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p214 Brauronia

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh
on p214 of

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

BRAURONIA (βραυρώνια), a festival celebrated in honour of Artemis Brauronia, in the Attic town of Brauron (Herod. VI.138), where, according to Pausanias (I.23 § 9, 33 § 1, III.16 § 6, VIII.46 § 2), Orestes and Iphigeneia, on their return from Tauris, were supposed by the Athenians to have landed, and left the statue of the Taurian goddess (see Müller, Dor. I.9 § 5 and 6). It was held every fifth year, under the superintendence of ten ἱεροποιοί (Pollux, VIII.9.31);º and the chief solemnity consisted in the circumstance that the Attic girls between the ages of five and ten years, dressed in crocus-coloured garments, went in solemn procession to the sanctuary (Suidas, s.v. Ἄρκτος; Schol. on Aristoph. Lysistr. 646), where they were consecrated to the goddess. During this act the ἱεροποιοί sacrificed a goat and the girls performed a propitiatory rite in which they imitated bears. This rite may have arisen simply from the circumstance that the bear was sacred to Artemis, especially in Arcadia (Müller, Dor. II.9 § 3); but a tradition preserved in Suidas (s.v. Ἄρκτος) relates its origin as follows:— In the Attic town of Phanidae a bear was kept, which was so tame that it was allowed to go about quite freely, received its food from and among men. One day a girl ventured to play with it, and, on treating the animal rather harshly, it turned round and tore her to pieces. Her brothers, enraged at this, went out and killed the bear. The Athenians now were visited by a plague; and, when they consulted the oracle, the answer was given that they would get rid of the evil which had befallen them if they would compel some of their citizens to make their daughters propitiate Artemis by a rite called ἀρκτεύειν, for the crime committed against the animal sacred to the goddess. The command was more than obeyed; for the Athenians decreed that from thenceforth all women, before they could marry, should have taken part once in this festival, and have been consecrated to the goddess. Hence the girls themselves were called ἄρκτοι, the consecration ἀρκτεία, the act of consecrating ἀρκτεύειν, and to celebrate the festival ἀρκτεύεσθαι (Hesych. and Harpocrat. s.v.; Schol. on Aristoph. l.c.) But as the girls when they celebrated this festival were nearly ten years old, the verb δεκατεύειν was sometimes used instead of ἀρκτεύειν (comp. C. F. Hermann, Handb. der gottesdienstl. Alterth. § 62 note 9).

There was also a quinquennial festival called Brauronia, which was celebrated by men and dissolute women, at Brauron, in honour of Dionysus (Aristoph. Pax, 870, with the note of the Scholiast; and Suidas s.v. Βραυρών). Whether the celebration took place at the same time as that of Artemis Brauronia (as has been supposed by Müller, Dor. II.9 § 5, in a note, which has, however, been omitted in the English translation), must remain uncertain, although the very different characters of the two festivals incline us rather to believe that they were not celebrated at the same time. According to Hesychius, whose statement, however, is not supported by any ancient authority, the Iliad was recited at the Brauronian festival of Dionysus by rhapsodists (comp. Hemsterh. ad Pollucem, IX.74; Welcker, Der Epische Cyclus, p391).


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