part of ancient worship which usually consists in presenting to a deity some
object on which human life is supported, or even human life itself. Both the
Greek and Latin words exclude the idea of the presentation of gifts in the
shape of inanimate
objects, however valuable; the reason for
this probably being, as we shall see, that there is in this latter case no
notion of communion between the god and the giver, as in the case of the
gift of a meal. It will serve, however, to clear the ground, if we briefly
indicate the nature of these inanimate votive offerings. Such were,
, the treasures of all kinds deposited in Greek
temples, and including especially the objects of art so frequently described
by Pausanias. These are mentioned in Homer (Hom.
), and are found throughout Greek history, though it
should be observed that by a natural process, as temples became treasures of
a state, they lost their character as the property of the god, and became
rather (except in the temples common to all Hellas, e. g. at Olympia and
Delphi) the property of the state under the god's guardianship. So too, at
Rome, the word sacrum
== “quidquid est
quod deorum habetur” (Macr. 3.3, 2), and sacrificium
in its widest sense meant the dedication of such
objects as altar, statues, land, money, utensils, the bodies of criminals,
&c.; but the word generally used for this is consecratio.
In the same category may be reckoned the dedication of human beings to the
service of a god, as at Delphi and Delos (Sir: C. Newton,
p. 165), or of models of parts of the human body in
which disease has been cured (C. I. G.
497, foll. 2439,.
6332); of coins dropped into wells by convalescent persons, or to procure
rain (Paus. 1.34
: 3; cf. Tylor, Primitive Culture,
2.195); of children's hair (reff.
in Hermann, Griech. Alt.
2.143; cf. Tylor, 2.364, who
suggests that this is a form of substitution, like the models of limbs).
Here too may perhaps be mentioned the Athenian Eiresione and the ὄσχοι
(vine-branches) of the OSCHOPHORIA
though these approach more nearly to the real nature of sacrifice, the
offerings of first-fruits and tithes, whether of freewill or under
compulsion as a fine (see Hermann, Griech. Alt.
C. I. A.
191, 482; Newton, 115). At Rome also the
first-fruits were probably offered in the oldest cults, e. g. by the Vestals
3.169). All these various gifts are
made the property of the god under the primitive idea that he, like kings,
could be pleased and appeased by attention, and that to ask him for a favour
without a gift was hopeless (Il
9.493: στρεπτοὶ δέ τε καὶ θεοὶ αὐτοί
). The motive, therefore,
underlying them is the same as in the sacrifice proper; but the idea of
communion is not present in the case of such gifts, and it is his which best
differentiates the true sacrifice from the votive offering. Only in the case
of piacular sacrifices, which closely resemble the votive offerings, though
accompanied by the idea of purification or atonement, does the idea of
communion appear to be absent.
Turning to sacrifices in the restricted sense of the word, we find it
difficult to arrange them systematically, so as to give the student a clear
view at once of their various objects and details. The old division into
bloody and unbloody sacrifices is clearly insufficient, since it leaves the
object out of view; and it should be noted that in the last few years much
progress has been made towards a right understanding of the inner meaning of
sacrificial ritual. The best plan is perhaps to follow in the main the
division adopted in the Encyclopaedia Britannica
Robertson Smith, as being itself based on a wide acquaintance with such
ritual [p. 2.580]
among a great variety of peoples, by which
alone the ritual of individual races can be interpreted; and as being easily
accessible to English readers. We will therefore treat of sacrificing, both
in Greece and Italy, as--
- A. Honorific, i.e. meant to please and do honour to
the gods, either by way of enforcing a petition, or expressing
gratitude (the Bitt-and Dankopfer of
German writers). This class covers by far the greater part of the
- B. Piacular sacrifices, which contain the idea of
expiation and include most cases of
human sacrifice known to us in classical antiquity.
- C. Sacramental or mystical sacrifices, which are,
however, rare and obscure both in Greece and Italy.
An account of the ordinary features of the ritual observed,
especially in animal sacrifices, will be reserved for the conclusion of the
A. Honorific Sacrifices.
These, whether their object were petition or thanksgiving, were
originally regarded as a meal for the god in which the worshippers
shared, and therefore included edibles only. (For general evidence from
a variety of races, see Tylor, op. cit.
xviii.) That the older Greeks believed that their gods did enjoy the
meal is quite apparent in Homer (Hom. Il.
; Od. 3.435
δ᾽Ἀθήνη ἱρῶν ἀντιόωσα
), and is illustrated in the
vase-paintings by the presence of the deity at the sacrifice. Even then,
however, it was rather the sweet savour or the pleasant sight (as when
the horns are gilt to please Athene, Od.
) that they enjoyed, and the savage idea that they actually
devoured the food was left to survive among the wholly rural
populations. (Cp., however, Od. 7.201
Aristophanes, in the Pax,
ridicule the popular belief, which is seen in the offerings to the dead
in tombs, and in Italy also to the Lares and Penates (cf. also Lucian,
14). But the notion of
the communion of god and man in the meal left very distinct traces long
after the actual belief had faded; and from the Homeric age, where a big
feast and a sacrifice are almost synonymous (e. g. in Od. 3.1
foll.), down to the great city
festivals of later times, which supplied the population with food at the
expense of the state, it is this firmly-rooted idea that governs the
whole character of the ritual.
Honorific sacrifices might be either occasional
or regularly recurring.
In Homer, where the
undisturbed life of family or city is not represented, the sacrifices
are occasional and with a definite temporary object. Such too are found
in historical times, and at Athens were called θυσίαι κατὰ ψηφίσματα
p. 301.217): they were often suggested by an oracle, or
sometimes were the result of a public vow, as before Marathon (Plut.
de Malign. Herod.
26). At Rome the sacrifices at
would belong to their
and also those ex voto
and those which
occurred in family life on birthdays, at admission into the phratria, at
funerals, &c. But in Italy the extraordinary sacrifices were
most commonly undertaken for the purpose of divination (hostiae consultatoriae
), according to the lore
of the Etruscan Haruspices [DIVINATIO
]. These are also found in, Greece, but far less
frequently, and it has been doubted whether the art was native with the
Greeks (Schömann, Alt.
2.241 foll.) or whether it can be traced in Homer.
The idea on which this peculiar turn given to sacrifice appears to be
based, is that the god was thought to show his goodwill in the victim:
i. e. the perfection of the parts of the animal was a sign of the god's
satisfaction; their imperfection, of his hostility--he refuses the gift.
The same idea is seen in the scrupulous exactness, to be described later
on, in the choice of the victim for ordinary sacrifice, and in the
belief that it was a bad omen if it came unwillingly
to the altar.
Where honorific sacrifices are regular and recurring on fixed days of the
year, they indicate a higher civilisation, and produce a regulated
calendar of city life, such as we are pretty fully acquainted with at
Athens and Rome; sacrifice forming at all times the chief part of
ancient worship. This city sacrificial system is, however, itself
developed out of the regular religious life of the family and the gens.
In the Roman family, not only on certain days, e. g. on kalends and
ides, were sacrifices offered to Lares and Penates, but at every meal
some portion was cast into the fire as an offering [LARARIUM
], and also at
birth, marriage, and funerals. The same was the case with the
agricultural operations of the family and gens at certain seasons, e. g.
at the time of sowing, ploughing, and harvest, and especially at the
time, as at Rome in May, when the crops were in danger and needed
special religious care (LUSTRATIO; Cato, Cat. Agr. 141
), and at the summer and
winter solstices. Thus the ancient sacrificial celebrations corresponded
generally with the seasons, and have left their mark in this respect on
the modern Christian Calendar.
This regular sacrificial system had, we may note, two results, which are
important for the religious history of antiquity:--1. The necessity of a
trained priesthood to carry on the tradition of ritual. 2. The gradual
destruction of the simple and primitive ideas of sacrifice: the age of
formality sets in, and the formalism of the cult gradually destroys its
These honorific sacrifices consisted either of drink offerings, incense
offerings, or of animal and vegetable food. The use of incense, or
sweet-smelling herbs, may have been a comparatively late introduction;
but of the rest, there is no sufficient ground for supposing one to be
older than another, though some ancient authors, and many modern ones,
have imagined these animal sacrifices to be of later date than the
unbloody (Plato, Legg.
6.782 C; Ov. Fast. 1.337
; Plin. Nat.
; Plut. Num. 8
; cf. Pauly,
vol. vi. p. 658). The question would be
one rather of the practice in each locality, and would depend on the
wealth, and the nature of the wealth, in each; e. g. in Boeotia, Copaic
eels were an article of sacrifice (
Athen. vii. p. 297
), and Spartan poverty was in some cases
content with fowls (Plut. Inst. Lac.
research does not seem to show that the sacrifice of animals is of later
origin; and all we can fairly assume is that in Greece and Italy, as
wealth increased and bloody sacrifices became more and more synonymous
with feasts, these tended to increase both in number and variety. All
these kinds of offerings, it should be noticed, are found in use
together, as well as separately. [p. 2.581]
--These include libations of all kinds;
which from Homer downwards we find performed, at meals to domestic
deities, or on special occasions, e.q.
entering into any treaty or engagement (Il.
; cf. 2.341), by throwing a few drops from the drinking
vessel on the hearth and the ground. So also the Greek, before going to
rest, poured a libation to Hermes, the god of sleep (Od. 7.136
; Buchholz, Homerische
3.293). Here also belong the Greek χοαί,
or libations to the dead (Od. 10.518
; cf. Verg. A. 5.77
), and the Roman practice of profusiones,
i.e. pouring libations on the grave, of
wine, water, milk, oil, &c. (Marquardt, 3.312), on stated
occasions, such as the Parentalia in February. Libations consisted
usually of unmixed wine in historical times; but when wine could not be
had, water would suffice, as in Od.
; and in Greece some deities preferred no wine (Aesch. Eum. 107
), and Hermes liked a
mixture (Schol. Aristoph. Pl. 1132
The oldest libations, e. g. the χοαί,
were probably of milk and honey mixed (μελίκρατον
) or of milk alone (Eustath. ad Od.
10.519; Soph. El. 895
), or of oil, if the
anointing of sacred stones can be reckoned under this head (Paus. 10.24
16; Tylor, 2.151). So too in the worship
of the oldest Roman deities milk
was used, i. e.
in that of Rumina, Cunina, the Camoenae, Faunus, Silvanus, Pales
(Schwegler, R. G.
1.421, note and reff.).
--Originally, as we saw, the gods were
thought to be pleased by the sweet savour of the sacrifice; and this
notion was acted on as early as the Homeric age in Greece, by employing
sweet-smelling wood (θύον,
: a species of cedar wood, cf.
; Hesiod, Op.
338) for the fire, and at
Rome by the burning of sweet-smelling garden herbs (Verg. Ecl. 8.65
, and especially Ov. Fast. 1.339
). The real incense
offering was both rare and costly. Incense, however, became an object of
trade in later times, when it was the constant accompaniment of animal
sacrifices (Arnob. 7.26). It is said to have come from Phoenicia by way
of Cyprus, where it was used in the cult of Aphrodite Ourania
(Empedocles in Athen. 12.
; Hesych. sub voce
Offerings of fruits and cakes.
--Fruits were offered in
Greece chiefly as tithes or toll of the harvest of some crop (ordered by
a Delphic oracle, Theopomp. fragm. 283), not only to Demeter and
Dionysus (Paus. 8.42
), the especial deities of corn and wine culture, but to
others, according to the local belief in their efficacy. At Athens, and
probably elsewhere, there were in most temples tables, near the statue
of the god, laid out with fruits of all kinds, as well as with cakes,
honey, &c. (Aristoph. Pl. 678
and Schol.). This practice, the origin of the Roman lectisternia, is
also represented on monuments (Martha, Les Sacerdoces
p. 50; Bull. Corr. Hell.
also figure conspicuously in some Athenian festivals, e. g. at the OSCHOPHORIA
and the THARGELIA
and boys are
seen carrying baskets of fruits and cakes in the northern frieze of the
Parthenon (Baumeister, Denkm.
1382: hence the names
&c., for bearers of such utensils in various rites; Lobeck,
26 foll.). So also at the PYANEPSIA
or festival of
beans (the cheapest food at Athens), not only were these carried about
in pots (χύτραι
), but an olivebranch
), laden with various
fruits hung on it, was carried in procession, and fixed at the door of
the temple of Apollo. At Rome fruits are less often mentioned (for
“primitiae frugum” in a general sense, cf. Tib. 1.1
but at least, as a rule, the grain or fruit was cooked. Cakes of all
kinds were used in abundance both in Greece and Rome, whether combined
with animal sacrifices or independently. In Greece these were called
1050 foll.), and were especially used
in the cult of Apollo, e. g. at Delphi and Delos (Müller,
E. T. 1.343); also in that of Zeus at
Athens, at the Erechtheia in the Acropolis (Paus.
), and that of Trophonius
(a honeycake, μελιτοῦττα,
506; Paus. 9.39
and at the Athenian Munychia and in the worship of Artemis a special
kind of cake was used, which was surrounded with torches called ἀμφιφῶντες
404). At Rome, cakes were also in common use,
especially in the form of the mola
--i.e. salt-cakes prepared by the Vestal Virgins from the
first ears of each harvest, and used at the Vestalia, Lupercalia, and on
the Ides of September (Serv. ad Ecl.
8.82)--and of the
for the making of which under
various forms Cato gives receipts (R. R.
75 foll.). So
important was the making of these on the right method that special
were employed for this purpose
under the orders of the pontifices (Marquardt, 3.429).
Both in Greece and Italy the practice was common of making substitutes
for animal sacrifices out of dough, paste, wax, &c., as we see
in the worship of Zeus Meilichios at Athens (Thuc.
), and in the Roman maniae,
which Aelius Stilo (Fest. p. 129) described as “ficta quaedam ex
farina in hominum figuras” (Lobeck, Aglaoph.
1080 foll.). These will be referred to later.
Offerings of animals.
--These were of great variety, both
as regards the animals themselves and the ritual used. It is not
necessary to do more than allude at this point to human sacrifices,
which for the most part belong either to our second chief division of
piacular offerings, or to our third division of mystic or sacramental
sacrifices. To this latter class probably belong those rare examples
which seem to be survivals of cannibalism, e. g. in the worship of Zeus
Lycaon in Arcadia and of Dionysus in Chios, and the occasional sacrifice
of captives, as when Themistocles sacrifices Persian prisoners at
Salamis to Dionysus Omestes (Plut. Themist.
21). The ordinary honorific animal sacrifices
consisted mainly of those animals which had been already tamed by man,
and used for food, e. g. the ox, sheep, goat, pig, and fowl; thus
bearing out the theory that the original idea of such sacrifice is that
it was a meal shared in by god and man. Where the victim is not one
eaten by man, the sacrifice is almost sure to be piacular or
sacramental. The local customs as to the choice of animals were of
endless variety, and are hard to explain: it was a complete science to
learn the predilections of the gods, which varied even at particular
periods of the year. As the temple-priesthood developed [SACERDOS
], so no doubt the
ritual became more complicated, and had, in larger temples at least, to
be fixed in writing: of this we have [p. 2.582]
inscriptions both of Italian and Greek origin (see Dittenberger,
Sylloge Inscr. Graec.
373, 388, and especially the
sacrificial calendar from Cos published in Journal of Hellenic
vol. iv. p. 323; for Italy, the great ritual
inscription of Iguvium, ed. Bücheler, Umbrica,
and the Fasti
in C. I. L.
The following general principles may be traced amid a crowd of details.
1. As to sex.
Male victims were usually
sacrificed to male deities, and female to goddesses, both in Greece and
Italy (Arnobius, 7.19, “Diis feminis feminas, mares maribus
hostias immolare, abstrusa et interior ratio est, vulgique a
cognitione remota,” &c. This rule held good in Greece
so widely (though not without exceptions: see Stengel, Quaest.
pp. 1-6) that an exception to it at Aulis in the
worship of Artemis, which often exhibits abnormal features, gave rise to
an explanatory myth (Paus. 9.19
). The same kind of symbolism is seen in the
kindred custom of sacrificing a barren cow to the dead (Od. 11.30
), with which may be compared the
offering of a pregnant cow to Tellus at the Roman Fordicidia (Ov. Fast. 4.631
), and of a pregnant sow
to Demeter at Mykonos and Andania (Ditt. 373, 388). 2. As to colour.
White animals were offered to heavenly
deities, black to those of the under-world (Arnob. l.c.
). Thus in Il. 3.103
white sheep is to be offered to the Sun, a black one to Earth (cf.
inscription from Mykonos, Ditt. 373): in Od.
, to Teiresias in the under-world, black sheep. Black
victims were offered to Poseidon in Od.
foll.: but we find also white ones offered him in later times
(Ditt. 373). So at Rome, where the importance and difficulty of getting
a white victim for Jupiter led to whitening with pipe-clay (Juv. 10.65
, “cretatum bovem” ).
3. As to soundness.
This was always demanded,
though it could not be always complied with. It is expressly laid down
in one of the most valuable ritual inscriptions we have (Ditt. 388, from
Andania, line 70) that the animals are to be εὐίερα, καθαρά, δ̔λόκληρα
(cf. Ditt. 373, line 20,
and Pollux, 1.26). Hence the elaborate organisation in some cities to
secure the proper selection; of which more at the end of this article.
4. Animals sacred to a deity were not usually sacrificed to that
This principle, which has a totemistic origin, and is
found in full working order in many antique religions (e. g. the
Egyptian and Mexican), probably was a ruling one in Greece in early
times, but can now only be traced in survivals which are often obscure.
One or two exceptions may be mentioned. No pig, in some places at least,
could be offered to Aphrodite (Hermann, p. 150, note 3; Aristoph. Ach. 793
): at Athens the
goat might not be offered to Athene (
), whose aegis or goat-skin points to the
goat as the totem of the Aegidae or goat-clan, which had the care of her
worship. To her were usually sacrificed bulls and sheep, to Zeus bulls
or heifers, to Demeter pigs. For a list of the predilections of Roman
deities, see Marquardt, 3.173. In these and other cases of
predilections, it is probable that the practice arose from the
well-known rule that a totem-clan did not kill or eat its own totem: but
as regards Italy and Greece the subject needs further investigation (A.
Lang, Myth, Ritual and Religion,
2.70 foll.; Robertson
Smith in Encycl. Brit.
l.c. p. 135). Instances of the
sacrifice of the sacred animal to the god to whom it is sacred are
probably of the mystical order of sacrifices, and will be mentioned
under that head.
These general principles may be said to have held good both in Greece and
Italy. Before leaving this subject we may notice that combinations of
animals for sacrifice were not uncommon. The best known example is that
of the SUOVETAURILIA
at Rome, where the ox, sheep, and pig were combined in the worship of
Mars (Cato, Cat. Agr. 141
): with this may
be classed the τριττὺς
of the Greeks, a
combination of animals, but not always of the same three. (See Od. 23.277
: ram, bull, and bear, to
Poseidon; and cf. Eustath. ad Od.
§ 26, note 2.) Lastly, where the proper victims could not be
had, substitutes in the form of cakes were sometimes used, as has been
already mentioned (Thuc. 1.126
, and Schol.:
cf. Hdt. 2.47
). In Thebes apples with wooden
feet and horns to imitate sheep were used in the cult of Apollo (Pollux,
1.30), and a like practice is recorded of the Locrians
(Schömann, 219). Such substitution was also known at Rome, and
is enunciated clearly by Serv. ad Aen.
, “Sciendum est in sacris simulata pro veris
accipi; unde cum de animalibus quae difficile inveniuntur est
sacrificium, de pane vel cera fiunt, et pro veris
accipiuntur:” cf. Tylor, 2.367. But these substitutes are more
common as survivals of human piacular sacrifice (see below).
B. Piacular Sacrifices.
The general idea of the honorific sacrifice was that the gods might be
propitiated with gifts, without any sense of sin being present in the
worshipper's mind. From these must be distinguished (though the
distinction is not always an easy one) those which have as their object
the expiation of some sin, generally in early ages blood-guiltiness within a group of kin,
or of purification from
pestilence, &c., brought about by some sin (Encycl.
s. v. Sacrifice,
Tylor, 2.350). The original idea was that this was inexpiable for the
defiled kin, save by the death of the slayer. As the practice of
substitution was extended, it came to be applied to such cases, and thus
we find not only the sacrifice of human beings by no means uncommon both
in Greece and Italy, but survivals of it in the form of substitutes,
either of animals or of some kind of puppet, or of symbolic actions
which indicate an originally real sacrifice. Further, piacular
sacrifices for lesser offences, usually a part of a ritual of
lustration, are found in later times, especially in Italy. Some examples
must be given of each of these classes of expiatory sacrifice.
That the idea of guilt demanding a human life as expiation was not
strange to the Greek mind is plainly seen in the myths, e. g. in those
of Theseus, Orestes, and Iphigeneia (cf. also Eur. Phoen. 914
21; Verg. A.
: where the blood-guiltiness is, however, not in each case
clear). At Athens we find it surviving in the THARGELIA
when two men called φάρμακοι
(Harpocr. s. v.) were driven out of
the city and stoned; and in a rite found also at Ephesus at a Thargelia
of that neighbourhood (cf. Tzetzes, Chil.
5.726 [p. 2.583]
foll.; Hipponax, Fragm.
foll.; Mannhardt, Myth. Forsch.
126 foll.). At Rhodes a
public victim was sacrificed at the beginning of the month Metageitnion,
for whom a criminal was afterwards substituted (Porph. de
2.54, where other similar cases are given). At Leucas a
criminal was sacrificed to Apollo by being cast from a rock: an age of
greater humanity supplied him with feathers to break the descent, and
rugs to fall on (Strabo, p. 452). A very similar case, as an expiation
for pestilence, is recorded from Massilia by Servius (Serv. ad Aen. 3.57
; Petron. 141). In
this case, as in the Mexican and other savage rites, the victim was
cherished ( “alendus anno integro publicis et purioribus
cibis” ); and in all these examples they seem to have been
adorned with garlands, &c., on their way to death. Sometimes an
animal was substituted for the human victim, as at Potniae, where a goat
was substituted for a boy in the bloom of youth (Paus. 9.8
; cf. 7.19, 2 and 3).
Occasionally we meet with the rite surviving only in a symbolic act, as
in the well-known case of the whipping of Spartan boys at the altar of
Artemis Orthia till the blood was drawn. With this may be compared the
striking passage, in Eur. Iph. T.
1458, where Athene
orders the human sacrifice in expiation for the death of Iphigeneia to
be commuted for the drawing of blood by a sword. So too, at the Roman
men were smeared with the victim's blood, which was then wiped off with
wool dipped in milk (cf. a curious parallel in Apollon. 4.700
foll., where purification for a murder is
effected by smearing the murderer's hands with the blood of a young pig,
and then wiping it off). Examples of the substitution of puppets are not
wanting, especially at Rome, where the rush-puppets cast into the Tiber
in May [ARGEI
] are described
by Dionys. as resembling men tied hand and foot, and were generally
believed to be substitutes for old men (see especially Mannhardt,
Antike Wald-u. Feldkülte,
265 foll.); and
according to Macrob. 1.7, 34, the oscilla or “effigies maniae
suspensae” were substitutes for the sacrifice of boys [OSCILLA
]. The meaning of
these Roman rites is not, however, fully ascertained.
In the Roman religion proper we have no trace of a regularly recurring
human sacrifice without substitution, which is doubtless partly owing to
the practical sense of the people, to the value attached to human life,
and to the bargaining character of their religion, so well illustrated
in the story of Numa in Plutarch, Numa,
It may probably be traced, however, in the ver
in which the first-born of a tribe were devoted to a
god, and sent forth from the city (Nissen, Tempt.
Fest. 379); in the rite of devotio
; Marquardt, 3.279 and reff.); in
the spilling of the blood of a gladiator at the feriae Latinae (Tertull.
9; Marquardt, 297); in the consecratio
of a criminal, who was thus made sacer
and the property of the gods (Id. 257);
and possibly in the ritus humanus
Vejovis cult (Preller-Jordan, Röm. Myth.
and Macrob. iii, 9, 10, where it is noticeable that the formula of
includes Vejovis) as well as in
the examples above given. In Etruria, and perhaps in other parts of
Italy, human sacrifice was well known: see Müller-Deecke,
2.20, and Dennis, Cities and
1.422, 478, 2.506; Gardthausen, Mastarna,
plate at end of volume.
It is at Rome, however, that the ordinary piacular sacrifices which do
not appear to represent substitution for human victims are best seen.
There they form a distinct class, and their immediate object was to
expiate, even by anticipation, any error or omission in the performance
of ritual, or some sacrilege, however slight, such as the bringing of
iron into the sacred grove of the Fratres Arvales (Henzen, Acta
22, 136-140; ARVALES).
Of this kind were the hostiae praecidaneae,
offered before the main sacrifice, in order to ensure the efficacy of
the latter (Gel. 4.6
; Fest. p. 223: the προθύειν
of Greek ritual seems to have a different sense). Here also belong the
piacula of the supplications [SUPPLICATIO
], and all sacrifices ordered to be performed
after the occurrence of prodigia. It is difficult to say how far the
Italian sacrifices of lustration belong to this class, e. g. the
suovetaurilia;> but the pikaklu
Iguvians (Bücheler, Umbrica,
314) seem to offer a parallel and to bring them within the class
(compare the language of the ritual in Cato, Cat. Agr. 141
). Greek examples of piacular sacrifices not
substitutes for human offerings are the χοιροκτόναι καθαρυοὶ
of Aesch. Eum. 273
; the Bouphonia at Athens, of which more
hereafter; the holocaust to Zeus Meilichios in Xen. Anab. 7
; and many
others may be found collected in Hermann, 2.23, note 19 and foll., and
§ 28, note 19, and in Schümann, 2.239. It should be
noted that the piacular sacrifices can in general be distinguished from
honorific by the fact of the victim being burnt whole
or not cooked at all, and at Rome by the fact of its not
being used for divination. They did not constitute a meal, but were
whole burnt offerings, and, unlike the honorific sacrifices, did not
always consist of edible animals, but included horses, asses, dogs (to
Hecate), &c. See Stengel, Quaest. Sacr.
C. Mystic or Sacramental Sacrifices.
This is a class which it is hard to deal with, because the sacrifices
here had in historical times lost their original meaning, being
survivals from an age of which the culture is only to be studied among
other races. They are believed to have their origin in the age of
totemistic religion, in which gods are formed out of the totem animals.
In that age we find--1. That the totem is not sacrificed to the god out
of which it was developed, except on certain solemn occasions. 2. That
on these occasions the sacrifice is of the nature of a sacrament, the
totem being (as in Mexico) eaten by all the worshippers, who thus in a
sense partook of the substance of their god. (J. G. Frazer,
reprinted from Encycl.
W. R. Smith, article Sacrifice,
p. 137; A. Lang, Myth, Ritual and
passim.) Here and there a sacrificial rite in Greece
indicates a descent from this age: and others, which are less distinctly
to be referred to it, may be noticed under the same head.
In the myth of Dionysus Zagreus, the god when captured by the Titans was
torn asunder in the form of a bull (cf. Paus.
.) This myth reflected the
nature of his sacrifices. In these, living animals were torn to
pieces--bulls [p. 2.584]
or fawns--and eaten raw by all
the celebrants (Lobeck, Agl.
653 foll.). The god, as the
animal, was once probably the totem of a tribe; and the worshippers
danced about dressed up in the skins, i. e. took the god-nature upon
them. Cf. for a similar practice of tearing to pieces in Chios, Porph.
2.55; but here the victim was human, and the
origin probably cannibalistic. A Roman parallel may probably be found in
the Lupercalia, where, after the ceremony of smearing above alluded to,
the priests girt themselves with the victims' skins, and, before
running round the Palatine, partook of a
luxurious feast, which may be a substitutory survival of the old
god-eating rite. Somewhat similar in character is the well-known worship
of Zeus Lycaon in Arcadia (Paus. 8.2
565 D); where the worshippers tasted the
sacrifice, but he who ate the morsel of flesh contained in it was
changed into a wolf. Cf. the Hirpi Sorani of Soracte (Mannhardt,
Antike Wald-u. Feldkülte,
another totemic feature is apparent, i. e. the wolves were said to have
carried off the flesh from the altar. Again, in the Diipolia at Athens,
the sacred bull was sacrificed, but the skin was sewn up and stuffed,
and all partook of it, “the life of the victim being renewed in
those who ate of it” (Porph. Abst.
This, as Prof. R. Smith (l.c.
) has pointed out,
is perhaps a relic of a form of blood covenant; for the legend of the
festival connects the origin with the adoption of a new family by the
In this festival of the Diipolia we notice another feature which suggests
a totemistic origin, and of which there are one or two other examples in
Greek and Roman ritual. Among totemistic peoples it is the deadliest
crime to kill the totemistic animal. Where this animal is sacred, the
slayer would pay for its death with his life. Thus not the priest
indeed, but the axe which slew the bull at the Athenian Zeusfeast, was
solemnly tried and condemned (Paus. 1.24
). At Tenedos the sacrificer of the
booted-calf (Lang, 2.233) was stoned and driven into the sea (Aelian,
Ael. NA 12.34
). Perhaps with this
curious ritual may be compared the story of Apollo flying in terror
after slaying the python (Lang, 2.195). Here also probably belongs the
mysterious ritual of the Regifugium at Rome, which has been so strangely
confused by many. [REGIFUGIUM
Another mystical totemistic feature, already alluded to, is the wearing
of the skin of the sacred animal. This, which is a very common feature
among totemistic peoples, has also left its traces in Greece, e. g. in
the Bacchic rites, and in Rome at the Lupercalia at least. As in Mexico,
the priest frequently also wore the attributes of the god: examples will
be found collected in Back, De Graecorum caerimoniis
in quibus homines deorum vice fungebantur,
The ordinary ritual of honorific sacrifice must now be more exactly
described. Unbloody sacrifices, it should be noted, naturally did
not call for the same exactness of observance as those in which
animals were offered; while piacular sacrifices, in which the victim
was almost always a whole burnt offering, or at least was not shared
as a meal (holocaust), were not only comparatively rare, but also
needed a simpler ritual than the meal-sacrifice, or followed the
ordinary ceremony, at least in its earlier stages. The process to be
described is found in all its main features in the Homeric poems. In
later times, an endless variety of local usage arose, as the detail
was developed partly through the influence of the temple priesthood,
partly through the increasing wealth (and consequent ceremonial) of
cities as well as temples. We will first describe the Homeric
ritual, and then indicate some points in which its leading features
became afterwards developed. The student who desires to study the
local variation must refer to the works of Hermann,
Schömann, Maury, and Martha, already frequently quoted; but
more especially to Pausanias, and to the C. I. G.
C. I. A.
In Homer (see esp. Od. 3.418
foll.) the rite is as follows. The victim, for the
choice of which there seems to have been no precise rule, though it
must be in a general sense τέλειος
; i. e. free from
blemish), and of a kind appropriate to the god, was led to the
altar, where, if an ox, its horns were or might be gilded, to
gratify the eyes of the deity. Then follow certain preliminary rites
of consecration. Water for lustration was brought, together with a
basket of grain (οὐλαί
ground or not is uncertain): with the former the hands at least of
the bystanders were sprinkled, and the latter was cast on the victim
and the altar (χερνίψαντο δ᾽ἔπειτα καὶ
1.449; cf. Od. 3.445
). When this was done, the chief sacrificer,
whether priest or not, offered his prayer (Il. 1.451
), and at the same time cut some hair from the
victim's head and cast it into the flame. This hair, if the
sacrifice had relation to a treaty or compact, was divided among the
parties concerned (II.
followed the slaughter of the victim either with axe or knife or
both; it was killed kneeling, as it is often represented on
sacrificial vases, with its head turned upwards if the sacrifice
were to celestial deities, downwards if to those of the under-world
). During the act of
slaughter the bystanding women, if any, cried aloud (ὀλόλυξαν
)--for what reason is not very
clear; perhaps this noise, like the flute-music of later times, was
meant to hide the cries of the animal, all unwillingness on its part
being held of ill omen. Lastly, the flesh was cut up, the thighs
were sliced, and the slices wrapped in double layers of fat and
placed on the altar to be wholly consumed for the god, after wine
had been poured on them. The entrails were then tasted, and arming
themselves with long spits, such as are often seen in vasepaintings
(see e. g. Baumeister, Denkm.
p. 1107), and with
five-pronged forks (πεμπώβολα
sacrificers set to work to roast the rest of the meat for their own
enjoyment. In Il. 1.472
feasting is accompanied by hymns to the god.
This ritual remained practically the same throughout the history of
Greek religion. In all Greek literature, down to Lucian, we find the
same notions prevalent about the part taken by the god, and the same
main features, e. g. the lustral water, the grain, the clipping of
the hair, and the distribution of flesh between deity and
sacrificers. See especially Aristoph.
foll.; Lucian, de
14. The monumental [p. 2.585]
evidence bears this out fully (see Martha, p. 67, note
5). But, apart from the great variety of local usage already
referred to, we may note at least three points in which a general
development took place in the way of elaborate regulations, and
especially as regards--1, the choice of victims; 2, the ceremonial
adornments; 3, the apportionment of flesh and skins. A brief
reference to each of these is all for which space can here be found.
1. The tendency of temple--worship and priestly influence was to
create a number of artificial requirements in respect of the colour,
sex, purity and perfectness of victims, especially on great public
occasions. This is most singularly illustrated in an inscription
from Cos, lately discovered, and edited by Mr. Hicks (Journ.
vol. ix. No. 2, p. 334 foll.). The selection
of the ox for sacrifice to Zeus Polieus, on the 19th day of the Coan
month Batromius, was a matter of the utmost solemnity and
difficulty. A holocaust or piacular offering of a pig had been made
on the previous day with a view to good-luck in the selection; but
it is obvious from the inscription that the Hieropoioi, who sat at a
table with the priest and inspected the oxen as they were driven
past, had often great difficulty in choosing. When a second herd was
driven in, an ox was to be sacrificed to Hestia, apparently as a
further aid; cf. Dittenberger, 338, 70, whence we learn that at
Andania (and probably at many other places) the victims underwent an
examination by the priest or other official, who affixed a seal
) to them if approved
of. On the other hand, such elaborate selection must have been
well-nigh impossible in the case of the great hecatombs at Athens:
there the chief function of the officials seems to have been rather
the procuring than the selection of victims. (For the duties of
at Athens, see Dittenb. 388;
Martha, pp. 70 and 71; [BOONAE;
HIEROPOEI.]) In the case of private sacrifices, as
distinguished from those undertaken by the state, it was no doubt
the business of the priest of the temple where the sacrifice was to
take place to examine the victim; but so long as it was of the right
kind, colour, &c., it is not probable that further rigidity
of rule was insisted on.
2. In regard to ceremonial adornment, we find a development chiefly
in two particulars, viz. the wearing of wreaths, and the use of
instrumental music. Wreaths and garlands, which on the monuments
invariably adorn the sacrificer as well as the victim, are not
mentioned in Homer (Schömann, p. 228). A few exceptions to
this rule are mentioned in later literature, e. g. at Paros, in the
worship of the Χάριτες,
occasions of domestic grief (Apollodorus, 3.15
; D. L. 2.54
). The place of the wailing of
the women, as represented by Homer, at the moment of slaughter, is
taken by the playing of the flutes (in Argos of a trumpet, Pollux,
4.87), as is often to be seen on sacrificial vase-paintings (Martha,
p. 84). The passage of Apollodorus just quoted shows plainly that
the absence of these accompaniments of sacrifice at Paros was a very
unusual feature, and needed a legend to explain it. Other details,
such as the use of oil and honey, the sprinkling of the altar with
the blood of the victim, &c., may probably have been at all
times in vogue in the temples, though unnoticed in the Homeric
accounts of sacrifice. For the development of hymn-singing and
dancing in relation to sacrifice, see Duncker, Hist. of
vol. ii. ch. 14.
3. In regard to the apportionment of the victim's flesh, which in
Homer, as we have seen, was a simple matter, we have in later times,
chiefly from inscriptions, a vast number of details and regulations,
showing the importance attached to it. Most of these define the
portion which is the perquisite of the priest (θεομοιρία
). This differed in
different worships: frequently it is the legs and skin; sometimes
the tongue and shoulder; in Fragm. Com. Graec.
(Didot), the thighs, flank, and left side of the head are mentioned.
(See Dittenberger, Nos. 373, 376, 379, and 388, line 85. Also
Journal of Hell. Stud.
l.c. p. 328 and note;
Stengel, op. cit.
p. 15 foll.) The rest of
the animal might, in the case of private sacrifices, be taken home
by the sacrificer to be used for a meal (the survival of the Homeric
practice), or even sent in the form of presents to friends
(Schömann, 231). This was, of course, impossible in the
case of holocausts, which were rarely honorific sacrifices: e. g. it
is expressly forbidden, in the inscription from Cos already quoted,
to take away any part of the pig which was burnt the day before the
Zeus festival. But in public sacrifices undertaken by the state, the
disposal of the carcases, which at Athens at least were sometimes
counted by hundreds, came to be an important matter of public
revenue, about which full information will be found in
appendices viii. and viii. b. Dermaticon
general name for this source of revenue; the skin being retained as
the special property of the state, while the flesh, after the
magistrates had received their portions, was distributed among the
whole number of demes, for purposes of feasting (C. I.
2.163, 305). In B.C. 334 the revenue arising from the
sale of these skins was no less than 5,500 drachmas. Thus the simple
primitive sacrifice, with its genuine meaning, came to be developed
into a state detail, whose importance was much more material than
Greek sacrifice, from a vase-painting (Blümner). The
emblematical figure of Nike filling the φιάλη shows that it is a
sacrifice for victory.
The introduction of Greek religious practice at an early period
overlaid the true Roman cult, and by degrees almost extinguished it,
though a distinction was always maintained by the learned between
the ritus Romanus
and [p. 2.586]
the ritus Graecus
(Marquardt, 3.186). What features of ritual are to be understood by
the former term, it is hard to say, except the veiling of the head
of the worshipper, which is expressly mentioned by Macrobius (1.8,
2; 3.6, 17; Plut. Q. P.
10), and the use of laurel or
other wreaths (Marquardt, l.c.,
note 4). It
may also be noted that the use of music and dancing at sacrificial
rites, which in Greece had such momentous literary results, never
developed at Rome into more than the mere accompaniment of tibicines,
the object of which was to
preclude all ill-omened sounds from reaching the ears of the
worshippers (Plin. Nat. 28.11
This, however, need not exclude the supposition that rude hymns,
such as those which we still possess of the SALII
and the FRATRES
ARVALES, were at one time in use (R. Peter, de
Romanorum precationum carminibus;
contained in the
Commentationes in honorem Reifferscheidii,
Breslau, 1884, p. 67 foll.). But we know enough to discern that the
leading characteristic of the ritus
was its solemnity and stillness, especially at the
time when the prayer, which was a more essential feature of it than
with the Greeks, was being led by the priest. This stillness is
indicated, not only by the veiling of the head, but by the fact that
the prayer was often not spoken aloud, but only muttered. Thus, in
the elaborate and genuinely Italian ritual of the Fratres Atiedii,
at Iguvium, we meet with the phrase “tases persnimu” ==
tacitus precator (Bücheler, Umbrica,
p. 60, note); which is to be explained as a
direction to the priest to murmur below his breath. (See reff. in
Marquardt, 178, note 4, and Bücheler, l.c.
) The more strictly religious, if not spiritual,
character of the worship in Italy is also shown by the absence of
revelry after sacrifice; or at least of the development of the rite
into a matter of public feasting, as at Athens. Another
characteristic which was more strongly marked in Italy than Greece
was the extreme and superstitious precision required in the whole
ritual. The form of prayer which the priest led and the worshippers
repeated after him must be gone through without the slightest error;
if such error were committed, the whole had to be repeated again.
The same rule applied to the ritual of sacrifice itself
p. 81; Arnob. 4.31;
Plut. Cor. 25
); and in all such
cases the error had to be wiped out by a piacular sacrifice in
addition. The same precision was observed in regard to the posture
of the worshipper, which differed in different cults: in the
it is likely that
this posture was a kneeling one in the act of prayer (Marquardt,
179, note 4), while usually the person praying stood with
outstretched arms, and looking to the east. In the cult of Tellus
and Ops, he touched the earth with his hands (Macrob. 1.10, 21; 3.9,
12). But to gain an adequate idea of the extraordinary lengths to
which this precision in all respects was carried by Italian custom,
and maintained by written rules, the student should not fail to
consult the Iguvian inscription so often quoted, with the
translations and commentaries of Bréal or
Bücheler (Bréal, Les Tables
The first and sixth tables afford the best
A succinct description of an ordinary Roman sacrifice may be given in
conclusion; in which it will now be easy for the student to
distinguish some at least of the Greek and Italian elements. For
further detail he is referred to Marquardt, 180 foll. (in the new
French translation, vol. i. pp. 216 fell.); and for an immense
collection of variety of detail, which is however wrongly used as if
belonging to a single act of sacrifice, to the article in Pauly's
vol. vi. pt. i. pp. 671
The victim (victima
is used of the
of the smaller animals)
was led to the altar adorned with fillet and ribbons (infulae
); the gilding of the horns in the case of an ox is
also mentioned (Henzen, Act. Fratr, Arv.
great occasions of lustration, e. g. of an army by a general, or of
the people by a censor, the leaders of the victims must have names
of good omen. The Greek rule held good here also, that the victim
must come willingly. Then followed the immolatio,
also a counterpart of the Greek ritual, which
consisted in dedicating the animal by strewing on its head the
or prepared cake (Serv. ad Aen. 4.57
); wine and
incense were also used for this purpose, and in Verg. A. 6.245
the Greek practice is
alluded to of cutting hair from the victim's head and casting it
into the fire. The beast was then slain, the larger ones with axe or
hammer, the smaller with the knife: this was the business, in public
honorific sacrifices at least, not of the priest, but of assistants
(cultrarii, popae, victimarii
). When the
victim was dead, the most important part of the ceremony began: viz.
the extraction and examination of the exta
and the preparation for burning them on the altar.
is to be understood the liver,
gall, lungs, and heart, with the interior skin. These, and
especially the liver, were in all sacrifices except piacular ones
subjected to a careful inspection, with a view to ascertain whether
the god was pleased; the idea being, as has been already pointed
out, that he showed his good and ill will in the organs of the
victim. (For the complicated science of augury which grew out of
this idea in Italy, see article DIVINATIO;
Bouché--Leclercq, Divination dans
vol. iv.) If the inspection were
is the technical
word), the priest proceeded to prepare the exta
either by boiling or by roasting on spits; the
latter practice seems to have been confined to the sacrifices of
sheep and lambs (Varro, L. L.
5.98). They were then
laid on a dish, together with certain other parts of the flesh
(Arnob. 7.24), and in this form were called prosecta
(for other forms of the word see Marquardt,
183; in the Iguvian inscription it is proseseto
); on this again the mola
was sprinkled and wine poured (Cic. Div. 2.1. 6
and it was then ready to be placed on the altar (exta porricere
That this preparation of the exta
the leading feature in the rite, is well shown in the fact that on
the dies intercisi
of the calendar, the
slaughter of the victim took place in the morning, and the placing
of the exta
on the altar was delayed
till the evening. The additions to the exta
from other parts of the victim were called augmenta;
(Marquardt, 184) sometimes mentioned appear to have
been separate dishes, also placed on the altar for consumption. The
rest of the flesh, or viscera
(Serv. ad Aen. 6.253
), was eaten
by those offering the sacrifice, or [p. 2.587]
priest in the case of piacular sacrifices (ib. 3.231), where the
victim was not burnt whole (cp. ARVALES;
C. I. L.
6.2104). But we hear very little of priests'
portions or of sacrificial feasting; the Romans were never so lavish
of their victims as the Greeks, and the absence of a regular
temple-priesthood enabled them to dispense with perquisites as a
means of securing the priests a livelihood. The inspection and
preparation of the exta
chief object and feature of sacrifice; and thus, in spite of the
predominance of the Graecus ritus,
peculiar characteristics of the Italian religious temperament were
preserved till late times in the Roman ceremonial. (In the foregoing
description of the Roman ritual, Marquardt's excellent account has
been closely followed.)