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p101 Apaturia

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh
on pp101‑102 of

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

APATURIA (ἀπατούρια) was a political festival, which the Athenians held in common with all the Greeks of the Ionian name (Herod. I.147), with the exception of those of Colophon and Ephesus. It was celebrated in the month of Pyanepsion, and lasted for three days. The origin of this festival is related in the following manner:— About the year 1100 B.C., the Athenians were carrying on a war against the Boeotians, concerning the district of Cilaenae, or, according to others, respecting the little town of Oenoe. The Boeotian Xanthius, or Xanthus, challenged Thymoetes, king of Attica, to single combat; and when he refused, Melanthus, a Messenian exile of the house of the Nelids, offered himself to fight for Thymoetes, on condition that, if victorious, he should be the successor to Thymoetes. This offer was accepted; and when Xanthius and Melanthus began the engagement, there appeared behind Xanthius a man in the τραγῆ, the skin of a black she-goat. Melanthus reminded his adversary that he was violating the laws of single combat by having a companion, and while Xanthius looked around, Melanthus slew the deceived Xanthius.a From that time, the Athenians celebrated two festivals, the Apaturia, and that of Dionysus Melanaegis, who was believed to have been the man who appeared behind Xanthius. This is the story related by the Scholiast on Aristophanes (Acharn. 146). This tradition has given rise to a false etymology of the name ἀπατούρια, which was formerly considered to be derived from ἀπατᾶν, to deceive. All modern critics, however (Müller, Dorians, I.5.4; Welcker, Aeschyl Tril. p288), agree that the name is composed of α = ἅμα, and πατόρια, which is perfectly consistent with what Xenophon (Hellen. I.7 § 8) says of the festival: Ἐν οἷς (ἀπατουρίοις) οἵ τε πατέρες καὶ οἵ συγγενεῖς ξύνεισι σφίσιν αὐτοῖς. According to this derivation, it is the festival at which the phratriae met, to discuss and settle their own affairs. But, as every citizen was a member of a phratria, the festival extended over the whole nation, who assembled according to phratriae. Welcker *Anhang z. Trilog. p200), on account of the prominent part which Dionysus takes in the legend respecting the origin of the Attic Apaturia, conceives that it arose from the circumstance that families belonging to the Dionysian tribe of the Aegicores had been registered among the citizens.

The first day of the festival, which probably fell on the eleventh of the month of Pyanepsion, was called δορπία, or δόρπεια (Athen. IV p171; Hesych. and Suid. s.v.); on which every citizen went in the evening to the phratrium, or to the house of some wealthy member of his own phratria, and there enjoyed the supper prepared for him (Aristoph. Acharn. 146). That the cup-bearers (οἰνόπται) were not idle on this occasion, may be seen from Photius (Lexic. s.v. Δορπία).

The second day was called ἀνάῤῥυσις (ἀναῤῥύειν) from the sacrifice offered on this day to Zeus, surnamed Φράτριος, and to Athena, and sometimes to Dionysus Melanaegis. This was a state sacrifice, in which all citizens took part. The day was chiefly devoted to the gods, and to it must, perhaps, be confined what Harpocration (s.v. Λαμπάς) mentions, from the Atthis of Istrus, that the Athenians at the apaturia used to dress splendidly, kindle torches on the altar of Hephaestus, and sacrifice and sing in honour of him. Proclus on Plato (Tim. p21B), in opposition to all other authorities, calls the first day of the Apaturia ἀνάῤῥυσις, and the second δορπία, which is, perhaps, nothing more than a slip of his pen.

On the third days, called κουρεῶτις (κοῦρος), children born in that year, in the families of the phratriae, or such as were not yet registered, were taken by their fathers, or in their absence by their representatives (κύριοι), before the assembled members of the phratria. For every child a sheep or goat was sacrificed. The victim was called μεῖον, and he who sacrificed it μειαγωγός (μειαγωγεῖν). It is said that the victim was not allowed to be below (Harpocrat. Suid. Phot. s.v. Μεῖον), or, according to Pollux (III.53), above, a certain weight. Whenever any one thought he had reason to oppose the reception of the child into the phratria, he stated the case, and, at the same time, led away the victim from the altar (Demosth. c. Macart. 1054). If the members of the phratria found the objections to the reception of the child to be sufficient, the victim p102was removed; when no objections were raised, the father, or he who supplied his place, was obliged to establish by oath that the child was the offspring of free-born parents, and citizens of Athens (Isaeus, De Haered. Ciron. p100 § 19; Demosth. c. Eubul. p1315). After the victim was sacrificed, the phratores gave their votes, which they took from the altar of Jupiter Phratrius. When the majority voted against the reception, the cause might be tried before one of the courts of Athens; and if the claims of the child were found unobjectionable, its name, as well as that of the father, was entered in the register of the phratria, and those who had wished to effect the exclusion of the child were liable to be punished (Demosth. c. Macart. p1078). Then followed the distribution of wine, and of the victim, of which every phrator received his share; and poems were recited by the elder boys, and a prize was given to him who acquitted himself the best on the occasion (Plat. Tim. p21B). On this day, also, illegitimate children on whom the privileges of Athenian citizens were to be bestowed, as well as children adopted by citizens, and newly created citizens were introduced; but the last, it appears, could only be received into a phratria when they had previously been adopted by a citizen; and their children, when born by a mother who was a citizen, had a legitimate claim to be inscribed in the phratria of their grandfather, on their mother's side (Platner, Beiträge, p168). In later times, however, the difficulties of being admitted into a phratria seem to have been greatly diminished.

Some writers have added a fourth day to this festival, under the name of ἔπιβδα (Hesych. s.v. Ἀπατούρια; and Simplicius on Aristot. Phys. IV. p167A); but this is no particular day of the festival, for ἔπιβδα signifies nothing else but a day subsequent to any festival (see Rhunken, Ad Tim. Lex. Plat. p119).


Thayer's Note:

a The sources for this unlikely story: Polyaen. I.19, Frontinus, Strat. II.5.41.


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