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p216 Cabeiria

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh
on p216 of

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

CABEI′RIA (καβείρια), mysteries, festivals, and orgies solemnised in all places in which the Pelasgian Cabeiri, the most mysterious and perplexing deities of Grecian mythology, were worshipped, but especially in Samothrace, Imbros, Lemnos, Thebes, Anthedon, Pergamus, and Berytos (Paus. IX.25 § 5, IV.1 § 5, IX.22 § 5, I.4 § 6: Euseb. Praep. Evang. p31). Little is known respecting the rites observed in these mysteries, as no one was allowed to divulge them (Strabo, X p470, &c.; Apollon. Rhod. I.917; Orph. Argon. 469; Valer. Flacc. II.435). Diagoras is said to have provoked the highest indignation of the Athenians by his having made these and other mysteries public (Athenag. Leg. II.5). The most celebrated were those of the island of Samothrace, which, if we may judge from those of Lemnos, were solemnised every year, and lasted for nine days. The admission was not confined to men, for we find instances of women and boys being initiated (Schol. ad Eurip. Phoen. 7; Plut. Alex. 2; Donatus ad Terent. Phorm. I.15). Persons on their admission seem to have undergone a sort of examination respecting the life they had led hitherto (Plut. Laced. Apophth. Antalcid. p141, ed. Tauchnitz), and were then purified of all their crimes, even if they had committed murder (Liv. XLV.5; Schol. ad Theocrit. II.12; Hesych. s.v. Κοίης). The priest who undertook the purification of murderers bore the name of κοίης. The persons who were initiated received a purple ribbon, which was worn around their bodies as an amulet to preserve them against all dangers and storms of the sea (Schol. ad Apollon. l.c.; Diodor. V.49).

Respecting the Lemnian Cabeiria we know that their annual celebration took place at night (Cic. De Nat. Deor. I.42), and lasted for nine days, during which all fires of the island, which were thought to be impure, were extinguished, sacrifices were offered to the dead, and a sacred vessel was sent out to fetch new fire from Delos. During these sacrifices the Cabeiri were thought to be absent with the sacred vessel; after the return of which, the pure fire was distributed, and a new life began, probably with banquets (Schol. ad Apollon. Rhod. I.608).

The great celebrity of the Samothracian mysteries seemsº to have obscured and thrown into oblivion those of Lemnos, from which Pythagoras is said to have derived a part of his wisdom (Iamblich. Vit. Pyth. c. 151; compare Müller's Prolegomena, p150). Concerning the celebration of the Cabeiria in other places nothing is known, and they seem to have fallen into decay at a very early period (comp. Guthberlet, De Mysteriis Deorum Cabirorum, Franequerae, 1704, 4to.; Welcker, Die Aeschyl. Tril. p160, &c.; E. G. Haupt, De Religione Cabiriaca, 1834, 4to.; Lobeck, Aglaophamus, p1281, &c.; Kenrick, The Egypt of Herod, p264, &c.).


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