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AGRO´TERAS THY´SIA

AGRO´TERAS THY´SIA (ἀγροτέρας θυσία), a festival celebrated at Athens in honour of Artemis, surnamed Agrotera (from ἄγρα, chase), in consequence of a vow made before the battle of Marathon. It was solemnised, according to Plutarch (De Malign. Herod. 26), on the sixth of the month of Boedromion, and consisted in a sacrifice of 500 goats, which continued to be offered in the time of Xenophon. (Xenoph. Anab. 3.2.12.) Aelian (Ael. VH 2.25) places the festival on the sixth day of Thargelion, and says that 300 goats were sacrificed; but as the battle of Marathon, which gave rise to this solemn sacrifice, occurred on the sixth of Boedromion, Aelian's statement appears to be wrong. (Plut. de Glor. Athen. 7.)

This festival is said to have originated in the following manner :--When the Persians invaded Attica, Callimachus, the polemarch, or, according to others, Miltiades, made a vow to sacrifice to Artemis Agrotera as many goats as there should be enemies slain at Marathon. But when the number of enemies slain was so great that an equal number of goats could not be found at once, the Athenians decreed that 500 should be sacrificed every year. This is the statement made by Xenophon; but other ancient authors give different accounts. The Scholiast on Aristoph. (Equit. 666) relates that the Athenians, before the battle, promised to sacrifice to Artemis one ox for every enemy slain; but when the number of oxen could not be procured, they substituted an equal number of goats. It is not improbable that annual processions from Athens to the temple of Hecate at Agrae, in remembrance of the victory of Marathon, may have been connected with the sacrifice to Artemis Agrotera. (Plut. de Malign. Herod. 26.)

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