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THEO´RI

THEO´RI (θεωροί). There can be little doubt that the origin of this word is not θεὸς and ὥρα, as most of the ancient Lexicographers thought, but is the same as that of θεάομαι (Curtius, Gr. Etym. 253; L. and S.). Hence it should follow that the original offcial signification of the word (apart from its simple meaning, οἱ θεώμενοι) was a magistrate, literally “overseer,” like ἔφορος. We find this title θεωροὶ or θεαροὶ given, without any religious meaning, to the chief magistrates of certain states; at Mantinea (Thuc. 5.47); at Tegea (Xen. Hell. 6.5, 7; see Gilbert, Staatsalterth. 2.328).

Hence the word acquired the sense with which we are most familiar, sacred ambassadors or delegates (as though “overseers” of the sacred business), i. e. persons sent on special missions (θεωρίαι) to perform some religious duty for the state, to consult an oracle, or to represent the state at some religious festival in another land, where among other ceremonies sacrifice would be offered on behalf of their state. Photius, though doubtless wrong in his etymology, expresses the meaning rightly by τοὺς τὰ θεῖα φυλάττοντας τὸ θεῖον φροντίζοντας: Pollux (2.55), misled by the double meaning, gives two different roots to the word. These sacred θεωροὶ were not permanent officials, but were specially appointed from among the citizens for each occasion. The title apparently belongs to delegates of this kind from any Greek state: e. g. the θεωροὶ of foreign states made offerings for their own states at the Eleusinia on 17th Boedromion (A. Mommsen, Heort. 250; ELEUSINIA Vol. I. p. 718; cf. Soph. O. T. 114), and similarly of the Great Panhellenic games: so, when we find πρόβουλοι καὶ θεωροὶ sent by different Greek states yearly to the ELEUTHERIA at Plataea, the former have to do with the political affairs of the confederacy, the latter with the religious part of the festival (Gilbert, Staatsalterth. 1.91).

But we are specially concerned with the theori at Athens. Here also there were no standing officials so called, but the name was given to those citizens who were appointed from time to time to conduct religious embassies to various places; of which the most important were those that were sent to the Olympian, Pythian, Nemean, and Isthmian games, those that went for any purpose to consult the oracle at Delphi, and those that led the solemn procession to Delos for the Apollinean spring festival, in which Pisistratus, from political motives, contrived that Athens should take a leading part (see E. Curtius, Hist. of Greece, 1.36 E. T.; DELIA). I The expense of any such embassy was defrayed partly by the state, partly by a wealthy citizen, to whom the management was entrusted, called ἀρχιθέωρος. This was a sort of λειτουργία, and frequently a very costly one. In the case of the Delphic theoria for consulting the oracle, the travelling money provided by the state was not large, and the personal expense probably also moderate, but a considerable sum was provided for the Delian theoriae, more than a talent for each of the yearly (lesser) festivals, and (in Ol. 101. 3) nearly 1 1/4 talent for the greater quadrennial festival (see Fränkel's note or Boeckh, Staatshaush. i.3 272): but the magnificence depended mainly on the liberality of the architheoros, to whom it became a point of honour to discharge his office handsomely, to wear a golden crown, to drive into the city with a fine chariot, retinue, &c. Nicias is reported to have incurred unusual expenses in his embassy to Delos; and Alcibiades astonished all the spectators at Olympia by his display (Grote, Hist. 6.389, 7.72; Thuc. 6.16).

As to the offices of the Pythaistae (Πυθαισταὶ) and Deliastae, which require some notice here, there is a difference of tradition; but it seems tolerably certain that Harpocration and Hesychius (s. v. Δηλιασταὶ)are wrong in making the Deliastae = θεωροί, and there is still less warrant for concluding, as most modern authorities have done, that both the Pythaistae and Deliastae had this meaning. What evidence we have leads rather to the conclusion that they were not sent with the missions at all, but were two priestly families, whose duty it was to regulate by observance of celestial omens the time for starting sacred embassies to Delphi and Delos respectively. For the θεωρία to Delphi, which made the yearly offering from Athens some time about June (A. Mommsen, Heort. 315), the Pythaistae through a period of three months (April-June) watched at the altar of Ζεὺς Ἀστραπαῖος, looking northwards to Harma, a district in Mount Parnes near Phyle. Theoretically, no doubt, if no lightning appeared, the offering could not be sent at its normal time in June; but as modern observations (A. Mommsen, Delph. p. 315) show that there is always a great deal of lightning in that district during those months, it is probable that there was rarely, if ever, an impediment. The omens having been duly observed, when the embassy to Delphi was started the Pythaistae offered sacrifice in the Pythium at Oenoe: the Deliastae (regarding whose method of observing omens we have no, definite particulars) sacrificed for the Delian embassy in the Delium at Marathon (Strabo ix. p.404; Athen. 6.234 e; Schol. ad Soph. Oed. Col. 1047; Hesych. sub voce ἀστράπτει δι᾽ ἅρματος: A. Mommsen, Delphica, p. 314; Curtius, Hist. of Greece, ii. p. 8; Töpffer, in Hermes, xxx. pp. 321 ff.). [For the sacred ships. employed, see THEORIS]

[C.R.K] [G.E.M]

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