a festival celebrated at Athens on the 6th and 7th of Thargelion (= about
May 24, 25) in honour of Apollo and Artemis (Etym. M.;
Suidas, s. v. Θαργήλια
), as their
birthdays (cf. DELIA
according to the Scholiast on Aristophanes (Aristoph. Kn. 729
) in honour of Helios and the Horae; the latter
statement, however, is in substance the same as the former. The Apollo who
was honoured by this festival was the Delian Apollo, Apollo Patrous (Athen. 10.424
The Thargelia and the Delphinia were the chief festivals of Apollo at Athens.
The word θαργήλια
means generally the
fruits of the earth as derived from the sun's heat, or else the first fruits
of the crop (Etym. M.
443). Now it was an old custom to send
an offering of corn each [p. 2.810]
year to the Delian
Apollo; and when Apollo was adopted by the Athenians into the circle of
their divinities, the offering still continued. This was doubtless the
nucleus of the festival.
The first act was the sacrifice of a sheep on the 6th to Demeter Chloe
(Schol. on Soph. Oed. Col.
), who appears to have had a temple on the Acropolis (Schol. on
Aristoph. Lys. 835
). It is an error
to suppose that this is the Χλόεια,
that the latter festival was held on the 6th of Thargelion (= about May
24th); for the corn was not green in Thargelion; nor can that month be
called περὶ τὸ ἔαρ,
which is the time
specified by Cornutus for the Chloea (περὶ τὸ ἔαρ
Δήμητρι Χλόην θύουσι,
28), for Dionysius (1.63
) mentions the 23rd of Thargelion as occurring towards the
end of summer. Then followed still on the sixth a great purificatory
sacrifice (Plut. Symp.
8.1, 2 = 717 Reiske; D. L. 2.44
; Harpocrat. s. v. φαρμακός
). The manner in which this purification was
effected is very extraordinary and certainly a remnant of very ancient
rites, for two persons were put to death on that day, and the one died on
behalf of the men and the other on behalf of the women of Athens. The name
by which these victims were designated was σύβακχοι
(Hellad. ap. Phot. 534) or more usually φαρμα^κοί
(in Ionic, as always in Hipponax,
: cf. Bergk, Lyr.
ii. p. 462): according to some accounts both of them were
men, but according to others the one who died on behalf of the women was a
woman and the other a man (Hesych. sub voce
). On the day when the sacrifice
was to be performed the victims were led to the different temples of Apollo
in the city,--to those of Apollo Patrous, Delphinius, and Pythius (cf.
p. 421),--and afterwards out of the city to a
place near the sea, with the accompaniment of a peculiar melody, called
played on the flute
(Hesych. sub voce
2.456), however, says the
does not apply to this:
cf. Plut. de Musica,
1133.] The neck of the one
who died for the men was surrounded with a garland of black figs, that of
the other with a garland of white ones; and while they were proceeding to
the place of their destiny, they were beaten with rods of fig-wood, and figs
and other things were thrown at them. Cheese, figs, and cake were put into
their hands that they might eat them. They were at last burnt on a funeral
pile made of wild fig-wood, and their ashes were thrown into the sea and
scattered to the winds (Tzetzes, Chil.
5.726). Some writers
maintain that they were thrown into the sea alive, as at Leucas (cf. Strabo,
10.452), but the matter is very uncertain. We are not informed whether this
expiatory and purifying sacrifice was offered regularly every year, but from
the name of the victims (φαρμακοὶ
) as well
as from the whole account of Tzetzes, which is founded on good authorities,
it appears highly probable that an actual sacrifice only took place in case
of a heavy calamity having befallen the city (νοσούσης τῆς πόλεως
), such as the plague, a famine,
&c.; and that in ordinary times (cf. Müller,
1.329) the solemnity was merely formal.
Schömann (op. cit.
2.254, 456) is of
opinion that the victims were condemned criminals: but while there is no
evidence for the statement, there is an a
improbability that a sin offering would be made of those
whose lives were forfeit in any case. Tzetzes (l.c.
says the victim was τὸν πάντων
(a very Greek idea), and Schol. on Aristoph. Frogs 733
says they were
τοὺς φαύλους καὶ παρὰ τῆς φύσεως
i. e. deformed. At Massilia a somewhat
similar solemnity was almost certainly formal. One of the poorer classes
voluntarily gave himself up to be supported for a year; after which time he
was clad in sacred garments, led through the city with execrations heaped on
him, and thus bearing as was supposed all the ills of the state was cast out
beyond the boundaries (Petron. ap. Serv. on Verg. A.
). What persons were chosen as victims on such occasions is
not mentioned, and we only learn from Suidas (s. v. Φαρμακοὶ
) that they were kept at the public expense
On the second day of the Thargelia, the 7th, there was offered a
thank-offering to the Sungod; and, as at the Pyanepsia, the children bore
about branches of olive, bound with wool, called εἰρεσιῶναι,
which they finally hung up before the doors
(Schol. Aristoph. Kn. 729
1054). Porphyrius (Abstin.
2.7) gives a
long list of natural and artificial products which were offered on this day
to Helios and the Horae, beginning with the moist earth (ἰλύς
), from which all things spring (cf.
Hermann, Gottesd. Alt.
§ 60, 8). The second day of
the Thargelia was also solemnised with a procession, and an agon which
consisted of a cyclic chorus performed by men and boys at the expense of a
choragus (Lysias, de Muner. accept.
§ 1; Antiphon.
§ § 11, 12, 13; C.
213). At the Thargelia each choragus had two tribes
allotted to him, out of which he was to supply a chorus (Antiph. l.c.;
Schol. on Dem. Lept.
The prize of the victor was a tripod, which he was required to dedicate in
the Temple of Apollo which had been built by Peisistratus (Suidas, s. v.
). At the assembly of the
Thargelia crowns were proclaimed (Law ap. Dem. Mid.
The Archon Eponymus and his ἐπιμεληταὶ
the management of the festival (Poll. 8.89). On this day it was customary
for persons who were adopted into a family to be solemnly registered and
received into the gens and the phratria of the adoptive parents. This
solemnity was the same as that of registering one's own children at the
Apaturia (Isaeus, de Apollod. hered.
Respecting the origin of the Thargelia, there are two accounts. According to
Istrus (ap. Phot. Lex.
p. 467; Etym.
and Harpocrat. s. v. Φαρμακὸς
derived their name from a man
who, having stolen the
sacred phials of Apollo and being discovered by the men of Achilles, was
stoned to death, and this event was commemorated by the awful sacrifice at
the Thargelia. Helladius (l.c.
), on the other hand,
states that at first these expiatory sacrifices were offered for the purpose
of purifying the city of contagious diseases, as the Athenians after the
death of the Cretan Androgeus were visited by the plague: and there
certainly was some connexion between the Delphinia and the Theseus-legend
(Mommsen, op. cit.
421, note; Preller,
1.209). But probably this expiatory
sacrifice was [p. 2.811]
appointed by Epimenides; for we know
(D. L. 1.110
) that at his suggestion two
youths, Cratinus and Ctesibius, were put to death and a plague was stayed.
(See Meursius, Graecia Feriata,
s. v. Θαργήλια
: Bode, Gesch. der lyrisch.
Dichtkunst der Hellen.
i. p. 173, &c., where an account
is also given of the κραδίης νόμος
: K. F.
Hermann, Handb. der Gottesd. Alterth.
§ 60, n. 4;
Preller, Griechische Mythologie,
2.254, 455-6; A.
Mommsen, Heortologie der Athener,
50, 53, 414-425.)