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p667 Laphria

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh
on p667 of

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

LA′PHRIA (Λάφρια), an annual festival, celebrated at Patrae in Achaia, in honour of Artemis, surnamed Laphria. The peculiar manner in which it was solemnised during the time of the Roman empire (for the worship of Artemis Laphrias was not introduced at Patrae till the time of Augustus), is described by Pausanias (VIII.18 § 7). On the approach of the festival the Patraeans placed in a circle, round the altar of the goddess, large pieces of green wood, each being sixteen yards in length; within the altar they placed dry wood. They then formed an approach to the altar in the shape of steps, which were slightly covered with earth. On the first day of the festival a most magnificent procession went to the temple of Artemis, and at the end of it there followed a maiden who had to perform the functions of priestess on the occasion, and who rode in a chariot drawn by stags. On the second day the goddess was honoured with numerous sacrifices, offered by the state as well as by private individuals. These sacrifices consisted of eatable birds, boars, stags, goats, sometimes of the cubs of wolves and bears, and sometimes of the old animals themselves. All these animals were thrown upon the altar alive at the moment when the dry wood was set on fire. Pausanias says that he often saw a bear, or some other of the animals, when seized by the flames, leap from the altar and escape across the barricade of green wood. Those persons who had thrown them upon the altar, caught the devoted victims again, and threw them back into the flames. The Patraeans did not remember that a person had ever been injured by any of the animals on this occasion (comp. Paus. IV.31 § 6; Schol ad Eurip. Orest. 1087).


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