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p241 Carneia

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh
on pp241‑242 of

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

CARNEIA (καρνεῖα), a great national festival, celebrated by the Spartans in honour of Apollo p242Carneius, which, according to Sosibius (ap. Athen. XIV p635), was instituted Olymp. XXVI; although Apollo, under the name of Carneios, was worshipped in various places of Peloponnesus, particularly at Amyclae, at a very early period, and even before the Dorian migration (Müller, Dor. I.3 § 8 and II.8 § 15). Wachsmuth (Hellen. Alterthumsk. II p582, 2d ed.), referring to the passage of Athenaeus, above quoted, thinks that the Carneia had long before been celebrated; and that when, in Olymp. XXVI, Therpander gained the victory, musical contests were only added to the martial solemnities of the festival. But the words of Athenaeus, who is the only authority to which Wachsmuth refers, do not allow of such an interpretation, for no distinction is there made between earlier and later solemnities of the festival, and Athenaeus simply says, the institution of the Carneia took place Olymp. XXVI (Ἐγένετο δὲ ἡ θέσις τῶν Καρνείων κατὰ τὴν ἕκτην καὶ εἰκοστὴν Ὀλυμπιάδα, ὡς Σωσίβιός φησιν, ἐν τῷ περὶ χρόνων). The festival began on the seventh day of the month of Carneios = Metageitnion of the Athenians, and lasted for nine days (Athen. IV p141; Eustath. ad Il. XXIV sub fin.; Plut. Symp. VIII.1). It was, as far as we know, a warlike festival, similar to the Attic Boëdromia. During the time of its celebration nine tents were pitched near the city, in each of which nine men lived in the manner of a military camp, obeying the commands of a herald. Müller also supposes that a boat was carried round, and upon it a statue of the Carneian Apollo (Ἀπόλλων στεμματίας), both adorned with lustratory garlands, called δίκηλον στεμματιαῖον, in allusion to the passage of the Dorians from Naupactus into Peloponnesus (Dorians, I.3 § 8, note s). The priest conducting the sacrifices at the Carneia, was called Ἀγητής, whence the festival was sometimes designated by the name Ἀγητόρια or Ἀγητόρειον (Hesych. s.v. Ἀγητόρειον); and from each of the Spartan tribes five unmarried men (Καρνεάται) were chosen as his ministers, whose office lasted four years, during which period they were not allowed to marry (Hesych. s.v. Καρνεάται). Some of them bore the name of Σταφυλοδρόμοιa (Hesych. s.v.; compare Bekker, Anecd. p205). Therpander was the first who gained the prize in the musical contests of the Carneia, and the musicians of his school were long distinguished competitors for the prize at this festival (Müller, Dor. IV.6 § 3), and the last of this school who engaged in this contest was Pericleidas (Plut. De Mus. 6). When we read in Herodotus (VI.106, VII.206) and Thucydides (V.54, and in other places) that the Spartans during the celebration of this festival were not allowed to take the field against an enemy, we must remember that this restriction was not peculiar to the Carneia, but common to all the great festivals of the Greeks: traces of it are found even in Homer (Od. XXI.258, &c.).

Carneia were also celebrated at Cyrene (Callimach. Hymn. in Apoll. 72 seq.), in Thera (Callimach. l.c.; Pindar, Pyth. V.99 seq.), in Gythion, Messene, Sicyon, and Sybaris (Paus. III.21 § 7, and 24 § 5, IV.33 § 5, II.10 § 2; Theocrit. V.83; compare Müller's Orchom. p327).


Thayer's Note:

a "Men who run with a staff".


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