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p432 Donaria

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D, F.R.S.E, Rector of the High School of Edinburgh,
on pp432‑434 of

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

DONA′RIA (ἀναθήματα or ἀνακείμενα), are names by which the ancients designated presents made to the gods, either by individuals or communities. Sometimes they are also called dona or δῶρα. The belief that the gods were pleased with costly presents was as natural to the ancients as the belief that they could be influenced in their conduct towards men by the offering of sacrifices; and, indeed, both sprang from the same feeling. Presents were mostly given as tokens of gratitude for some favour which a god had bestowed on man; but in many cases they were intended to induce the deity to grant some special favour. At Athens, every one of the six thesmothetae, or, according to Plato (Phaedr. p235D), all the nine archons, on entering upon their office, had to take an oath, that if they violated any of the laws, they would dedicate in the temple of Delphi a gilt statue of the size of the man who dedicated it (ἀνδριάντα χρυσοῦν ἰσομέτρητον, see Plut. Sol. 25;º Pollux VIII.85; Suidas, s.v. Χρυσῆ Εἰκῶν; Heraclid. Pont. c1). In this last case the anathema was a kind of punishment, in which the statue was regarded as a substitute for the person p433forfeited to the gods. Almost all presents of this kind were dedicated in temples, to which in some places an especial building was added, in which these treasures were preserved. Such buildings were called θησαυροί (treasuries); and in the most frequented temples of Greece many states had their separate treasuries (Böckh, Pub. Econ. of Ath. p441, &c. 2d edit.). The act of dedication was called ἀνατιθέναι, donare, dedicare, or sacrare.

The custom of making donations to the gods is found among the ancients from the earliest times of which we have any record, down to the introduction of Christianity; and even after that period it was, with some modifications, observed by the Christians during the middle ages. In the heroic ages of Grecian history the anathemata were of a simple description, and consisted of chaplets and garlands of flowers. A very common donation to the gods seems to have been that of locks of hair (κόμης ἀπαρχαί), which youths and maidens, especially young brides, cut off from their heads and consecrated to some deity (Hom. Il. XXIII.141; Aeschyl. Choeph. 6; Eurip. Orest. 96 and 1427, Bacch. 493, Helen. 1093; Plut. Thes. 5; Paus. I.37 §2). This custom in some places lasted till a very late period: the maidens of Delos dedicated their hair before their wedding to Hecaerge (Paus. I.43 §4), and those of Megara to Iphinoe. Pausanias (II.11 §6) saw the statue of Hygeia at Titane, covered all over with locks of hair which had been dedicated by women. Costly garments (πέπλοι) are likewise mentioned among the earliest presents made to the gods, especially to Athena and Hera (Hom. Il. VI.293, 303). At Athens the sacred πέπλος of Athena, in which the great adventures of ancient heroes were worked, was woven by maidens every fifth year, at the festival of the great Panathenaea. [Arrephoria.] (Cf. Aristoph. Av. 792; Pollux VII.50; Wesseling, ad Diod. Sic. II. p440). A similar peplus was woven every five years at Olympia, by sixteen women, and dedicated to Hera (Paus. V.16 §2).

At the time when the fine arts flourished in Greece the anathemata were generally works of art of exquisite workmanship, such as high tripods bearing vases, craters, cups, candelabras, pictures, statues, and various other things. The materials of which they were made differed according to circumstances; some were of bronze, others of silver or gold (Athen. VI p231, &c.), and their number is to us almost inconceivable (Demosth. Olynth. III. p35). The treasures of the temples of Delphi and Olympia, in particular, surpass all conception. Even Pausanias, at a period when numberless works of art must have perished in the various ravages and plunders to which Greece had been exposed, saw and described an astonishing number of anathemata. Many works of art are still extant, bearing evidence by their inscriptions that they were dedicated to the gods as tokens of gratitude. Every one knows of the magnificent presents which Croesus made to the god of Delphi (Herod. I.50, &c.). It was an almost invariable custom, after the happy issue a war, to dedicate the tenth part of the spoil (ἀκροθίνιον, ἀκρόλειον, or πρωτόλειον) to the gods, generally in the form of some work of art (Herod. VIII.82, 121; Thucyd. I.132; Paus. III.18 §5; Athen. VI p231, &c.). Sometimes magnificent specimens of armour, such as a fine sword, helmet, or shield, were set apart as anathemata for the gods (Aristoph. Equit. 792, and Schol.). The Athenians always dedicated to Athena the tenth part of the spoil and of confiscated goods; and to all the other gods collectively, the fiftieth part (Demosth. c. Timocr. p738, &c.). After a seafight, a ship, placed upon some eminence, was sometimes dedicated to Neptune (Thucyd. II.84; Herod. VIII.121). It is not improbable that trophies which were always erected on the field of battle, as well as the statues of the victors in Olympia and other places, were originally intended as tokens of gratitude to the god who was supposed to be the cause of the success which the victorious party had gained. We also find that on some occasions the tenth part of the profit of some commercial undertaking was dedicated to a god in the shape of a work of art. Respecting the large and beautiful crater dedicated by the Samians to Hera, see the article Crater.

Individuals who had escaped from some danger were no less anxious to show their gratitude to the gods by anathemata than communities. The instances which occur most frequently, are those of persons who had recovered from an illness, especially by spending one or more nights in a temple of Asclepius (incubatio). The most celebrated temples of this divinity were those of Epidaurus, Cos, Tricca, and at a later period, that of Rome (Plin. H. N. XXIX.1; compare F. A. Wolf, Vermischte Schriften und Aufsätze, p411, &c.). Cures were also effected in the grotto of Pluto and Proserpina, in the neighbourhood of Nisa (Strab. IX p437, XIV p649). In all cases in which a cure was effected presents were made to the temple, and little tablets (tabulae votivae) were suspended on its walls, containing an account of the danger from which the patient had escaped, and of the manner in which he had been restored to health. Some tablets of this kind, with their inscriptions, are still extant (Wolf, l.c., p242, &c.). From some relics of ancient art we must infer, that in some cases, when a particular part of the body was attacked by disease, the person, after his recovery, dedicated an imitation of that part in gold or silver to the god to whom he owed his recovery. Persons who had escaped from shipwreck usually dedicated to Neptune the dress which they wore at the time of their danger (Hor. Carm. I.5.13; Virg. Aen. XII.768); but if they had escaped naked, they dedicated some locks of their hair (Lucian, de Merc. Cond. c1 vol. I p652, ed. Reiz.). Shipwrecked persons also suspended votive tablets in the temple of Neptune, on which their accident was described or painted. Individuals who gave up the profession or occupation by which they had gained their livelihood, frequently dedicated in a temple the instruments which they had used, as a grateful acknowledgment of the favour of the gods. The soldier thus dedicated his arms, the fishermen his net, the shepherd his flute, the poet his lyre, cithara, or harp, &c.

It would be impossible to attempt to enumerate all the occasions on which individuals, as well as communities, showed their gratefulness towards the gods by anathemata. Descriptions of the most remarkable presents in the various temples of Greece may be read in the works of Herodotus, Strabo, Pausanias, Athenaeus, and others.

The custom of making presents to the gods was common to the Greeks and Romans, but among the latter the donaria were neither as numerous nor p434as magnificent as in Greece; and it was more frequent among the Romans to show their gratitude towards a god, by building him a temple, by public prayers and thanksgivings (supplicatio), or by celebrating festive games in honour of him, than to adorn his sanctuary with beautiful and costly works of art. Hence the word donaria was used by the Romans to designate a temple or an altar, as well as statues and other things dedicated in a temple (Virg. Georg. III.533; Ovid, Fast. III.335). The occasions on which the Romans made donaria to their gods, are, on the whole, the same as those we have described among the Greeks, as will be seen from a comparison of the following passages:— Liv. X.36, XXIX.36, XXXII.30, XL.40, 37; Plin. H. N. VII.48; Suet. Claud. 25; Tacit. Ann. III.71; Plaut. Amphitr. III.2.65, Curcul. I.1.61, II.2.10; Aurel. Vict. Caes. 35; Gellius, II.10; Lucan. IX.515; Cic. De Nat. Deor. III.37; Tibull. II.5.29; Horat. Epist. I.1.4; Stat. Silv. IV.92.


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