) are names by which the
ancients designated presents made to the gods, either by individuals or
communities. Sometimes they are also called dona
The belief that
the gods were pleased with costly presents was as natural to the ancients as
the belief that they could be influenced in their conduct towards men by the
offering of sacrifices; and, indeed, both sprang from the same feeling.
Presents were mostly given as tokens of gratitude for some favour which a
god had bestowed on man; but in many cases they were intended to induce the
deity to grant some special favour. At Athens, every one of the six
thesmothetae, or, according to Plato (Phaedr.
p. 235 D), all
the nine archons, on entering upon their office, had to take an oath, that
if they violated any of the laws, they would dedicate in the temple of
Delphi a golden statue of the size of the man who dedicated it (ἀνδριάντα χρυσοῦν ἰσομέτρητον,
see Plut. Sol. 25
; Pollux, 8.85; Suidas, s. v.
: Heraclid. Pont.
100.1). In this last case the anathema was a kind of punishment, in which
the statue was regarded as a substitute for the person forfeited to the
gods. Almost all presents of this kind were dedicated in temples, to which
in some places an especial building was added, in which these treasures were
preserved. Such buildings were called θησαυροί
(treasuries); and in the most frequented temples of
Greece many states had their separate treasuries. (Boeckh, P.
p. 441 ff.) The act of dedication was called ἀνατιθέναι,
The custom of making donations to the gods is found among the ancients from
the earliest times of which we have any record down to the introduction of
Christianity; and even after that period it was, with some modifications,
observed by the Christians during the Middle Ages. In the heroic ages of
Grecian history the anathemata were of a simple description, and consisted
of chaplets and garlands of flowers. A very common donation to the gods
seems to have been that of locks of hair (κόμης
), which youths and maidens, especially young brides,
cut off from their heads and consecrated to some deity. (Hom. Il. 23.141
6; Eur. Orest. 96
1093;. Plut. Thes. 5
.) This custom in some places lasted till a very late
period: the maidens of Delos dedicated their hair before their wedding to
Hecaerge (Paus. 1.43.4
), and those of Megara
to Iphinoe. Pausanias (2.11.6
) saw the statue
of Hygieia at Titane covered all over with locks of hair which had been
dedicated by women. Costly garments (πέπλοι
) are likewise mentioned among the earliest presents made
to the gods, especially to Athena and Hera. (Hom. II.
6.293, 303.) At Athens the sacred πέπλος
of Athena, in which the great adventures of ancient
heroes were worked, was woven by maidens every fifth year, at the festival
of the great Panathenaea. [ARRHEPHORIA
] (Compare Aristoph.
; Pollux, 7.50 ; Wesseling, ad
Diod. Sic. ii. p. 440.) A similar peplus was woven every five
years at Olympia, by sixteen women, and dedicated to Hera. (Paus. 5.16.2
At the time when the fine arts flourished in Greece the anathemata were
generally works of art of exquisite workmanship, such as high tripods
bearing vases, craters, cups, candelabras, pictures, statues, and various
other things. The [p. 1.688]
materials of which they were
made differed according to circumstances; some were of bronze, others of
silver or gold (Athen. 6.231
&c.), and their number is to us almost inconceivable (Demosth.
iii. p. 35). The treasures of the temples of
Delphi and Olympia, in particular, surpass all conception. Even Pausanias,
at a period when numberless works of art must have perished in the various
ravages and plunders to which Greece had been exposed, saw and described an
astonishing number of anathemata. Many works of art are still extant,
bearing evidence by their inscriptions that they were dedicated to the gods
as tokens of gratitude. Every one knows of the magnificent presents which
Croesus made to the god of Delphi. (Hdt. 1.50
&c.) It was an almost invariable custom, after the happy issue of a
war, to dedicate the tenth part of the spoil (ἀκροθίνιον, ἀκρόλειον,
) to the gods, generally in the form of some work
of art. (Hdt. 8.82
; Thuc. 1.132
; Paus. 3.18.5
, &c.) Sometimes magnificent specimens
of armour, such as a fine sword, helmet, or shield, were set apart as
anathemata for the gods. (Aristoph. Kn.
, and Schol.) The Athenians always dedicated to Athena the tenth
part of the spoil and of confiscated goods; and to all the other gods
collectively, the fiftieth part. (Demosth. c. Timocr.
&c.) After a seafight, a ship, placed upon some eminence, was
sometimes dedicated to Neptune. (Thuc. 2.84
.) It is not improbable that
trophies which were always erected on the field of battle, as well as the
statues of the victors in Olympia and other places, were originally intended
as tokens of gratitude to the god who was supposed to be the cause of the
success which the victorious party had gained. We also find that on some
occasions the tenth part of the profit of some commercial undertaking was
dedicated to a god in the shape of a work of art. Respecting the large and
beautiful craters dedicated to the temples, see the article CRATER
Individuals who had escaped from some danger were no less anxious to show
their gratitude to the gods by anathemata than communities. The instances
which occur most frequently are those of persons who had recovered from an
illness, especially by spending one or more nights in a temple of Asclepius
). The most celebrated temples of
this divinity were those of Epidaurus, Cos, Tricca, and, at a later period,
that of Rome. (Plin. Nat. 29.4
; compare F.
A. Wolf, Vermischte Schriften und Aufsätze,
&c.) Cures were also effected in the grotto of Pluto and Proserpina,
in the neighbourhood of Nisa. (Strab. ix.
, xiv. p. 649.) In all cases in which a cure was effected
presents were made to the temple, and little tablets (tabulae votivae
) were suspended on its walls, containing an
account of the danger from which the patient had escaped, and of the manner
in which he had been restored to health. Some tablets of this kind, with
their inscriptions, are still extant. (Wolf, l.c.
424, &c.) From some relics of ancient art we must infer that in some
cases, when a particular part of the body was attacked by disease, the
person, after his recovery, dedicated an imitation of that part in gold or
silver to the god to whom he owed his recovery. Persons who had escaped from
shipwreck usually dedicated to Neptune the dress which they wore at the time
of their danger (Hor. Carm. 1.5.13
; Verg. A. 12.768
); but if they had escaped
naked, they dedicated some locks of their hair. (Lucian, de Merc.
100.1, vol. i. p. 652, ed. Reiz.) Shipwrecked persons also
suspended votive tablets in the temple of Neptune, on which their accident
was described or painted. Individuals who gave up the profession or
occupation, by which they had gained their livelihood, frequently dedicated
in a temple the instruments which they had used, as a grateful
acknowledgment of the favour of the gods. The soldier thus dedicated his
arms, the fisherman his net, the shepherd his flute, the poet his lyre,
cithara, or harp, &c.
It would be impossible to attempt to enumerate all the occasions on which
individuals, as well as communities, showed their gratefulness towards the
gods by anathemata. Descriptions of the most remarkable presents in the
various temples of Greece may be read in the works of Herodotus, Strabo,
Pausanias, Athenaeus, and others.
The custom of making presents to the gods was common to Greeks and Romans,
but among the latter the donaria were neither as numerous nor as magnificent
as in Greece; and it was more frequent among the Romans to show their
gratitude towards a god, by building him a temple, by public prayers and
), or by celebrating
festive games in honour of him, than to adorn his sanctuary with beautiful
and costly works of art. Hence the word donaria
was used by the Romans to designate a temple or an altar, as well as statues
and other things dedicated in a temple. (Verg. G.
; Ovid, Ov. Fast. 3.335
The occasions on which the Romans made donaria to their gods are, on the
whole, the same as those we have described among the Greeks, as will be seen
from a comparison of the following passages :--Liv.
; Suet. Cl. 25
; Tac. Ann. 3.71
; Plaut. Amphitr.
3.2, 65; Curcul.
1.1, 61, 2.2, 10; Aurel. Vict.
35 ; Gellius, 2.10
; Lucan 9.515
de Nat. Deor. 3.3. 7
; Hor. Epist. i.
1, 4; Stat. Silv. 4.92