homeric Hymn, which he quotes), ‘as the Ionians do now to Ephesus’ (3.104). The passage certainly shows that family outings could occur in the Greek world; but does it also show that they looked a little strange to Athenian eyes?

Women’s attendance at events such as these was no doubt governed by rules. Their freedom to watch the great processions can scarcely have been regulated so rigorously, but may have been restricted by social convention. We hear of a debauchee, a descendant of Demetrius of Phaleron, who built a scaffold of presumptuous height to allow a courtesan to watch the Panathenaic procession.51 Dikaiopolis in Aristophanes, by contrast, urges his wife to watch his rural Dionysiac procession ‘from the roof’.52 Possibly respectable women could only enjoy the spectacle if they had access to a secluded roof or balcony. But evidence is too scarce for the issue to be pressed.

We have this far in the main treated men and women as undifferentiated groups. The most important ritual subgroups within both sexes, the young, will receive separate treatment in later chapters. Subsets within the classes of married women and adult men are only rarely identified ritually, but ‘women married to their first husband’ (πρωτοπόσ∈ις) had a special role in the rites of Athena Pallenis;53 and the imbalance whereby old men, but not old women, had an honorific role at the Panathenaea deserves to be signalled.

I turn now from distinctions within the citizen body to that between it and outsiders. The case of slaves is easy: within the context of publicly financed rites of the city, they did not exist. No role was reserved for them, no meat was assigned to them, no prayers were offered on their behalf. Only at festivals celebrated within private households (Anthesteria, Kronia) did slaves have a certain acknowledged place.54 This ideological exclusion is not affected by the likelihood that they were in fact needed at many festivals to perform menial services. And there was no ideological bar to their being initiated into the Mysteries; the best attested cases are those of slaves belonging to the sanctuary itself who ‘had’ to be initiated—remarkable intertwining of practical and (p.170) symbolic constraints!—in order to do works within its secret parts, but a comic fragment probably also presents a favourite slave introduced by his master.55

The situation with metics and other free non-citizens is a little more complicated. A group of metics and a group of unmarried metic women (the principle of selection is unknown in both cases) marched in the Panathenaic procession, the men wearing purple tunics and carrying sacrificial trays known as skaphai, the girls serving as attendants to the citizen kanephoroi. A number of sources vaguely associate this practice of differentiated marching with ‘the processions’ or ‘the public processions’ in general, while one cluster speaks of ‘the Dionysiac processions’.56 The difficulty in accepting the claim in its more general forms is that it is always made in connection with a ritual object, the skaphe, which is very unlikely to have had a role at a wide range of festivals and was very possibly confined to the Panathenaea. Representatives of the allied cities are linked with both Panathenaea and City Dionysia, even if the right or obligation of sending (and presumably escorting) ‘cow and panoply’ to the Panathenaea is much more frequently attested than that of sending a phallus to the Dionysia.57 A place for metics in ‘the Dionysiac processions’ is not impossible, therefore, but some doubt subsists. Metics were included in the Panathenaea, we may assume, because this was the festival of ‘all Athens’; their role ‘in the Dionysiac processions’ (if reliably reported) strikingly illustrates the civic and unifying tone of those festivals too, though it might also be seen as acknowledging the financial contribution they were required to make to one of those festivals (the Lenaea) as liturgists. As for their possible participation in yet further processions, all is speculation.58

A different role for non-citizens is specifically attested at two further festivals. At the Bendidea in the fifth century a procession of native Athenians was matched by another of Thracians, presumably the Thracian residents of Athens. Bendis was a Thracian goddess, but such a joint Thraco-Athenian production of a festival is unparallelled and only imperfectly understood; an oracle was even approached to ask (very probably) whether the priestess of Bendis should be an Athenian or a Thracian woman. We also learn from an (p.171) inscription that at the Hephaisteia ‘three oxen’ were assigned to metics. Hephaestus was a god of crafts, and many metic craftsmen were active in Athens. Their role at his festival may represent a special case, therefore, rather than an instance preserved by chance of a more general inclusiveness.59

Whether metic (and foreign) wives could participate in publicly funded festivals at Athens is a question that has seldom if ever been posed, our silent sources not stimulating curiousity. The prevalent assumption is probably that they could not. But it is also quite widely assumed that to one festival, the Haloa at Eleusis, courtesans thronged; and they were not normally of citizen status. The assumption about the Haloa is perhaps the one that should yield,60 at least if it is taken to imply that the courtesans participated fully in the rites (if we take the other view, the ‘internationalism’ of the Eleusinian cult may provide an explanation.) But the possibility that to some cult, somewhere, metic wives were admitted cannot be ruled out.

Metics were probably excluded from formal participation in most Athenian festivals. But they could be spectators, both of processions and of athletic and dramatic competitions. And, like citizens, they could organize their own private parties on the margins of public festivals.61 If a group of metic kinsmen had tried to join the Athenians picnicking together at Agrai at the Diasia, would they have been driven away as intruders? It scarcely seems likely. Festivals were the blood of life to Greeks, and it is hard to understand how metics survived away from their ancestral gods. But the problem becomes less acute if we imagine them caught up in the festival atmosphere on the great occasions of the host state.62

In a rough, broad way we have reviewed the celebrants of Attic festivals. A general issue about the relation of festivals to the social order can be raised in conclusion. It is a familiar idea that the norms of behaviour at festivals have a complicated relation to the ordinary social norms: ‘festival licence’ is a concept which has ‘native’ equivalents, and ‘festival of reversal’ too is a familiar slogan. But the idea can be given very different twists. Some see festival licence as a cathartic mechanism which allows tensions to be released and the everyday order of society to be preserved. Others allow it a more radical political force, as a mechanism whereby real resentments that need to (p.172) be addressed are brought into the open.63 Somewhat related to the former idea is the postulate, as an ideal type, of a single annual ‘great feast’ at which the order of the world is dissolved in order to be renewed. But one must analyse the sense in which festival licence or festival abnormality are realities before seeking to apply general theories. All major festival days were holidays, for adults and for children; no criminal could be executed during them, and no debtor seized.64 As a time of leisure, harmony and community, the festival is thus distinguished, not indeed from the ideals of the city, but from its everyday practices. Thus far all festival days differ from all business days. But, since few will suppose that the Panathenaic procession challenged, even in sport, the order of the city, distinctions still need to be drawn in the extent to which different festivals reflect or reverse ordinary social norms. A preliminary might be to refine the notion of ‘reversal’. Reversal in the strict sense is a rarity: the clearest instance is that of the Kronia, if we accept the claim of one Latin source that masters ‘waited on their slaves’ as at the Roman Saturnalia. What by contrast is extremely common is irregular behaviour of various types. Women secede to form their own society, at the various ‘women’s festivals’; during them they may exchange obscenities, handle sexual objects, and, in one case, be urged by respectable priestesses to commit adultery; at pannychides they and their daughters stay up all night, free from close supervision. The dream analyst Artemidorus states that to dream of pannychides threatens adulterers of both sexes with discovery but not with punishment, since ‘what takes place at pannychides is known to fellow participants, even if it is licentious, but is in a certain sense permitted’.65 The social world familiar to Artemidorus in the second century AD was far removed, one must allow, from that of classical Athens, but his comment might none the less help to understand how ‘rape at a pannychis’ came to be a literary motif.66

As for the irregular behaviour of men, at various festivals they (young men in particular) threw abuse at passers by, sang obscene songs, carried giant phalluses in procession, and drank to excess. Comedy made these various transgressions into a literary genre.67 At the Anthesteria men drank in (p.173) isolation from one another but in communion with their slaves. At the Oskhophoria two youths dressed as women.

These forms of behaviour have in common that they were all permissible only at festivals; conversely, festivals were the only licensed context, except perhaps the symposium, for irregular behaviour. But the character of the irregularity varies from case to case, and the concept of ‘festival licence’ has only weak and general explanatory force. As for ‘festivals of reversal’, a good number of festivals are touched by reversal; these elements cluster at festivals of Demeter and, still more, of Dionysus (who can plausibly be seen as the god of abnormal consciousness and behaviour), but are not confined to them. Again, though some festivals show a high concentration of such elements, there is none that consists of nothing else. Even the Kronia cannot be seen as a topsy-turvy world and nothing more. The label only obscures the individual phenomenon.

Annexe: The Festival Skira

A festival ‘Skira’ (τὰ Σοίρα) is mentioned in three passages of comedy and in two, perhaps three, inscriptions of the fifth and fourth centuries. It was important enough to be used as a point of reference in the deme-calendar of Marathon, where certain sacrifices are required to be performed ‘before the Skira’;68 the same text confirms its placing in, predictably, the month Skir-ophorion. In almost all the other allusions it appears as a festival ‘at which women come together in accord with tradition’,69 one of those which ‘we conduct’70 (the speakers are women) and at which, in comic fantasy, subversive decrees can be passed by the women meeting in secret conclave. In a different comic perspective, keeping both a wife and a mistress (the latter disguised as a wife?) spells financial ruin: ‘the extravagance! reckon the Thesmophoria twice, the Skira twice!’71 It seems to follow that, like the Thesmophoria, this was a festival in principle attended by all married women. Local celebrations of the rite are attested for Piraeus and apparently also for the deme Paiania. Probably then the festival was one held, again like the Thesmophoria, at a number of sites throughout Attica. It is named along with the Stenia in Aristophanes and with the Thesmophoria in Menander, rites of Demeter both, and in the Piraeus it actually took place in the Thesmophorion.72 Demeter and Kore must have been, to speak cautiously, among the (p.174) chief honorands. As for the actual rites, a late source which had access to good material saw them as analogous in symbolism and purpose to the Thesmophoria.73 But almost the only detail we know is that ‘they ate garlic in order to abstain from sex, so that they would not smell of perfume’.74

Such is the account of the festival that the contemporary sources allow us to give: one regrettably lacking in content, no doubt, but wholly coherent and comprehensible so far as it goes. Even the name always appears in the same form, as Skira (with a short vowel assured by metre), never Skirophoria, though the month name Skirophorion proves the antiquity of the longer form. Once the testimony of late sources is admitted, everything changes. Much of what they offer is a product of confusion or conflation between the several words and names containing the element skir-, but not everything can be dismissed. Harpocration writes under Σκίρον:

Lycurgus in the Speech About the Priestess. Skira is a festival of the Athenians, from which comes the month Skirophorion. Writers on Athenian months and festivals, among them Lysimachides, say that the skiron is a large sun-shade (σκιάδιον) under which the priestess of Athena and the priest of Poseidon and the priest of Sun walk as it is carried from the acropolis to a place called Skiron. It is carried by the Eteoboutadai. It is a token (σύμβολον) of the need to build and make shelters, since this is the best season for building.75

A different source adds that ‘those who organize the procession of the Skirophoria’ make use of the kind of fleece, normally associated with purification, known as a fleece of Zeus (Διὸς οῴδιον).76 None of this could have been predicted: new personnel, including a mysterious ‘Priest of the Sun’, enter the picture, new gods, and the location switches from sanctuaries of Demeter at different sites throughout Attica to a particular place on the road to Eleusis.77 We are used both to rites such as the Thesmophoria celebrated simultaneously at a variety of shrines and to those such as the Panathenaea focused on a single sacred place. The Skira appears to be unique in combining the two forms. Yet the facts recorded by Lysimachides and probably by Lycurgus before him can scarcely have been invented; nor can they be associated with any festival other than the Skira save by the postulate of a bizarre coincidence.78

(p.175) We seek at once to make sense of the discordant detail. The procession was heading, it is suggested, for an attested sanctuary west of Athens at which Demeter, Athena and Poseidon all received honours in common.79 The idea has its attractions, but our only source for this sanctuary locates it at a place near indeed to Skiron but definitely distinct from it. Perhaps the rite rather reflects a historical compromise between the powerful priesthoods of the originally independent communities of Athens and Eleusis80—but a look at a map explodes the idea that Skiron, a suburb of Athens, represents a middle point between the two places. In yet more thrilling vein it is suggested that the Skira enacts the collapse of society at the end of the year: women leave their husbands, the priests of the city’s two most prominent cults leave the acropolis.81 But this is to suppose that the mere departure of the priest and priestess from their familiar place mattered more than whatever they may have done or seen on arrival at Skiron. The picture will change if we accept the assertion of a small group of late sources82 that Skiron was site of a sanctuary of Athena Skiras, a goddess more securely located at Phaleron and on Salamis. If it existed, the shrine has a good claim to be considered destination of the procession led by the priestess of Athena Polias (there being little force in the objection that a ceremony which involved Athena under the one title could not also have involved her under the other). But in all probability it is a paper sanctuary, an almost inevitable product of multiple confusions between a puzzling festival, a puzzling word (σκιράφ∈ια) and the goddess Athena Skiras. It is likely to be relevant in some way that Skiron was location of one of the three sacred ploughings mentioned by Plutarch.83 But even here there is a (p.176) difficulty, one that sits on the surface of Lysimachides’ text. The skiron-bearing procession has as its destination a place named—o wonder!—Skiron. We seem to be confronted with two different and incompatible explanations for the name of the festival. Can we then be sure that the procession of the Skira was a procession to Skiron? The fragments of evidence reassemble at every turn of the kaleidoscope, but never form a clear picture.

This is an ancillary problem: the root of our difficulty with Harpocration’s report of Lysimachides is that we are told just enough about the mysterious Skirophoric procession to justify the etymology that is being proposed for the month name Skirophorion, and no more. What the participants did on arrival, what other priests or priestesses may have joined them there, who else accompanied them, what strange spectacle may there have met their eyes: none of this is Harpocration’s concern. All that matters to him is the sunshade which, he asserts—but not everyone believes him84—was called a skiron. We are given not even enough to be altogether certain that the procession belonged to the festival Skira. We have merely scraps of information torn away from the larger context which alone would have revealed their meaning.

Not every ancient view about the festival has been mentioned thus far. Some heard a reference to plaster,85 skiros, in the festival’s name, and spoke somewhat quaintly of a plaster image of Athena fashioned and carried by Theseus on his return from Crete.86 (Surprisingly, the same etymology has been taken up in modern times, and the festival has been connected to marling of the fields or the use of lime as a preservative for the seed-corn or the plastering of the threshing-floors that were about to be put to use.87 But the -i—of the festival is known to be short and that of the words for lime and plaster long.88) It might seem tempting to abandon the search for a true account of the festival and play instead with a juxtaposition of the various (p.177) ‘stories that were told’ about it in antiquity. But such a post-modern move, entirely appropriate in some contexts, would be vacuous in this one. Had we access to the ‘stories that were told’ about the Skira by those who participated in it, there would indeed be little point in looking elsewhere for a more valid account. But all we have access to is the speculation of antiquarians who inhabited a different world.


(1) Two examples from many: the allusions to the Diasia in Nub. 408 and 864.

(2) There is a different sense in which the canon of the Athenian festivals became more firmly fixed in the 20th c. Much that now counts as a fact was still controversial in the 19th c., as one can see, for instance, from the first part of Nilsson, Studia, which has still to argue that the various Dionysiac festivals which we take for granted were all distinct one from another. The separation of Eleusinia from Eleusinian Mysteries was not finally proved correct until later than that (see p. 201). The stability of the canon in the 20th c. reflects partly real progress (for such a thing exists in scholarship, in some senses), partly the authority of Deubner, Attische Feste. Some modest adjustments will be proposed here and there in what follows.

(3) Skambonidai: IG I3 244; Chloïa etc.: p. 195 below; Erosouria: LSCG 18 β 26–31; penteteris: Hdt. 6.87.

(4) See p. 196, n. 14.

(5) See Bell, Ritual, ch. 7, ‘Ritual change’. The hellenistic Pythaïs is a festival which changes before our eyes from celebration to celebration: pp. 83–5.

(6) See Men. Epit. 1119–20; Athenian Religion, 97, n. 124, and for the newly discovered prize from a festival of Poseidon p. 59, n. 36. Wilamowitz’s remark (GöttNachr 1896, 165 = Kl. Schr. V I, 108) that ‘Die städtische Zentralisation Athens hat alle lokalen Feste schon während des 5. Jahrhunderts degradiert’ is much too extreme, as Arist. Ath. Pol. 54.7 shows.

(7) Eur. IT 1449–61; p. 157 below; Plut. Praecepta Coniugalia 42, 144a–b.

(8) On all this see Ch. 11 below.

(9) J. G. Frazer’s view of most ritual as ‘magic’, which he understood as goal-directed action based on mistaken scientific premises, has left many traces in the works of Deubner, Parke, Simon (both heavily dependent on Deubner) and recently of Robertson on Athenian ritual. Important studies embodying different approaches include Jeanmaire, Couroi (1939); Brelich, Paides e Parthenoi (1969); Burkert, Homo Necans (German original 1972); Calame, Thésée (1990); Versnel, Transition and Reversal (1993).

(10) The literature is vast. Outstanding recent studies include G. Lewis, Day of Shining Red. An Essay on Understanding Ritual (Cambridge 1980); Bell, Ritual Theory ead. Ritual; Humphrey/ Laidlaw, Archetypal Actions. Each of these works surveys the available approaches. Note too Rappaport’s discursive but interesting Ritual and Religion, and E. Muir, Ritual in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge 1997).

(11) For a rejection of ‘instrumental’ views of ritual see e.g. J. Beattie, ‘On understanding ritual’, in B. R. Wilson (ed.), Rationality (Oxford 1970), 240–68, and the works discussed by Bell, Ritual Theory, 143, n. 6.

(12) Note however ἡ πομπὴ τῶν Ἀδωνίων of IG II2 1261.9 and the Ἀττίδ∈ια of 1315. 10. On the ἐορτή of the Mesogeioi (IG II2 1247.14) see p. 472 below. For an explanation of ‘orgeonic groups’ see Athenian Religion, 109–11.

(13) As J. D. Mikalson does very provocatively in ‘The Heorte of Heortology’, GRBS 23 (1982), 213–21, though I cannot accept all his conclusions. See too C. Calame, ‘La festa’, in M. Vegetti (ed.), Introduzione alle culture antiche, iii (Turin 1992), 29–54.

(14) Hdt. 1.148. Herodotus in fact speaks only of endings in –a, thus failing to distinguish between the neuter plural ending, which is genuinely characteristic of festival names, and the feminine singular; this latter is never unambiguously used of a whole festival (unless Aiora is a case) but is sometimes found for individual days within one (e.g.ἡ Δοπία last day of the Apatouria), as are formations of other types (e.g. Anarrhusis, Choes, Anodos). Bouphonia is a (unique?) instance of a neuter plural used not of a whole festival but of a component within one: it was, however, easily the most important element within the otherwise little known Dipolieia. (Pithoigia, day one of the Anthesteria, is a feminine singular in the better sources: Mommsen, Feste, 384, n. 3). In relation to Arrephoria, Proerosia, and apparently Chloïa and Antheia we find an oscillation between feminine singular and neuter plural forms, as if the status of the occasion as single ritual act—a ‘carrying of secret things’ (?), like ‘basket-carrying’; a ‘pre-ploughing’ or ‘green shoot’ or ‘flower’ sacrifice—or as full-blown festival were ambiguous (for femine singular ἀρρηφοϕία see Lys. 21.5; for the other three festivals p. 195 below). The name Hieros Gamos is exceptional, but is the only one to be applied to the festival in question in Attic texts (SEG XXXIII 147. 32; Menander fr. 225 (265 Koerte); for the term in lexicographers see Deubner, Attische Feste, 176, n. 11); a more conventional form Theogamia appears in Σ Hes. Op. 783–4 Pertusi

(15) So Mikalson, op. cit. His argument that certain rites are not ἑορταί because not so described in classical sources neglects the tendency of those sources to speak of demonstrable ἑορταί as, for instance, ‘the sacrifice’ or ‘procession’ to X rather than by name (so Calame, op. cit.; see e.g. Arist. Ath. Pol. 56 with the summary in 56.5; Thuc. 7.73.2). Another possible word is τ∈λ∈τή (Ar. Pax 419). For grim ἑορταί in Plutarch see De def. or. 14, 417b–c; De Is. et Os. 25, 361b; ibid. 68–9, 378d–e. Cheerful sociable rites in Aristotle, by contrast, can be called σύνοοι (EN 1160a 26).

(16) Lys. 26.6; cf. Arist. Ath. Pol. 56.5, and App. 1 S.V. Diisoteria (a name which appears in the 2nd c.). On the ‘sacrifices’ to Peace, Democracy, etc. see Athenian Religion, 228–32: these too were surely in some sense heortai. The important decrees of Eleusis SEG XXVIII 103 speak of the same event as ‘the Herakleia’ (once), ‘the sacrifice to Heracles’ (four times), and ‘the festival of Heracles’ (once).

(17) [Xen.] Ath. Pol. 3.1–2, 8; cf. Parker, Miasma, 157 [+] and, for the courts, M. H. Hansen, GRBS 20 (1979), 245. ἀφέσιμοι ἡμέραι (an expression found in LSS 14. 47, apparently in reference to the Thargelia) are explicitly attested in relation to the Kronia (Dem. 24.26, the boule), the Panathenaea (Ath. 98b, courts), the sacrifice to Zeus Soter on the last day of the year (Lys. 26.6, courts), the middle day of the Thesmophoria (Ar. Thesm. 78–80, boule and courts), the Apatouria (Ath. 171e; the boule, ‘like other Athenians’). A meeting of the assembly on the day of the ‘procession and sacrifice to Asclepius’ (Elaphebolion 8) is stigmatized as highly irregular (Aeschin. 3.66–7), but its occurrence also proves that there was no legal ban (so rightly Mikalson, Calendar, 123—Lys 26.6 suggests otherwise, tendentiously); nomothetai could meet on the Kronia, unusually, Dem. 24.26. For possible exceptions—meetings of the assembly on festival days—see Mikalson, Calendar, 186–204, with the comments of D. M. Lewis, CR 27 (1977), 215–16: in truth, only the one case attested in a literary text can count as certain (Aeschin. 3.66–7, above), since it is otherwise never absolutely clear, when an assembly meeting is attested for a ‘festival day’, that the festival was in fact celebrated in that year.

(18) Men’s business: the attested case of an assembly held on what ought to be the first day of the Thesmophoria dates from 122/1 BC (IG II2 1006.51–2, cited by Mikalson, Calendar, 189: the location in the theatre is common for the period, and proves nothing), but there is a classical Theban parallel (Xen. Hell. 5.2.29). The Hieros Gamos, Mikalson’s other putative instance, was not a festival confined to women. For the council voting itself five days ad hoc for the Apatouria see Ath. 171e. Adonia: Ar. Lys. 387–98, with Pax 420.

(19) See Athenian Religion, 52–3.

(20) See n. 15.

(21) But modest public sacrifices did accompany them: Kronia: Agora XV 81.6; Hieros Gamos: F. Salviat, BCH 88 (1964), 647–54 (on Erchia) and SEG XXXIII 147. 32 (Thorikos). On the Diasia see App. 1 S.V. Diasia; a literary competition is attested, rather questionably, in Lucian. Machon dates an encounter between an aged satrap visiting Athens and a courtesan to the Kronia (335 Gow ap. Ath. 581a); Gow ad loc. supposes he chose Kronia as appropriate to the aged satrap.

(22) On them see Jameson, ‘The spectacular and the obscure’.

(23) Suda x 35 (= Etym. Magn. 805.43–7: whence Pausanias Atticista x 2 Erbse); Harpocration, x 2 (abbreviated in Suda x 36).

(24) Suda x 35.

(25) Kavoulaki, ‘Processional Performance’, 302; F. Graf, ‘Pompai in Greece’, in R. Hägg (ed.), The Role of Religion in the Early Greek Polis (Stockholm 1996), 55–65, at 56. Graf’s distinction between centrifugal and centripetal processions has, therefore, only a qualified validity. Kavoulaki has excellent remarks on processing as a special, self-conscious and conspicuous, form of walking (294–5); this point works against the ingenious view that the spectator of the Parthenon frieze also ‘processed’.

(26) Kavoulaki, ‘Processional Performance’, 294, n. 5; ead. ‘Ritual Performance’, 146. Jameson, ‘The spectacular and the obscure’, 325, notes the special category of pompeia, ‘procession- equipment’, i.e. display equipment.

(27) See esp. Xen. Hell. 1.4.12; Plut. Alc. 34.1–2; App. 1 S.V. Plynteria. About the associated Kallynteria (see ibid. S.V. Kallynteria) virtually nothing is known.

(28) So L van Sichelen, AC 56 (1987), 96–7. But his denial that the ἐορτή of Paus. 1.27.3 is the Arrephoria is scarcely convincing; so a change would have to be postulated. That the Arrephoria also had a more public side now lost is of course possible. Brulé, Fille d’ Athénes, 92–3 associated with it the pannychis with which the priestess of Aglauros was involved (SEG XXXIII 115; cf. n. 42). On POxy 664 a 32 see p. 219, n. 5. Nothing firm can be extracted from a possible reference in a decree in honour of Julia Domna (Agora XVI 341. 38–40).

(29) Apollod. Neaer. 78, Harp. θ 7 S.V. Θ∈οίνιον;Athenian Religion, 299; cf. the entries in App. 1.

(30) Xen. Apol. 11. On private sacrifices at public festivals cf. p. 42, n. 19.

(31) Xen. Hell. 1.4.12; Plut. Phoc. 6.4–7 (cf. Athenian Religion, 238); ibid. v28.2–3; Dem. 30.5; Phoc. 37.2; cf. A. T. Grafton and N. M. Swerdlow, ‘Calendar Dates and Ominous Dates in Ancient Historiography’, JWarb 51 (1988), 14–42.

(32) 3.10.4: ἦν ἑορτὴ Σοίρα editors: ἑορτῆς ο∈ι̂ρα F, the archetype of the mss. of Polyaenus.

(33) De glor. Ath. 7, 350a.

(34) Pl. Tim. 21a; Dem. 10.50. Toys: Ar. Nub. 864; for special clothing reserved ∈ἰς ἑορτάς Xen. Oik. 9.6.

(35) Ar. Ach. 146; Nub. 408–9; Plut. 627–8; Nub. 386. The Σ vet. on Ar. Plut. 628a speaks of the gruel being provided ‘free’. But soup-kitchens are not otherwise known in Athens, and the Aristophanic allusion works better if individuals cooked their own, richer or runnier according to their means. For ‘deer’ cakes at the Elaphebolia see p. 468.

(36) See p. 268, n. 66 below.

(37) Ar. Thesm. 834–5; cf. IG II2 1177 (LSCG 36) 10–12.

(38) Men. Epitrep. 749–50; cf. Ar. Thesm. 330; IG II2 1177 (LSCG 36) 8–12; cf. pp. 270–1 below.

(39) For similarities between Thesmophoria and Apatouria, however, see p. 272.

(40) LSCG 18 α 44–50.

(41) See R. Osborne, CQ 43 (1993), 404 (= Oxford Readings, 312).

(42) For seven of these see Deubner, Attische Feste, 262, index S.V. Pannychis (that at the Haloa is attested by Alciphron only: cf. p. 492); add Hymn. Hom. Dem. 292–3; Ar. Ran. 371, 445–6 (Mysteries); LSCG 7 A 17 (Pyanopsia); Men. Phasm. 93–107 (Brauronia); IG II2 1199.22 (Aixone); Ergon 1998, 16 (Nemesia). Agora XV 253.10 mentions a pannychis, associated by a very uncertain supplement with the Chalkeia; the priestess of Aglauros also helped with one (n. 28 above), perhaps as M. H. Jameson suggests (personal communication) that of the Panathenaea. Adonia, Sabazia and Pan: Men. Sam. 46; Ar. Horai test. ii (Cic. Leg. 2.37); Men. Dysc. 857. Tenth- day celebrations: Eubulus fr. 2. Attic authors also envisage them in connection with Dionysus (Eur. Bacch. 862) and Mother (Eur. Hel. 1365); for Pannychis with Aphrodite and Dionysus on vases see A. Kossatz-Deissmann, LIMC S.V. Pannychis, nos. 1–4. See in general L. Ziehen, RE S.V. Παννυχίς; Pritchett, Παννυχίς’; Borgeaud, Pan, 246–52; Bravo, Pannychis.

(43) See esp. Hymn. Hom. Dem. 292–3; Ar. Ran. 445–6 (the male speaker’s intention of joining the women is a joke: see Dover ad loc.); Men. Dysc. 857 τῶν γυναικῶ παννυχίδ, Epitrep. 452 παννυχίδος οὔσης καὶ γυναικῶν; Critias B 1.6 D/K (cf. Sappho fr. 30.3 Voigt); Eubulus fr. 2. Bystanders: Men. Dysc. 855–7, Sam. 43; Pl. Resp. 328a (in both the latter texts men are spectators). At private pannychides the separation between drinking men and dancing women—all under the same roof—was not necessarily large or lasting (note e.g. the kisses of Eubulus fr. 2 and Callim. fr. 227).

(44) Borgeaud, Pan, 249. Good humour: Men. Dysc., Sam. (previous note); Ziehen, op. cit.

(45) But Lowe, ‘Thesmophoria and Haloa’, 162, is probably right to question whether the scholion’s ‘displaying to all the visitors’ proves a formal discourse on the part of the magistrates. On the Haloa see further pp. 199–201 and App. 1 S.V. Haloa. The source quoted is Σ Lucian p. 280.12–281.1 Rabe.

(46) Agora XV 78. 7.

(47) Ar. Nub. 864; on the Diasia see p. 42 and App. 1 S.V. Diasia.

(48) LSS 20.17–23 (a text of the 3rd c., but quoting an older decree). Other orgeonic decrees— Athenian Religion, 109, n. 28—do not give evidence either way.

(49) S. Goldhill, ‘Representing democracy: women at the Great Dionysia’, in Ritual, Finance, Politics, 347–69 [+], argues strongly for their exclusion, but has some difficulty with Pl. Gorg. 502d and Leg. 817a–c (ibid. 658d need have no reference to performance). Though the Laws passage explicitly only debars tragedians from ‘making public speeches to children and women and the whole mob’ in the agora of Plato’s Magnesia, it only needs to do so because, by implication, tragedy addresses such a promiscuous audience in the real world; this passage confirms that it is artificial to dissociate the mixed audience of Gorg. 502d5–6 from the ποιηταὶ ἐν τοῖς θεάτροις of Gorg. 502d3. See now, against Goldhill’s position, Sourvinou-Inwood, Tragedy and Religion, 177–96.

(50) Telesicrates: Pind. Pyth. 9.97–100; Olympia: Paus. 5.6.7, 6.20.9 (the latter passage in fact seems to state that parthenoi were admitted: cf. M. Dillon, Hermes 128, 2000, 457–80), Men. Rhet. 364.5–6 Russell-Wilson.

(51) See Hegesander of Delphi in Ath. 167f, and on such scaffolds Camp, Agora, 46 with AR 1994/5, 3. For a man sighted by a woman during the lesser Panathenaic procession see Men. fr. 384 (428 Koerte). Menander fr. 337 (382 Koerte, from the Synaristosae), telling of a courtesan’s daughter picked up on the way home from watching the Dionysiac procession, is generally supposed to derive from a play set, like Plautus’ adaptation Cistellaria, in Sicyon; but P. G. McC. Brown in a forthcoming study will argue from the Lemnian references in Cistellaria that the Menandrean original was perhaps set in Athens.

(52) Ach. 262; cf. N. Hopkinson’s note on Call. Hymn. Dem. 4, and now SEG XLII 785 30–1 (Thasos, 5th C.): ἐπὶ τô τέγεος τῶν κατοικιῶν τῶν δημοδίων τῶν ἐν τῆι ὁδῶι ταύτηι θῆς ἕνεκεν μηδὲς ἀναβαινέτω μηδὲ γυνὴ δ’ ἐκ τῶν θυρίδων θήσθω (differently interpreted by A. J. Graham, JHS 118, 1998, 22–40).

(53) Ath. 235a, cf. Athenian Religion, 331s; on the Panathenaea see Ch. 12 below. The posts of gerarai and (probably) deipnophoroi were reserved for married women (pp. 304 and 215 below). The only position confined to old women known to us was guardian of Athena’s sacred lamp (Plut. Num. 9.11; Parker, Miasma, 88, n. 58).

(54) See pp. 294 and 202; on private rites see p. 16, n. 33.

(55) IG II2 1672.207; 1673.24; Theophilos fr. 1; cf. Foucart, Les Mystères, 273–4.

(56) Specific association with Panathenaea: Hesych. S.V. σκαφηφόροι, Phot. S.V. σκάφας and the emended text of [Amnion.] Diff. 247 Nickau ἐν τῇ τῶν ’Aθηναίων(Παναθηναίων Meier) πομπῇ That the primary if not exclusive association was with the Panathenaea is clear from Dinarch. fr. XVI. 5 Conomis, cited in Harp. σ 21 (D. Whitehead, The Ideology of the Athenian Metic, PCPS suppl. vol. 4, 1977, 88, takes the association to be exclusive). General association with ‘processions’: Demetrius of Phaleron, FGrH 228 F 5 ap. Harp. σ 21, Ael. VH 6.1, and various sources explaining the proverb συστομώτερος σκάφης (see the test. to Men fr. 147 (166 Koerte) and Paus. Att. σ 31 Erbse). Dionysiac processions: Suda α 4177 (from the same source Anecd. Bekk. 1.214.3–8; Etym. Magn. 155.8–15).

(57) Cow and phallus: Athenian Religion, 142; Panathenaic and Dionysiac processions: pp. 170 and 317 below.

(58) I hesitate to base any inference on Aesch. Eum. 1011 with 1027–8 (cf. Athenian Religion, 298–9).

(59) For the other view see Wilamowitz, Hermes 22 (1887), 220 (Kl. Schr. V.1. 303), stressing also the role of metics in the cults of the deme Skambonidai (cf. p. 67). Hephaisteia: IG I3 82.23–4; on the Bendidea see Athenian Religion, 170–5.

(60) See p. 283.

(61) Note for instance the sacrifice performed by the metic Cephalus during the Bendidea in Plato’s Republic (327a–328c). Non-citizens were surely present on the margins of many Athenian festivals: see p. 254, n. 5, on visitors to the Panathenaea, and note Dinarchus 1.23 for a Rhodian cithara-player who suffered an unspecified hybris from a male citizen at the Eleusinia.

(62) ‘Die Götter Athens sind die Götter der Metoeken’, Wilamowitz, Hermes 22 (1887), 221 (Kl. Schr. V.1. 304). For the other, doubtless complementary, option (private associations), see Athenian Religion, 337–42.

(63) See for references Bell, Ritual, 38–40, 52–5; below p. 203, n. 48. ‘Native equivalents’: see Hor. Sat. 2.7.4–5 for libertas Decembri; Strabo 10.3.9, 467, for ἄνεσις ἑορταστική.

(64) Parker, Miasma, 157–8; according to the Σ (170b) on Dem. 22.68 prisoners were released during the Panathenaea and Dionysia on provision of guarantors. Two rhetoricians of the imperial period build cases round a law requiring those bound to be released also at the Thesmophoria; in their example the individual concerned is not a state prisoner but a slave informally bound by his master (Herm. Stat. p. 58.4 Rabe, Sopat. Rh. in Walz, Rhetores Graeci, vol. 8.67. 4–8). But the rhetoricians invent too many laws for this to have much weight without confirmation.

(65) 3.61 p. 231 Pack (adduced by Brulé, Fille d’ Athènes, 311). One thinks of discussions by anthropologists of the Mediterranean of licensed deviations from society’s supposed norms (p. 279, n. 40). Kronia: p. 202 below.

(66) Rape at a pannychis: Men. Sam. 38–49; Epit. 1118–20, probably Phasma 93–107; note too the testimonia to Eur. Auge. ‘Nocturnae pervigilationes’ were a particular target of Aristophanes in the play in which he showed foreign gods expelled from the state (Cic. Leg. 2.37; Ar. Horai test. ii).

(67) See in particular Halliwell, ‘Le Rire rituel’.

(68) ZPE 130 (2000), 45–7, col. 2. 30, 51. The only other time indication of this type in this text is πρὸ μυστηρίων,col. 2. 5 (cf. Jameson, Selinous, 26).

(69) IG II2 1177 (LSCG 36) 10–12 (Piraeus).

(70) Ar. Thesm. 834–5.

(71) Ar. Eccl. 18, 59; Men. Epitr. 750. Note too the fantasy of awarding προεδρία to meritorious women at the Stenia and Skira, Ar. Thesm. 834–5.

(72) Ar. Thesm. 834; Men. Epitr. 750; IG II2 1177 (LSCG 36: Piraeus) 10; for Paiania see IG I3 250 A 5–9.

(73) Σ Lucian p. 275.24 Rabe. But Deubner’s thesis, Attische Feste, 40–5, that part of the scholion’s detailed description actually refers to the Skira, and that in the scholion’s view the pigs recovered at the Thesmophoria had been deposited at the Skira, is untenable (see Jacoby, notes to comm. on Philochorus FGrH 328 F 14–16, n. 56 and p. 203; Burkert, Homo Necans, 257, n. 5): Clem. Al. Protr. 2.17.1, from the same source, unambiguously (though it might be erroneously) associates the μεγαρίζειν rite itself with the Thesmophoria. Brumfield’s more practical objection, that nothing except bones would be left of a pig after five months in the ground (Agricultural Year, 160–1), may underestimate the power of imagination in ritual.

(74) Philochorus FGrH 328 F 89.

(75) Lysimachides: FGrH 366 F 3, dated by Jacoby ‘50 B.C.-50 A.D. ?’.

(76) Suda δ 1210.

(77) On the location of Skiron see Paus. 1.36.4; Judeich, Topographie, 177.

(78) Namely that the month Skirophorion contained independently a festival Skira and a procession at which an object supposedly called skiron was carried. The procession is in fact associated with the festival by Σ Ar. Eccl. 18 (but that might be combination). Lycurgus: the fragments of the speech On the Priestess make repeated reference to the cult of Athena on the acropolis (N. C. Conomis, Klio 39, 1961, 107–20). Surely then it was in reference to the role of the priestess of Athena in the procession described by Lysimachides that, in this same speech, Lycurgus used the word σκίρον (fr. 46 Bl., VI.19 Conomis).

(79) Paus. 1.37.2, adduced by Deubner, Attische Feste, 47: criticized by Jacoby, notes to comm. on Philochorus FGrH 328 F 14–16, n. 77, bottom of p. 204.

(80) See p. 198, n. 24 (C. Robert). According to Pausanias (1.38.1), the ancient boundary between Athens and Eleusis was at a quite different place.

(81) Burkert, Homo Necans, 143–9.

(82) Poll. 9. 96 and other sources (E. Gjerstad, ARW 27, 1929, 224) seeking to explain the word σκίρα (contrast Harp. σ 30, which speaks of Skiron but not of Athena Skiras): cf. Σ Ar. Eccl. l8 Σκίρα ἑορτή ἐστι τῆς Σκιράδος ’ Aθηνᾶς,Σκιροφοριῶνος ιβ. οἱ δὲ Δήμητρος καὶ Kόρης (the Only direct source for the date). But Paus. 1.36.4, speaking of Skiros of Skiron, strikingly credits him with the foundation of a temple of Athena Skiras at Phaleron, not at Skiron. Athena Skiras was first extruded from Skiron by C. Robert, Hermes 20 (1885), 349–79; cf. A. R. van der Loeff, Mnemosyne NS 44 (1916), 102–6; Gjerstad, op. cit., 224–6: protest (in my view unjustified) in E. Rohde, Hermes 21 (1886), 119–22 (= Kleine Schriften, ii, 373–7)and especially Jacoby, comm. on Philochorus FGrH 328 F 14–16, pp. 290–1.

(83) Praecepta Coniugalia 42, 144a–b. Gjerstad, op. cit., 216–20, associated the festival and the sacred ploughing (an instance therefore ex hypothesi of summer ploughing) directly (for criticism see Brumfield, Agricultural Year, 168–9); van Loeff, op. cit., 328 thought of a ‘sacred harvesting’ of the crop sown at the sacred ploughing.

(84) For scepticism see Gjerstad, op. cit., 204–5, 223; Deubner, Attische Feste, 47; Jacoby, notes to comm. on Philochorus FGrH 328 F 14–16, n. 71: the source is perhaps postulating an ancient word and practice, not attesting a contemporary one. But the claim is likely to go back to Lycurgus (n. 78 above). Pfuhl, De Pompis, 92–5, made the sunshade the key to his interpretation of the festival: it symbolized that protection from the heat of the sun which the rite besought.

(85) The best evidence for this meaning of, σκῖρος/σκίρρος for which dictionaries only cite lexicographers, is the pun in Ar. Vesp. 925–6. The building material fetched ἀπὸ Σκιράδος (IG I3 463.32, 39;cf. IG II2 1672.196, a payment for γῆς Σκίραδος ἀγωγαὶ τρεῖς) was presumably earth used for making plaster, fetched from the region named therefrom (cf. γῆ Λουσιάς in IG II2 1672.195, Lemnian earth, and so on: Dioscorid. Mat. Med. 5.97, 152–60). On σκῖρος/σκίρρος and related toponyms see Ellinger, Légende Rationale phocidienne, 76–88.

(86) Sud. σ 624, Phot. S.V.Σκῖρος similarly Σ Paus. 1.1.4, Etym. Magn. 718.7. This is probably just guesswork (aliter Jacoby, notes to comm. on Philochorus FGrH 328 F 14–16, n. 15 and p. 202); if the facts are genuine, they might rather relate to the Oschophoria, as the aition in Sud./ Phot. suggests (Gjerstad, op. cit., 229–30).

(87) See Mommsen, Feste, 313–14 (criticized by Brumfield, Agricultural Year, 169–72); Brum- field, Agricultural Year, 172–4; Foxhall, ‘Women’s ritual’, 105.

(88) For the vowel length of the festival see e.g. Ar. Eccl. 18; for σκῖρον Ar. Vesp. 925. Burkert’s attempt to meet the difficulty, Homo Necans, 146, n. 44, does not satisfy me.