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PLYNTE´RIA (πλυντήρια), a festival celebrated at Athens in the month Thargelion, in honour of Athena (Phot. s. v. Καλλυντήρια: Plut. Alc. 34; Harpocr., Suid. s. v.). Dodwell (de Cyclis, p. 349) gives the 22nd of the month as the day: A. Mommsen, with more probability, takes the ἕκτῃ φθίνοντος of Plutarch to mean that the 25th was the great day of a festival which lasted several days, probably from the 21st to the 25th, as the 20th was the torch-race of Bendis. (He conjectures a date about three weeks earlier, at the rising of the Pleiads, for the prehistoric Plynteria, as a festival for the beginning of the corn harvest: Heort. p. 11.) The festival, traditionally connected with the death of Agraulos, who had during her life performed these duties for the goddess, was really a rite partly of purification, partly of expiation, at the beginning of the harvest, to propitiate the favour of the goddess. The temple (Erechtheum) was shut off by a rope (Poll. 8.141, περισχοινήσαι), to guard it from profane entrance; the sacred image of Athena Polias (τὸ παλαιὸν βρέτας or ἄγαλμα, τὸ ἀρχαῖον ἕδος, Müller, Eum. p. 171) was stripped, the πραξιεργίδαι taking off the helmet and spear (Hesych. sub voce), and the two female attendants called λουτρίδες or πλυντρίδες (Phot.) removing the dress (πέπλος), which it was their duty to wash, and covering over the statue in the meantime (cf. Plut. Alc. 34, where the πραξιεργίδαι have the general direction of the whole ceremony). The image itself was bathed,--some think within the Erechtheum, others at the fountain of Callirrhoe--but against this we have the statements of Suidas (s. v. νομοφύλακες), who says that the nomophylaces arranged the procession ὅτε κομίζοιτο τὸ ξόανον ἐπὶ τὴν θάλασσαν of Xenophon (Xenoph. Hell. 1.4, 12), and of an inscription (Ephem. 4098) cited by Mommsen, which gives Phalerum as the place. The statue and the clothes were taken in a chariot attended by the priests and priestesses and followed by ephebi and the general crowd: late in the evening it was brought back by torchlight. In the procession strings of figs were carried (παλάθη ἡγητηρία or ἡγητορία which may merely symbolise fruitfulness, or may, as Mommsen thinks, have also a more mystical reference to an ancient sacrifice of maidens to Athena, as in the Thargelia the victims were garlanded with figs. The pedestal of the image was washed by a κατανήπτης (Etym. Mag.). We hear also of a plunth/ria at Paros (C. I. 2265); and we may compare also the Argive λουτρὰ Παλλάδος in the Inachus, described by Callimachus, and the later Roman ceremony of the Megalesia. The day of the procession at Athens was one of the ἡμέραι ἀποφράδες (dies nefasti), on which no legal business could be done, as though the city were on that day without its protecting deity. (A. Mommsen, Heort. 436 f.; Preller, Gr. Myth. 1.166.)

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