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AGRIO´NIA (ἀγριώνια), a festival which was celebrated chiefly at Orchomenus, in Boeotia, in honour of Dionysus, surnamed Ἀγριώνιος, i. e. the wild or boisterous. It appears from Plutarch (Quaest. Rom. 102), that this festival was solemnised during the night only by women and the priests of Dionysus. It consisted of a kind of game, in which the women for a long time acted as if seeking Dionysus, and at last called out to one another that he had escaped to the Muses, and had concealed himself with them. After this they prepared a repast; and having enjoyed it, amused themselves with proposing riddles to one another. This festival was remarkable for a feature which proves its great antiquity. Some virgins, who were descended from Minyas, and who probably used to [p. 1.93]assemble around the temple on the occasion, fled and were followed by the priest armed with a sword, who was allowed to kill the one whom he first caught. The sacrifice of a human being, though originally it must have formed a regular part of the festival, seems to have been avoided in later times. One instance, however, occurred in the days of Plutarch (Quaest. Graec. 38). But as the priest, Zoilos, who had killed the woman was afterwards attacked by disease, and severál extraordinary accidents occurred to the Minyans, the priest and his family were deprived of their official functions. The festival, as well as its name, is said to have been derived from the daughters of Minyas, who, after having for a long time resisted the Bacchanalian fury, were at length seized by an invincible desire of eating human flesh. They therefore cast lots on their own children; and as Hippasos, son of Leukippe, became the destined victim, they killed and ate him, whence the women belonging to that race were at the time of Plutarch still called the destroyers (ὀγεῖαι or αἰολαῖαι) and the men mourners (ψολοεῖς). Agrionia of a similar kind were celebrated also at Thebes and at Argos (Hesych. sub voce Ἀγριάνια, which seems to be only another form for Ἀγριώνια). At Thebes the festival was celebrated with games and contests, while at Argos it was a festival of the dead (νεκύσια). (Müller, Die Minyer, p. 166, &c.; K. F. Hermann, Gottesd. Alterth, § 63, n. 13; Schömann, Griech. Myth. vol. i. p. 429.)


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