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p410 Diipoleia

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh
on p410 of

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

DIIPOLEIA (διιπόλεια), also called Διπόλεια or Διπόλια, a very ancient festival celebrated every year on the acropolis of Athens in honour of Zeus, surnamed Πολιεύς (Paus. I.14 § 4; comp. Antiphon, 120.10). Suidas and the Scholiast on Aristophanes (Pax, 410) are mistaken in believing that the Diipolia were the same festival as the Diasia. It was held on the 14th of Scirrophorion. The manner in which the sacrifice of an ox was offered on this occasion, and the origin of the rite, are described by Porphyrius (De Abstinent. II § 29), with whose account may be compared the fragmentary descriptions of Pausanias (I.28 § 11) and Aelian (V. H. VIII.3). The Athenians placed barley mixed with wheat upon the altar of Zeus and left it unguarded; the ox destined to be sacrificed was then allowed to go and take of the seeds. One of the priests, who bore the name of βουφόνοςa (whence the festival was sometimes called βουφόνια), at seeing the ox eating, snatched the axe, killed the ox, and ran away. The others, as if not knowing who had killed the animal, made inquiries, and at last also summoned the axe, which was in the end declared guilty of having committed the murder. This custom is said to have arisen from the following circumstance:— In the reign of Erechtheus, at the celebration of the Dionysia, or, according to the Scholiast on Aristophanes (Nub. 972), at the diipolia, an ox ate the cakes offered to the god, and one Baulon or Thaulon, or, according to others, the βουφόνος, killed the ox with an axe and fled from his country. The murderer having thus escaped, the axe was declared guilty, and the rite observed at the diipolia was performed in commemoration of that event (compare Suidas and Hesych. s.v. βουφόνια). This legend of the origin of the diipolia manifestly leads us back to a time when it had not yet become customary to offer animal sacrifices to the gods, but merely the fruits of the earth. Porphyrius also informs us that three Athenian families had their especial (probably hereditary) functions to perform at this festival. Members of the one drove the ox to the altar, and were thence called κεντριάδαι: another family, descended from Baulon and called the βουτύποι, knocked the victim down; and a third, designed by the name of δαιτροί, killed it. (Compare Creuzer's Mythol. und SymbOl. I p172, IV p122, &c.)


Thayer's Note:

a "Cow-murderer".


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Page updated: 18 Sep 07