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Chapter 6
This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Lupercalia

by Alberta Mildred Franklin

New York, 1921

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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Chapter 8

p67 Chapter VII
The Dog as a Sacred Animal in Greece

One of the features of the Lupercalia which has aroused the greatest amount of scholarly speculation is the use of a dog as sacrificial victim. Such a sacrifice was very unusual, both in Italy and in Greece. A survey of the places in which it was employed and the interpretation which was given to it will assist us to understand its significance in the Lupercalia.

Even in Pelasgian times the dog seems to have been venerated as a sacred animal in certain parts of the Aegean world. Because of the frequent occurrence of the figure of a dog on the hieroglyphic seals of Crete, Sir Arthur Evans believes that the dog was sacred to the Minoan goddess,1 though it was one of the less important of the many animals that were attached to her. At a later period the dog made his way into the Cretan myths of Apollo.2 Cydonia was said to have been founded by a son of Apollo, Cydon, who, when a Balboa, was suckled by a dog.3 This legend was represented upon the coins of Cydonia.4 In Phaestos, too the dog was associated with Apollo,5 and a dog appeared upon the coins of Phaestos.6 Similarly, in Caria, Apollo was said to have assumed the form of a dog when he begot Telmissus.7 The dog appears also in the later myths of Zeus, who was seem to have been guarded in his infancy by a golden dog as well as by a goat.8 In another account, the nurse of Zeus was named Cynosura.9

In Hellenic times the deity who was most closely associated with the dog was Hecate,10 of Thrace. Though the Thracians of historical times were probably Aryans, the early inhabitants of the land were Pelasgians.11 They worshipped the characteristic earth-deity of the Pelasgians, and profoundly influenced the religion of the invaders.12 Hecate was markedly chthonic,13 and belonged undoubtedly to an ancient religious stratum.14 In art and in literature Hecate is constantly represented as dog‑shaped or as accompanied by a dog.15 Her approach was heralded by the howling of a dog.16 The dog was Hecate's regular sacrificial animal, and was often eaten in solemn sacrament.17

Plutarch uses two words which give the dominant characteristics p68of Hecate; χθονία and ἀποτροπαία;18a that is, she was a goddess of the underworld and of purification. At the crossroads, which were regularly sacred to gods of the lower regions, men sought communication with Hecate.18b She had the souls of the dead under her especial charge,19 and, as a natural result, was invoked by all who worked in magic and witchcraft.20 Hecate's lustral power became operative chiefly through the sacrifice of a dog, which, Plutarch says, nearly all the Greeks employed as a means of purification.18c Thus, in honor of Hecate, slain puppies were carried through a city, and were used to strike anyone who was in need of cleansing.21 Among the Boeotians and the Macedonians a dog was cut asunder, and persons walked between the parts.22

Hecate was constantly identified by the Greeks with Artemis,23 and was frequently grouped with Demeter and with other primitive powers of vegetation, such as Pan, Dionysus, Cybele, and Priapus. As goddess of the underworld, she was naturally associated with, or even identified with, Hades and Persephone.24 The goddesses of women, Γενετυλλίς, and Εἰλιονεία, were regarded as very similar to Hecate, and received a dog in sacrifice.25 As a deity of purification, Hecate came to be honored in the Orphic Hymns beyond all other gods.26 Ultimately the cult of Hecate spread throughout the Greek world.27 Mysterious and alien goddess that she was, Hecate appealed to the imagination as one who could save men from every form of evil.

It was a natural sequence of the cult of Hecate, or perhaps an independent development of the same idea, that the dog became the animal in whose form the powers of the underworld especially appeared. In ancient times the dead were thought by the Greeks to visit the earth in the form of a serpent, but later they were believed to assume the shape of a dog as well.28 The daemon of Pestilence too, according to a legend, once disguised himself as an old beggar; but when the beggar had been stoned to death, it was a Molossian hound that lay in his place.29 The same idea seems the basis of a celebration at Argos, in which on a certain day in the hot season men killed all the dogs that they met.30 The fact that every dog that was seen was killed indicates that they were not lustral offerings, but the personification of pestilence.

The dog was prominent in the cult of Aesculapius. Certain legends tell that when a babe he was rescued and suckled by a p69dog.31 Statues and coins show him accompanied by a dog.32 At the temples of Aesculapius, dogs were in attendance, and were believed to heal the sick by licking them with their tongues.33 In Athens figurines of dogs were brought as votive offerings to the Asklepeium,34 and a dog was said to have protected the treasures there from theft.35

The worship of Aesculapius originated in Thessaly, which at a very early date was overrun by bands from Thrace.36 The oldest sites of the cult were in the original seats of the Lapiths, the Phlegyae, and the Minyae,37 who were all pre‑Aryans.38 Aesculapius was an earth-deity, as is shown by his oracular power, his healing art, and the cult-practices at his shrines.39 In his cult, the power of the dog to ward off evil became limited to freeing people from disease.

In a few sporadic instances, other deities had the dog as a sacred animal. To the Thracian Ares dogs were sacrificed by the Carians and the Spartans.40 In both these places the cult was a Thracian product. Caria was at one time overrun by Phrygians from Thrace, and the cult of Hecate was deep-rooted there.41 Sparta seems to have gained the Ares cult from Boeotia, to which it was carried from Thrace in pre‑Hellenic times.42

The Thracian cult of the dog spread even to Sicily. Its chief center there was in the north-western corner of the island, which, shortly after the fall of Troy, it seems, was colonized by the Elymians, who claimed descent from either the Trojans or the Phrygians. Dr. Freeman, after an acute analysis of the evidence about the origin of this people and of the modern theories concerning them, concludes that they probably came from Western Asia Minor, and that they were non‑Hellenic, but had evidently been in early days closely connected with Hellas.43 All this seems to class the Elymians as one of the Pelasgian peoples of Asia Minor.

Legend explained the Elymian settlements in Sicily by the story that when Troy, in the days of Laomedon, was harried by a sea monster, a certain Trojan sought to save his daughters from possible sacrifice by sending them to Sicily. When they arrived there they established, in gratitude, a temple on Mount Eryx to Aphrodite. This Aphrodite is called by Lycophron "the Zerynthian Mother."44 Tzetzes explains that she was the Aphrodite of Thrace and Zerynthus, and that she had a sacred cave on Zerynthus.45 Inasmuch as this island was famous as a seat of Hecate's p70worship, Dr. Freeman believes that the Zerynthian Aphrodite was merely another name for Hecate.46 At any rate, the dog was sacred to Aphrodite of Eryx, for a coin issued by that city shows Aphrodite on one side and a hound on the other.47

The veneration which the Elymians had for the dog appears also in the legend that one of the exiled maidens, named Segesta, won the love of the Sicilian river‑god Crimisus, and that he visited her in the form of a dog. By him she became the mother of Agestes, who founded the cities of Segesta, Eryx, and Entella.48 This legend figured prominently on the coins of the Elymians. Of twenty-five coins of Segesta which are listed in the Hunterian collection, all except two represent the head of Segesta on one side and a dog on the other.49a Sometimes the dog accompanies a youthful hunter. Both dog and hunter are interpreted as representations of the river Crimisus.49b Other symbols that often appear on the coins are a wheel, a grain-plant, or a head of grain. The latter two seem to indicate that in Sicily the dog's apotropaic power was enlisted in the protection of the crops.50

The cult of the dog early appeared in the eastern part of Sicily as well as in the western. Coins of Syracuse, some of which were issued before 500 B.C., represent a dog.51 One of them bears on one side the head of Apollo. This may easily be an echo of the Cretan association of the dog with Apollo,52 whence Syracuse had close connections with Crete, even in Minoan days.53 At the foot of Mount Etna was the shrine of Adranos, where one thousand dogs were kept. They were the guardians of the temple, guiding and protecting righteous pilgrims, but driving off or killing the wicked.54 Adranos is interpreted by Dr. Freeman as an ancient fire‑god of the Siculi, and a natural product of the volcanic mountain.55 There is nothing to indicate that Adranos was ever thought of as dog‑shaped, nor was a dog sacrificed to him. The dog had, therefore, a less intimate place in his cult than in those of the Elymian deities, and was probably an Aegean importation which was grafted upon the cult of the Siculian god. By the days of Timoleon, Adranos was worshipped through all Sicily; accordingly, after the Mamertines overran North-Eastern Sicily, they frequently represented on their coins the head of Adranos and a dog.56

The cult of the dog was honored among the Pelasgians of Crete and of Thrace, but had its chief development in the latter place. p71From there it spread in pre‑Hellenic days through Thessaly and Boeotia, and ultimately through the whole Greek peninsula. Asia Minor, too, was subjected to repeated waves of Thracian migration, so that there the cult of the dog came to be highly venerated. The Elymians, who came from Asia Minor, carried with them to Sicily the sacred dog, and established his worship in their new home. The dog was accepted as a sacrificial victim, Plutarch tells us,57 by none of the Olympian gods. To the Greeks the dog always remained an animal of uncanny power, which, when offered in sacrifice, had especial potency to purify and to ward off every form of evil.


The Author's Notes:

1 Scr. Min., 208.

2 Whether this was due to the Minoan reverence of the dog as a sacred animal, or to the later spread of Hecate's cult to Crete, is immaterial for our purpose.

3 Stephanus, κυδωνία; Schol. ad Hom., Odyss., 19.176; Stoll, in Roscher, II.1674.

4 Head, Historia Nummorum, 391‑2.

5 Gruppe, 1446.

6 Head, 402.

7 Suidas, Τελμισσεῖς.

8 Anton. Lib., 36.

9 Eratosth., 2.

10 The association of the dog with Hecate may have been due, wholly or in part, to the influence of Persia, where the dead were often left to be devoured by dogs (Herod., 1.140), and were believed to be guided to the lower world by dogs (Liebrecht, 23; Gruppe, 407 n. 1).

11 Wace and Thompson, Prehistoric Thessaly, 253; d'Arbois, Les premiers habitants de l'Europe, I.90‑7; Kretschmer, 173; Fick, 99; Farnell, II.507. J. L. Myres (A History of the Pelasgian Theory, J. H. S., XXVII, 173) notes that in the Homeric catalogue of the ships the dominant folk between the Hebrus and the Hellespont were not Thracians, but Pelasgians. Herodotus (1.57) speaks of a village in Thrace that was occupied by Pelasgians who, in his day, still spoke the Pelasgian language.

12 Tomaschek, Die alten Thraker, in Sitzungsb. d. philos. hist. Cl. d. kais. Akad. d. Wissensch., Bd. CXXVIII, Wien, 1893, 112, 113; Hall, N. E., 576; Farnell, N. C. R., 29.

13 Hall, O. C. G., 297; Heckenbach, in Pauly-Wissowa, VII.2773.

14 Rohde, II.80.

15 Nonnus Dionysiacus, 3.74; Eustath. ad Hom., Odyss., p1714.41; Farnell, II.508.

16 Theocr., 2.35.

17 Plut., Q. R.52, 68111; Schol. ad Theocr., 2.12; Porphyry., de Abst., 3.17; Schol. ad Aristoph., Pax, 276; Suidas, Ζηρυνθία Σαμοθράκη.

p72 18a 18b 18c Q. R., 111.

19 Ety. Mag., 626.44; Heckenbach, in Pauly-Wissowa, VII.2778.

20 Hecate was the patron deity of the sorceress Medea (Ap. Rhod., 3. 841; Eur., Med., 395. See also, Rohde, II.75‑87; Gruppe, 1272 n. 1.

21 Plut., Q. R. 68, 111.

22 Plut., Q. R., 111; Curt., 10.9.12.

23 Serv. ad Verg., Aen., 4.511; Gruppe, 1289; Heckenbach, in Pauly-Wissowa, VII.2770.

24 Gruppe, 1291 n. 1; Heckenbach, in Pauly-Wissowa, VII.2770‑3; Farnell, II.512.

25 Plut., Q. R., 52; Hesych., Γενετυλλίς.

26 Dieterich, De hymnis orphicis, 44.

27 Farnell, II.502‑8.

28 Gruppe, 410, 803‑4. The dog Cerberus seems to have been a late development that arose from the peculiar use of the word dog in the sense of servant. See Durbach, in Daremberg-Saglio, III.503; Immisch, in Roscher, II.1133.

29 Philostratus, Apollonius of Tyana, 4.10.

30 Ael., N. A., 12.34.

31 Paus. 2.64.4; Paul. ex Fest., 110; Lact., Div. Inst., 1.10.1.

32 Paus. 2.27.2; Head, 369.

33 Ath. Mitth., vol. XVII, 245. Deubner, De incubatione, 39. In Epidaurus the dog was largely replaced by the sacred animals of that region, the serpent and the goat (Paus., 2.26.4; 2.27.2).

34 Martha, Cat. Mus. Ath., No. 169‑71.

35 Ael., N. A., 7.13.º

36 Wace and Thompson, 232.

37 Thraemer, in Pauly-Wissowa, II.1643.

38 Hall, N. E., 61. See p13 n. 4.

39 Gruppe, 1448; Thraemer, in Roscher, I.626. Although Aesculapius appears in Homer, he seems to be a hero rather than a deity, for Homer always speaks of him as ἀμύμων (Thraemer, in Roscher, I.619).

40 Arnob., 4.25.

41 Farnell, II.506.

42 Farnell, V.403.

43 History of Sicily, I.195‑220, 542‑59.

44 Lycophr., 958.

45 Ad Lycophr., 449, 958.

46 Hist. Sic., I.548.

47 Macdonald, Catalogue of Greek Coins in the Hunterian Collection, 181; Evans, Scr. Min., 208.

48 Lycophr., 961; Serv. ad Verg., Aen., 1.550; 5.30.

49a 49b Hunterian Collection, 212‑16; Head, 165.

50 Coins of the Thracian Chersonese also represent a dog with a stalk of barley behind him (British Museum. Catalogue of Greek coins. Thrace, 197).

51 Hunterian Collection, 235; Head, 180.

52 See p67.

p73 53 Evans, Scr. Min., 95.

54 Ael., H. A. 11.20; 11.3.

55 Hist. Sic., I.183‑8.

56 Head, 156.

57 Q. R., 111C.º


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