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HIERODU´LI (ἱερόδουλοι) were persons of both sexes who were devoted, like slaves, to the worship of the gods. They were of Eastern origin, and are most frequently met with in connexion with the worship of the deities of Syria, Phoenicia, and Asia Minor. They consisted of two classes: one composed of slaves properly so called, who attended to all the lower duties connected with the worship of the gods, cultivated the sacred lands, &c., and whose descendants continued in the same servile condition; and the other, comprising persons who were personally free, but had dedicated themselves as slaves to the gods, and who were either attached to the temples or were dispersed throughout the country and brought to the gods the money they had gained. To the latter class belonged the women, who prostituted their persons and presented to the gods the money they had obtained by these means. The pomp with which religious worship was celebrated in the East, and the vast domains which many of the temples possessed, required a great number of servants and slaves. Thus the great temple at the Cappadocian Comana possessed as many as 6,000 hieroduli (Strab. xii. p.535), and that at Morimene had 3,000 of the same class of persons (Strab. xii. p.537). So numerous were the hieroduli at Tyre, that the high-priest by their support frequently obtained the regal dignity (Joseph. c. Apion. 1.18, 21). These large numbers arose from the idea, prevalent in the East, that the deity must have a certain class of persons specially dedicated to his service and separated from the ordinary duties of life, and that it was the duty of all who had the power to supply as many persons as they could for their service. Thus, kings dedicated as sacred slaves the prisoners whom they took in war, parents their children, and even persons of the highest families sent their daughters to the temples to sacrifice their chastity to the gods, at least till the time of their marriage. This practice of females offering their chastity to the gods was of ancient origin in the East, and seems to have arisen from the notion that the gods ought to have the first-fruits of everything. The custom prevailed at Babylon (Hdt. 1.199; Strab. xvi. p.745), as well as in many other places. (Comp. Heyne, De Babyloniorum instituto religioso, &c. in Comment. Societ. Götting. vol. xvi. p. 30, &c.) The Greek temples had of course slaves to perform the lowest services (Paus. 10.32.8); but we also find mention in some Greek temples of free persons of both sexes, who had dedicated themselves voluntarily to the services of some god, and to whom the term of hieroduli was generally applied. We find, again, predial slaves attached to temples, and cultivating their sacred domains (τεμένη) on condition, like the Helots and the Thessalian Penestae, of contributing to the temple a large fixed share of the produce. Such were the Craugallidae (or Acragallidae, Aeschin. c. Ctes. § 107) in the plain below Delphi; they were probably a remnant of the ancient inhabitants, the Dryopes, reduced to serfdom at an early period (Müller. Dor. 2.3.3). Such also were the Venerei of Mount Eryx, though they seem to have included freedmen as well as slaves (Cic. in Verr. 2.8, § 21 ff.; 38.92 ff.); with these we may class the Martiales at Larinum in Southern Italy (Cic. Clu. 15.44). Masters who wished to give slaves their freedom, but were prevented by various causes from manumitting them, presented them to some temple as ἱερόδουλοι under the form of a gift or a sale, and thus procured for them liberty in reality. Such cases of manumission frequently occur in inscriptions, and are explained at length by Curtius (de Manumissione sacra Graecorum, in his Anecdota Delphica, Berlin, 1843, p. 10, &c.; comp. Plut. Amat. 100.21, τῶν ἄλλων δεσποτῶν καὶ ἀρχόντων ἐλεύθεροι καὶ ἄφετοι καθάπερ ἱερόδουλοι διατελοῦσιν). The female hieroduli, who prostituted their persons, are only found in Greece connected with the worship of divinities who were of Eastern origin, or many of whose religious rites were borrowed from the East. This was the case with Aphrodite, who was originally an Oriental goddess. At her temple at Corinth there were a thousand ἱερόδουλοι ἑταῖραι (cf. HETAERAE), and there was also a large number of the same class of women at her temple at Eryx, in Sicily. (Strab. viii. p.378, vi. p. 272; cf. xii. p. 559.) (Hirt, Die Hierodulen, with appendices by Boeckh and Buttmann, Berlin, 1818; Kreuser, Der Hellenen Priesterstaat, mit vorzüglicher Rücksicht auf die Hierodulen, Mainz, 1824; Mövers, Die Phönizier, p. 359, &c.; Hermann, Gottesd. Alterth. § 20, n. 13-16; Schömann, Antiq. 1.134 E. T.)

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  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.199
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 10.32.8
    • Cicero, For Aulus Cluentius, 15.44
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