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p82 Amphidromia

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh
on p82 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

AMPHIDRO′MIA (ἀμφιδρόμια), a family festival of the Athenians at which the newly born child was introduced into the family, and received its name. No particular day was fixed for this solemnity; but it did not take place very soon after the birth of the child, for it was believed that most children died before the seventh day, and the solemnity was therefore generally deferred till after that period, that there might be at least some probability of the child remaining alive. According to Suidas, the festival was held on the fifth day, when the women who had lent their assistance at the birth washed their hands, but this purification preceded the real solemnity. The friends and relations of the parents were invited to the festival of the amphidromia, which was held in the evening, and they generally appeared with presents, among which are mentioned the cuttle-fish and the marine polyp (Hesych. and Harpocr s.v.). The house was decorated on the outside with olive branches when the child was a boy, or with garlands of wool when the child was a girl; and a repast was prepared, at which, if we may judge from a fragment of Ephippus in Athenaeus (IX p370; comp. II p65), the guests must have been rather merry. The child was then carried round the fire by the nurse, and thus, as it were, presented to the gods of the house and to the family, and at the same time received its name, to which the guests were witnesses (Isaeus, De Pyrrhi Haered. p34 s30 Bekker). The carrying of the child round the hearth was the principal part of the solemnity, from which its name was derived. But the Scholiast on Aristophanes (Lysistr. 758) derives its name from the fact that the guests, whilst the name was given to the child, walked or danced around it. This festival is sometimes called from the day on which it took place: if on the seventh day, it is called ἕβδομαι or ἕβδομας; if on the tenth day, δεκάτη, &c. (Hesych. and Aristoph. Av. 923; K. F. Hermann, Lehrb. d. gottesdienstlichen Alterthümer d. Griechen, § 48 n6).


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