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p845 Oschophoria

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh
on pp845‑846 of

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

OSCHOPHORIA (ὀσχοφόρια or ὠσχοφόρια), an Attic festival, which according to some writers was celebrated in honour of Athena and Dionysus (Phot. p322, Bekk.), and according to others in honour of Dionysus and Ariadne (Plut. Thes. 23). The time of its celebration is not mentioned by any ancient writer, but Corsini (Fast. Att. II p354) supposes with great probability that it was held at the commencement of the Attic month Pyanepsion. It is said to have been instituted by Theseus. Its name is derived from ὦσχος, ὄσχος, or ὄσχη, a branch of vines with grapes, for it was a vintage festival, and on the day of its celebration two youths, called ὀσχοφόροι, whose parents were alive, and who were elected from among the noblest and wealthiest citizens (Schol. ad Nicand. Alexiph. 109),a carried, in the disguise of women, branches of vines with fresh grapes from the temple of Dionysus in Athens, to the ancient temple of Athena Sciras in Phalerus. These youths were followed by a procession of persons who likewise carried vine-branches, and a chorus sang hymns called ὠσχοφορικὰ μέλη, which were accompanied by dances (Athen. XIV p681). In the sacrifice which was offered on this occasion, women also took part; they were called δειπνοφόροι, for they represented the mothers of the youths, carried the provisions (ὄψα καὶ σιτία) for them, and related stories to them. During the sacrifice the staff of the herald was adorned with garlands, and when the libation was performed the spectators cried out ἐλελεῦ, ἰοὺ, ἰού (Plut. Thes. 22). The ephebi taken from all the tribes had on this day a contest in racing from the city to the temple of Athena Sciras, during which they also carried the ὄσχη, and the victor received a cup filled with five different things (πεντάπλοος, πενταπλόα, πενταπλῆ), p846viz. wine, honey, cheese, flour, and a little oil (Athen. XI p495). According to other accounts the victor only drank from this cup. The story which was symbolically represented in the rites and ceremonies of this festival, and which was said to have given rise to it, is related by Plutarch (Thes. 22, 23) and by Proclus (p388, ed. Gaisford). (Compare Bekker's Anecdot. p318; Etymol. Magn. and Hesych. s.v. Ὦσχοι; Suidas, s.v. Ὠσχοφόρια and ὠσχοφόρος.)


Thayer's Note:

a The Greek text of this, and of other passages that are — or could have been — quoted in this article, is given by Mair in his note on Oppian, Cyneg. IV.235.


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Page updated: 10 Apr 11