), a festival celebrated every ninth year at Thebes in
honour of Apollo, surnamed Ismenius or Galaxius. Its name was derived from
the laurel branches (δαφναι
) which were
carried by those who took part in its celebration. A full account of the
festival is given by Proclus (Chrestomath.
p. 11). At one
time all the Aeolians of Arne and the adjacent districts, at the command of
an oracle, laid siege to Thebes, which was at the same time attacked by the
Pelasgians, and ravaged the neighbouring country. But when the day came on
which both parties had to celebrate a festival of Apollo, a truce was
concluded, and on the day of the festival they went with laurel-boughs to
the temple of the god. But Polematas, the general of the Boeotians, had a
vision in which he saw a young man who presented to him a complete suit of
armour, and who made him vow to institute a festival, to be celebrated every
ninth year, in honour of Apollo, at which the Thebans, with laurel-boughs in
their hands, were to go to his temple. When, on the third day after this
vision, both parties again were engaged in close combat, Polematas gained
the victory. He now fulfilled his promise, and walked himself to the temple
of Apollo in the manner prescribed by the being he had seen in his vision.
And ever since that time, continues Proclus, this custom has been strictly
observed. Respecting the mode of celebration, he adds:--At the daphnephoria
they adorn a piece of olive-wood with garlands of laurel and various
flowers; on the top of it a brazen globe is placed, from which smaller ones
are suspended; purple garlands, smaller than those at the top, are attached
to the middle part of the wood, and the lowest part is covered with a
crocus-coloured envelope. By the globe on the top they indicate the sun,
which is identical with Apollo; the globe immediately below the first
represents the moon; and the smaller suspending globes are symbols of the
stars. The number of garlands being 365, indicates the course of the year.
At the head of the procession walked a youth, whose father and mother must
be living. Such a youth was, according to Pausanias (9.10.4
), chosen priest of Apollo every year, and called δαφνηφόρος
: he was always of a handsome figure
and strong, and taken from the most distinguished families of Thebes.
Immediately before this youthful priest walked his nearest kinsman, who bore
the adorned piece of olive-wood, which was called κωπώ.
The priest followed, bearing in his hand a
laurel-branch, with dishevelled and floating hair, wearing a golden crown on
his head, a magnificent robe which reached down to his feet (ποδήρης
), and a kind of shoes called Ἰφικράτιδες,
from the general Iphicrates, who
had first introduced them. Behind the priest there followed a choir of
maidens with boughs in their hands and singing hymns. In this manner the
procession went to the temple of Apollo Ismenius or Galaxius. It would seem
from Pausanias that all the boys of the town wore laurel garlands on this
occasion, and that it was customary for the sons of wealthy parents to
dedicate to the god brazen tripods, a considerable number of which were seen
in the temple by Pausanias himself. Among them was one which was said to
have been dedicated by Amphitryon, at the time when Heracles was
daphnephorus. This last circumstance shows that the daphnephoria, whatever
changes may have been subsequently introduced, was a very ancient festival.
There was a great similarity between this festival and a solemn rite observed
by the Delphians, who sent every ninth year a sacred boy to Tempe. This boy
went on the sacred road (Plut. Quaest. Gr.
12), and returned
home as laurel-bearer (δαφνηφόρος
the joyful songs of choruses of maidens. This solemnity was observed in
commemoration of the purification of Apollo at the altar in Tempe, whither
he had fled after killing the Python, and was held in the month of
Thargelion (probably on the seventh day). It is a very probable conjecture
of Müller (Dor.
2.8.4) that the
Boeotian daphnephoria took place in the same month and on the same day on
which the Delphian boy broke the purifying laurel-boughs in Tempe.
The Athenians seem likewise to have celebrated a festival of the same nature,
but the only mention we have of it is in Proclus (ap. Photium, p. 987), who
says that the Athenians honoured the seventh day as sacred to Apollo, that
they carried laurel-boughs and adorned the basket (κάνεον
: see CANEPHOROS) with
garlands, and sang hymns to the god. Respecting the astronomical character
of the daphnephoria, see Müller, Orchom.
p. 215, 2nd
edit.; and Creuzer, Symbol. und Mythol.
ii. p. 160; A.
p. 271 ff.