Lewis Richard Farnell.

The cults of the Greek states online

. (page 3 of 40)
Online LibraryLewis Richard FarnellThe cults of the Greek states → online text (page 3 of 40)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

clearly revealed in the Delphic legend, and was an accepted
dogma with Aeschylus ®. Reference has already been made *

* Horn. Od. 16. 403 Afvr /k^oAoio irvfivpo<pijr€vuv QiftiSot d^ior,

BifuffTti, Horn. Hyvtn, ApolL 394 * Ctiltz^ vol. 2, p. 49s n. b.

0ifutrras ^wBov 'AiroAAovoy, cf. Apollo, * Prom, V. 209.

R. i82» ; Pint. De Herod, Mai. p. 860 D ^ Cults, ib.
TOW efoO iiavru€» . r^y KiyofitrTji

Digitized by V^OOQIC


to the local legend of Boucheta in Epirus, which discloses an
ancient cult-figure of Themis Tauropolos, the goddess riding
on a bull, the sacrificial animal of Gaia, and we are reminded
"of the bull-riding Europa, who was in all probability a Cretan-
V Boeotian form of the earth-goddess. Again, the union of Zeus
and Ge was an ancient myth that gradually faded, and the
name of Ge was displaced by others in the story ; the marriage
of Zeus and Themis was a living belief perpetuated by Hesiod *,
and the Thessalian town of Ichnae^ whence 0</ity derived an
ancient cult-title 'Ixrat?; that occurs in one of the Homeric
hymns, explained its own name by the legend of Zeus' amorous
pursuit of Themis. We must suppose that the people imagined
him pursuing a real corporeal goddess, and not the abstract
idea of righteousness '^-^ \ The union of Zeus and Themis is
probably a later equivalent of the marriage of Zeus and Earth.
This explanation of the goddess of Ichnae as a disguised form
of the oracular Gaia, the spouse of Zeus, will be further corro-
borated, if we can trust a doubtful gloss in Hesychius, who
speaks of a fiavrdov at Ichnae occupied by Apollo, and can
believe on the strength of this that Themis was the original
goddess of the oracle there "^ *. We have other proof of the
ancient cult of Themis or 'Themissta' in Thessaly ^ **, and it
is probable that in this region, as in Thebes ^ ^ Tanagra ^ •,
and Athens '^^ *, the worship derived sustenance from some idea
more personal and concrete than the bare personification.
Finally, the theory that is being maintained may explain the
mysterious phrase of Clemens Alexandrinus, who speaks of the
' mystic symbols of Themis, marjoram, the lamp, the sword,
the pudenda muliebria^'.' The passage suggests that there
were * mysteries ' or opyia somewhere in the worship of Themis,
and these might be found, as we shall see, in the Gaia-cults,
but could not possibly be attached to Dike, *A8t#cta, or other
impalpable personifications. And the symbols themselves are
significant : the sword, possibly the lamp, might be the badge
of the mere goddess of righteousness ; but it is only by
supposing that the Themis of these unknown mysteries was
something more concrete than this, and was allied to an earth-

• T/i^oS". 901.

Digitized by V^OOQIC

i] CULT OF CE 15

divinity of fertilizing function that we could hope to explain
the ipCyopov and the xreU yvifau€Xo9 \ I am assuming that the
Christian Father is not talking at random.

If this view is correct, the ancient oracular cult of Ge-Themis
acquires a special importance : for it will have given rise to
the worship of a higher ethical goddess, who, having broken
the shell and escaped the limitations of Gaia, could take on
the more universal character of a goddess of righteousness, the
common term difin having always meant more than the mere
righteous decision of the oracle.

Returning now to other localities of the Gaia-cult, we can
believe that it was aboriginal in Attica '^, The ritual and
popular superstitious practices are sufficient proof. In gather-
ing a certain medicinal herb, a careful Athenian would put
into the hole a honeyed cake as an expiatory offering to Ge,
a sacrificial gift of common use in her ritual ; and in the search
for hidden treasure, a man would pray to her as the guardian
of wealth. In the private marriage ceremonies she may possibly
have once had a place ** ; for Proclus tells us that the ancient
Attic dfo-fiol prescribed a preliminary sacrifice before the
wedding to Ouranos and Ge. But as the former figure belongs
merely to myth, and neither to Attic or any other Hellenic
cult, we may believe that the neo-Platonist, in accordance with
a certain characteristic tendency, has misnamed the powers ;
and that the real sacrifice before marriage, of which we have
other evidence ^ was to Zeus and Hera, whom Greek theory,
as we have seen, sometimes identified \vith Ge.

Nor in the public Attic ritual was Ge forgotten, though
nowhere prominent, save in the local cult of Phlye ^* ^, of which

* The use of the same symbol in the In the Vedic marria|7e-ritiud the earth-

TJitiiMphoria of Demeter is weU at- goddess does not clearly appear, bat

tested, p. 89. Vanma, the heaven-god, is among those

^ In Latin marriage-ritoal the recog- to whom sacrifice is made : vide Hille-

nition ofTellns is attested by Vergil and brandt, Vedische Opfer^ &c., p. 68 ; bnt

tierriiis, Actu 4. 166 : ' quidam sane the idea of the marriage of earth and

etiam Tellurem praeessennptiistradnnt ; heaven in spring appears in some parts

nam in anspidis nnptiamm invocator: of India, Frazer, Golden Bough^^ i,

cni etiam virgines, vel cum ire ad domum p. 333.
mariti coeperint, vel iam ibi positae, * Vide Hera, R. 17*"^.
divcrsis nominibns vel ritu sacrificant/

Digitized by V^OOQIC



we have a very interesting but doubtful record. Pausanias
tells us that the men of this deme had raised altars to Dionysos
the flower-god, certain nymphs called ^Vryjivtb^^, and to Ge,
whom they called the * great goddess.' Nowhere else is this
emphatic appellative attached to her, but is the usual designa-
tion of the d€^v M^nyp, a more developed form of Gaia who,
like other kindred goddesses, may have superimposed herself
upon the latter's more primitive cult. The Phlyan cult was
original in another respect ako, if ascertain passage in Hippo-
lytus, in which he appears to have drawn from Plutarch, has
been rightly interpreted and emended ' : for it seems to attest
that a solemn orgy or mystery existed at Phlye in honour of
the great goddess, which claimed to be older than the mysteries
of Eleusis'**^ ; and some such primitive fact may have left its
impress on the genealogical account that Pausanias gives us of
the foundation of the opyia of the McyoAat dcat, Demeter and
Kore, at Andania by Kaukon, the son of Phlyus, who was the
son of Ge ^ All that we can conclude with some security is
that there was a very ancient mystery-worship at Phlye conse-
crated to Ge in her own name ; nor need this surprise us, for
though we hear of them nowhere else, m)rsteries in her honour
may have been in vogue that were afterwards covered by the
name of Demeter. What may be the explanation or the
credibility of the concluding statement in Hippolytus, that
there was a chamber or colonnade at Phlye, of which the walls
were covered with mystic paintings — the pursuit, for instance,
of a dog-headed woman by a hoary ithyphallic man with
wings — remains an unsolved riddle.

The other district in Attica where we have trace of a Gaia-
cult, which we may believe to have been ancient, is the Mara-
thonian Tetrapolis ^* •. Two inscriptions prove that at some
time in the early winter a black he-goat was sacrificed to * the
earth-goddess in the acres,' and again in Elaphebolion a pr^*

* Vidt Welck. Gruch. CoUert, i, Y/UyaXai 0tai at Phlye as well as An*

p. 53i, note. dania, and Uut these were the earth-

^ Vide Demeter, R. 346. Welcker goddess Ttf and Kiprj her daaghter ; Ge,

seems to build too much on the passage nnder this name, is never the mother

in Pausanias, when he concludes from it of Ko^.
that there was a m3rster}'-worship of

Digitized by V^OOQIC


nant cow to * Ge near the ^xun&ov! The latter designation is
interesting, as suggesting that her ancient association with
divination was remembered in this place. In Athens also,
amidst the multitude of the stronger and more attractive per-
sonalities of religion, her worship was able to survive. The
inscription found on the Acropolis, speaking of the institution
of some service in honour of Ge*4CarpophoTDS *^ ^ "in accor-
dance with the oracle,' appears to point to the time of Hadrian.
It has been connected, though on slight evidence, with the
monument that Pausanias describes as dedicated there, repre-
senting earth imploring Zeus to send rain. We can imagine
the beautiful form of the mother-goddess emerging raising her
face and her hands to heaven, as we see her on vases in the
gigantomachy and on the Tergamene frieze, where she is
pleading for her children. The oracle to which the inscription
refers is probably Delphi, which, at this late period, still
remembered its early affection for the earth-goddess.

In the ancient myth, and probably in ancient religion, she
was both a giver of fruits and a nourisher of children. But
the only cult-title that attests the latter idea, which springs so
naturally from the former •, is KovpoTp6(f>o9f and there is some
doubt and controversy about this des^nation. Usener and
other writers have regarded KovpoTp6(f>o9y whom we find on the
-Athenian Acropolis and on the Tetrapolis ^* *, at Samos and
j^>ossibly Eretria, as a personage who was originally KovpoTp6<l>o9,
the nurturer of children* and nothing more, a functional
dty known only by an appellative, and not by any proper
name, and belonging to an earlier s)^tem of * Sonder-Gotter,*
who were less anthropomorphic and less individualized than
the later evolved deities of the polytheism ^ The validity
of the whole theory will be examined in the concluding
chapter of this work. All that need be said here in regard to
KovpoTp6<f>os is that certainly in the earlier records of Attic
religion she is known by this appellative alone. Her shrine on
the Acropolis was the KovporpofpioVf and in all the known

* Instances of association of human Mannbardt, Baumkttltus, p. 303.
fertility and the earth are very numerous ^ ^ Vide Hero-cults, vol. 5, R. 337.
Tide Frazer, CokUn Bough ', 2, p. 109 j I



Digitized by V^OOQIC




earlier inscriptions she is simply *H Kov/oorpo^os : the one
quoted by RangaW, where she appears as Tri Kovporpofpo^f has
disappeared, and we cannot check its accuracy or assign its
date. The first authority that attests the latter double title
is Pausanias, who mentions as on the south-west terrace
of the Acropolis the double shrine of Ge Kovporp^fi^^s-^d
Demeter XXorj, ' the verdurous ' goddess. The later lexico-
graphers and schoh'asts, who are fond of such speculations,
apply the title to various divine personages ; but Suidas ^'' *
pronounces in favour of Ge : and adds that Erichthonios was
the first who sacrificed * to this goddess * on the Acropolis,
as a thank-offering for his nurture, and ordained that before
every other sacrifice a preliminary offering should always be
consecrated to her ; only he leaves us in doubt whether by
* this goddess * he means Ge or Ge KovpoTp6<f>os. We can
accept his statement with some reserve concerning the pre-
liminary sacrifice to the earth-goddess on the Acropolis as
part of an ancient ritual ; but he is no authority for the view
that in any ancient liturgy she was explicitly identified with
the *nurturer of children.' In the inscriptions from the
Tetrapolis she is explicitly distinguished from the latter ; who
in two late Athenian records is identified with Demeter, but
never with Ge. But all this comes only to prove that the
Athenian worshipper, when praying to Kourotrophos, was not
necessarily aware that he was praying to the earth-mother ;
it in no way proves that the two were not originally identical,
and that the * nurturer of children,' regarded as a separate
person, was not merely an emanation from Ge, bom in con-
sequence of the shedding of an appellative, a most common
phenomenon in Greek religion'. On this hypothesis we
shall best understand the importance of her cult, and why the
Athenian ephebi offered sacrifice to her^, and why she was
afterwards identified with Demeter. Pausanias' statement,
then, may only contain the rediscovery of an ancient fact®.

Digitized by


i] CULT OF GE 19

Reasons somewhat similar have been given for the interpreta-
tion of the personage known in Attic ritual and myth by the
name Aglauros as another form of Ge*. Her affinity with
Pnndnrn/urhnx rr nl natur e 11 rlrnr j t hr i nlrmn nnth thn t thci
ephebf take in her name to guard the boundaries of the land
and to cherish agriculture, seem to reveal her as the great
earth-goddess rather than as a mere local nymph. And on
this supposition, that it was once the national cult of a divinity
pre-eminent in the early religion of Attica, it is more natural
that her worship should have travelled to Salamis in Cyprus,
where the Attic associations are manifest. In her ritual in
the latter island, we have important evidence of an early
custom of human sacrifice : the victim was brought up by the
ephebi, and after he had thrice run round the altar he was
speared by the priest ; in later days, the rite was consecrated
to Diomed, and was finally suppressed in the time of the later
Greek kings of Cyprus. The mere fact of human sacrifice
throws no light on the personality of Aglauros ; for we find
traces of it in Greek hero-cult as well as in the higher religion.
But believing her to be the earth-goddess, we should expect,
on the general analogies of European and non-European
custom, to find in legend or ritual a reminiscence that the
human victim was once offered to her. A vast accumulation
of evidence, too solid in bulk to overthrow ^//T^izi^V, ^collected
by Mannhardt and the present generation of anthropological
scholars from all quarters of the globe, establishes the preva-
lent connexion-Af human sacrifice with harvefitnritttaland^the-
worship_of_vegetatioa - ^deities'*.' It is suflScient to mention
here a few typical instances from various parts of the world
to assist our consideration of the Cypriote rite. In Egypt,
red-haired men were offered in the dog-days at the grave of
Osiris, the earth-deity, their bodies were burned and their
ashes scattered to the winds**. Among the Tshi-speaking

• Vide Athena, R. a*"', 25 ; Demeter, Bough\ vol. 2, pp. 238-248. C£. Mann-

R. 109; discussion of the question in hardt, i9a</;/;^«^//j, pp. 358-361.

voL I, pp. 288, 289 ; further references • Pint. De IsiJ, et Osir, c. 73,

are given in Hero-cults, R. 30, Dionysos, quoting from Manetho, does not mention

Gcogr. Reg. s,v, Attica. the red hair, but says that the victims

^ Vide especially Frazer, Golden were called Tv<^iot : it is Diodorus who

C 2


Digitized by V^OOQIC




peoples of the Gold Coast a human victim was sacrificed at the
yam-harvest, and some of the blood was poured into the hole
whence the new yam was taken'. The Khonds in India
sacrificed a slave to the earth-goddess with mysteries and
drunken orgies ; it was a good sign of plentiful rain if he wept
copiously ; his flesh was afterwards torn in pieces and scattered
over the fields ^ Finally, the Mexican custom may be
mentioned of caUing by names that designated the spirits of
vegetation the five human victim^ who were offered to the
mountain-gods and whose flesh was eaten by the worshippers ^.
Now in these and similar ceremonies the moving idea need
not, and probably was not, always the same. But whether
the human victim is offered to the earth-power by way of
expiation "^j or whether he is regarded as in some sort the
incarnation of the deity so that his flesh has a sacred value
whether eaten sacramentally or scattered over the land, or
whether the horrid rite belongs rather to the domain of savage
sympathetic magic, one thing is at least clear: the sacrifice
assists the fertility of the land, according to the belief of the

But it is important to bear in mind that the Greek record
concerning such sacrifices is rarely, if ever, so clear and explicit
that we can at once assign them their place in a universal
system of vegetation-ritual. The fantastic and often cruel
ceremonies connected with ploughing, sowing, and reaping,
almost universal in primitive agricultural society, are not often

completes the acconnt, i. 38, stating
that red-haired men were once ofTered by
the kings at the grave of Osiris ; and
both agree that red was the coloor of
Typhon. Dr. Frazer, Goldtn Bought 2,
142, 355, mterprets these victims as the
incarnations of the vegetatioo-spirit,
their red hair symbolizing the ripe com,
but this spirit, on his own theory, was
Osiris, and these victims are apparently
identified with Typhon ; the red hair
may as natnrally rdfer to the fiery heat
of the sun.

» Ellis, Tihi-speaking ptopUs of Cold
Coast, p. 230.

* Macpherson, Memorials of sirvke
in India, p. 113; Mannhaidt, Bourn'
hiUus, p. 356 note. We find the same
idea in Mexico that it was a good omen
for rain if the child-victim shed tears
abundantly (Sahagun, Jourdan. et Sim.

pp. 57, 58).

® Sahagun, op. dt. p. 71.

^ For examples of ceremonies that
are obviously merely piacular before
agricultural operations vide Frazer,
Co/den Bough*, vol. 3, pp. 323, 324,
and cf. the Attic wpoif^ia noticed
below, p. 42.

Digitized by


i] CVLT OF GE ai

presented to us in recognizable simplicity on ancient Greek
soil. We have to resort to the constructive interpretation,
scientific perhaps, but still conjectural, of incomplete legends
and of incompletely recorded ritual that is often overlaid with
the deposit of later religious thought. The problem of the
Cypriote sacrifice is a case in point. We may agree that
Aglauros is the earth-goddess, and we are naturally inclined
to suppose that the human victim at Salamis was oflTcred for
agrarian purposes. But he was not offered by husbandmen,
but escorted by the ephcbi, the young warriors of the com-
munity ; and we are only told that his body was wholly
consumed on the pyre. Perhaps his ashes were once strewn
over the field, as the ashes of Solon were said to have been
ifcattered over the Attic Salamis, and those of Phalanthos over
the forum of Tarentum\ to fertilize the land or to plant
a guardian-spirit within it. Or in Aglauros* worship an
ancient agrarian ceremony may have been transformed into
a piacular vicarious offering for the sins of the community.
We are thus left to conjecture, and the theory is tentative

Similarly, we may venture to explain the legend of the ,
self-sacrifice of the Athenian Aglauros, who casts herself down
the precipice of the Acropolis to save her country in time of
peril, as the misinterpretation of a primitive custom of casting \
an effigy of the vegetation-deity down a steep place or into
the water. But the only basis for this conjecture is the
personality of Aglauros herself and the fact that such things
happened elsewhere.

These primitive ceremonies and this barbarous magic that
were connected with the life of the soil are rarely pre-
sented to us transparently in Greek legend or record, because
owing to the tend of Greek imagination and civilization the
agrarian ritual tends to become political and civil, the
agrarian legend is translated into higher mythology, and takes
on a political, often an epic, colouring ^ Only here and there

• Vide Hero-culti, V0L5, R.3o6,and KulUy p. 215 note, marks the same
Plat. SohHy 33. transformation in the agrarian myths of

*» Mannhardt, Antike IVald- mtd feid- Semitic and Teutonic races.

Digitized by V^OOQIC


in such stories as those about Charila, Erigone, Eunostos, the
simple life of the peasant and his quaint thought gleam

We must be content to say, then, that we may faintly
discern an early agricultural significance in the Aglauros-
sacrifice at Athens and Salamis. A barbarous practice belonging
to the same range of ideas as those with which we have been
dealing seems clearly revealed in a story that Pausanias tells
us about Haliartos *. A leading nian of this city consulted
the Delphic oracle with the question how he should find water
in his land : he was advised to slay the first person he met on
his return : he met his own son first and immediately stabbed
him : * the youth ran about still living, and wherever the blood
dripped down, the earth sent up water.* Here seems magic
and a ritual consecrated to the earth-spirit that strikingly
reminds us of the practice recorded of the Khonds. Finally,
the legend preserved by Euripides in the Heraclcidae^ of
Macaria's self-immolation to Kore, the oracle having pronounced
tb^t the gods demanded the life of a maiden, may have arisen,
is the Aglauros-story, from a real ritual practice in the cult of
Y the earth-goddess. May a similar original fact have engendered
the ghastly Argive story, narrated by Parthenios (c. 13)
concerning Klymenos — the well-known name of the chthonian
god — and his incestuous love for his daughter Harpalyce, who
revenged herself by cooking his own son at a sacrifice ?

Apart from these indications of half-forgotten savager}'-,
there is nothing specially striking in the Ge-ritual of Greece :
animals as well as cereals and fruits were offered to her
as to other divinities, the victims being generally of a dark
colour, and their blood probably shed into a fioOpovy as was
the case in the offerings to the dead: wine was doubtless
sometimes poured out to her as to the ghosts, sometimes
perhaps by special ordinance withheld, as we hear that only
vri<f>a\ia were consecrated to the daughters of Cecrops, those
humanized forms of the earth-goddess «.

So far, the cults, legends, and practices we have been con-

• Apollo, R. 137. « For Ge-ritual vide R. 7, 16 "»« ''j 21,

* Demeter, R. 114. 23.

Digitized by V^OOQIC


sidering belonged to the Earth of agriculture and vegetation.
But Gala had another and a darker aspect, being worshipped
at Athens, Mykonos, and probably once at Delphi in associa-
tion with the dead and the ghostly realm. The ritual at
Mykonos is recorded in an inscription ^. Seven black lambs
were offered to Zeus X^orto? and Tr\ XQovia^ and the epithets
allude to the lower r^ions, and here perhaps to a marital
relationship between their male and female deities. The
ceremony appears to have been void of any taboo or ghostly
terrors, for the worshipper was bidden to feast — probably
off the sacrificed animals — at the place of worship ; and this
implies a religious communion.

Fuller information is given us about the chthonian ritual at
Athens. Ge was remembered in two state services that were
consecrated to the worship, or to the memory at least, of the
dead. The Ttvidta, or the solemn ritual of the yivr] or clans,
was an All Souls' festival which took place in early autumn on
the fifth of Boedromion, when the clans brought offerings to the
graves of their kinsmen, and on the same day a sacrifice was
performed to the earth. The celebration, which was naturally
mournful, was also called rcKvina, and the offerings may have
consisted of xoaL, libations, and itpala, fruits and flowers*:
these may have been intended for the dead primarily, but
perhaps for the earth-goddess as well ; for Cicero tells us
that in the Attic burial ceremonies, the ground, immediately
after the inhumation, was * expiated with fruits that it might
be returned to the uses of the living ^•,' or as we might say,
that the taboo might be removed from it ^.

Still more important was the part played by the earth-
goddess in the Attic Anthesteria ; and the view has been
recently taken and skilfully maintained by Miss Harrison, that

* R. 7, 1 6 ; Hero«cults, R. 3 1 (Hesych. pttevaia,

s,v, Vwiam), The vtfUffta — Artemis, * Dieterich, Artkiv /. Reiigiofis-

K. 137 — were probably distinct, a wUsensch,, 19041 pp« 40-41, interprets

private ritual of the family. The an- the passage differently, believing that

thorities are somewhat vague. Aeschy- the ground was strewn with seeds so

loi' phrase may be derived from the that by this sort of sympathetic magic

Attic practice at the Tcyiata, and the the return of the departed soul to light

glosses of Hesychius suggest that we in a second birth might be secured,
should connect the wpoTa with the

Digitized by V^OOQIC


the Dionysiac character of this celebration was a later usurpa-
tion upon an older mournful festival consecrated to Gaia and
the ghosts ■. The whole question of the Anthesteria will be

Online LibraryLewis Richard FarnellThe cults of the Greek states → online text (page 3 of 40)