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 p604  Hermaea

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh
on p604 of

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

HERMAEA (Ἕρμαια), festivals of Hermes, celebrated in various parts of Greece. As Hermes was the tutelary deity of the gymnasia and palaestrae, the boys at Athens celebrated the Hermaea in the gymnasia. They were on this occasion dressed in their best, offered sacrifices to the god, and amused themselves with various games and sports, which were probably of a more free and unrestrained character than usual. Hence the gymnasiarch was prohibited by a law of Solon (Aeschin. c. Timarch. p38) from admitting any adults on the occasion. This law, however, was afterwards neglected, and in the time of Plato (Lysis. p206D, &c.) we find the boys celebrating the Hermaea in a palaestra, and in the presence of persons of all ages (Becker, Charikles, vol. I p335, &c.; compare Gymnasium, p580B).

Hermaea were also celebrated in Crete, where, on this occasion, the same custom prevailed which was observed at Rome during the Saturnalia; for the day was a season of freedom and enjoyment for the slaves, and their masters waited upon them at their repasts (Athen. XIV p639).

The town of Pheneos, in Arcadia, of which Hermes was the principal divinity, likewise celebrated Hermaea with games and contests (Paus. VIII.14 §7). A festival of the same kind was celebrated at Pellene (Schol. ad Pind. Ol. VII.156, and Nem. X.82). Tanagra, in Boeotia (Paus. IX.22 § 2), and some other places, likewise celebrated festivals of Hermes, but particulars are not known.

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Page updated: 7 Sep 07