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CARNEIA (καρνεῖα), a great national festival, celebrated by the Spartans in honour of Apollo Carneios, which, according to Sosibius (ap. Athen. 14.635), was instituted Olymp. xxvi.; although Apollo, under the name of Carneios, was worshipped in various places of Peloponnesus, particularly at Amyclae, at a very early period, and even before the Dorian migration. (Müller, Dor. 1.3.8, and 2.8.15.) Wachsmuth (Hellen. Alterthumsk. ii. p. 582, 2nd ed.), referring to the above passage of Athenaeus, thinks that the Carneia had long before been celebrated; and that when, in Olymp. xxvi., Terpander gained the victory, musical contests were only added to the martial solemnities of the festival. But the words of Athenaeus, who is the only authority to which Wachsmuth refers, do not allow of such an interpretation, for no distinction is there made between earlier and later solemnities of the festival, and Athenaeus simply says, the institution of the Carneia took place Olymp. xxvi. (Ἐγένετο δὲ θέσις τῶν Καρνείων κατὰ τὴν ἕκτην καὶ εἰκοστὴν Ὀλυμπιάδα, ὡς Σωσίβιός φησιν, ἐν τῷ περὶ χρόνων.) The festival began, on the seventh day of the month of Karneios= Metageitnion of the Athenians, and lasted for nine days. (Athen. 4.141; Eustath. ad Il. xxiv. sub fin.; Plut. Symp. 8.1.) It was, as far as we know, a warlike festival, similar to the Attic Boëdromia, and was celebrated by all the Dorians. During the time of its celebration nine tents were pitched near the city, in each of which nine men lived in the manner of a military camp, obeying in everything the commands of a herald. Müller also supposes [p. 1.366]that a boat was carried round, and upon it a statue of the Carneian Apollo (Ἀπόλλων στεμματίας), both adorned with lustratory garlands, called δίκηλον στεμματιαῖον, in allusion to the passage of the Dorians from Naupactus into Peloponnesus. (Dorians, 1.3.8, note s.) The priest conducting the sacrifices at the Carneia was called Ἀγητής, whence the festival was sometimes designated by the name Ἀγητόρια or Ἀγητόρειον (Hesych. sub voce Ἀγητόρειον); and from each of the Spartan tribes five unmarried men (Καρνεᾶται) were chosen as his ministers, whose office lasted four years, during which period they were not allowed to marry. (Hesych. sub voce Καρνεᾶται.) Some of them bore the name of Σταφυλοδρόμοι. (Hesych. sub voce compare Bekker, Anecd. p. 205.) Terpander was the first who gained the prize in the musical contests of the Carneia, and the musicians of his school were long distinguished competitors for the prize at this festival (Müller, Dor. 4.6.3), and the last of this school who engaged in the contest was Perikleidas (Plut. de Mus. 6). When we read in Herodotus (6.106, 7.206) and Thucydides (5.54, and in other places) that the Spartans during the celebration of this festival were not allowed to take the field against an enemy, we must remember that this restriction was not peculiar to the Carneia, but common to all the great festivals of the Greeks: traces of it are found even in Homer (Hom. Od. 21.258, &c.).

Carneia were also celebrated at Cyrene (Callimach. Hymn. in Apoll. 72 seq.), in Thera (Callimach. l.c.; Pindar, Pind. P. 5.99 seq.), in Gythion, Messene, Sicyon, and Sybaris (Paus. 3.21.7, and 24.5; 4.33.5; 2.10.2; Theocr. 5.83; compare Müller's Orchom. p. 327 ; Welcker, Griech. Götterlehre, i. p. 469, &c.).


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