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THARGE´LIA (θαργήλια), 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), or 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. 1600), 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, and 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, Nat. Deor. 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, φαρμα_κοί: cf. Bergk, Lyr. Graec. 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 Φαρμακοί). 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. Mommsen, Heort. p. 421),--and afterwards out of the city to a place near the sea, with the accompaniment of a peculiar melody, called κραδίης νόμος, played on the flute (Hesych. sub voce). [Schömann (Griech. Alterthümer, 2.456), however, says the κραδίης νόμος 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, Dorians, 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 priori 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 ἀμορφότερον (a very Greek idea), and Schol. on Aristoph. Frogs 733 says they were τοὺς φαύλους καὶ παρὰ τῆς φύσεως ἐπιβουλευομένους, 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. 3.57). 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 (δημοσίᾳ τρεφόμενοι).

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; Plut. 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. de Choreut. § § 11, 12, 13; C. I. G. 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. 465.27). 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. Πύθιον). At the assembly of the Thargelia crowns were proclaimed (Law ap. Dem. Mid. 517.10). The Archon Eponymus and his ἐπιμεληταὶ had 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. 100.15). [ADOPTIO (Greek).]

Respecting the origin of the Thargelia, there are two accounts. According to Istrus (ap. Phot. Lex. p. 467; Etym. M., and Harpocrat. s. v. Φαρμακὸς) the φαρμακοὶ derived their name from a man Φάρμακος, 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, Griech. Myth. 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, 1.209; Schömann, Griechische Alterthümer, 2.254, 455-6; A. Mommsen, Heortologie der Athener, 50, 53, 414-425.)

[L.S] [L.C.P]

hide References (5 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (5):
    • Aristophanes, Frogs, 733
    • Aristophanes, Knights, 729
    • Aristophanes, Lysistrata, 835
    • Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus, 1600
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 3.57
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