See also:base or pedestal used for supplication and sacrifice to gods or to deified heroes . The
See also:necessity for such sacrificial furniture has been
See also:felt in most religions, and consequently we find its use widespread among races and nations which have no mutual connexion .
See also:Mesopotamia.—Altars are found from the earliest times in the remains of Babylonian cities; the
See also:oldest are square erections of
See also:sun-dried bricks . In
See also:Assyrian mounds
See also:limestone and alabaster are the chief material . They are of varying
See also:form; an
See also:altar shown in a
See also:relief at
See also:Khorsabad is ornamented with stepped battlements, which are the
See also:equivalent of the
See also:familiar " altar-horns " in
See also:Hebrew ritual . An altar also from Khorsabad (now in the
See also:British Museum) has a circular table and a solid base triangular on plan, with pilasters ornamented with animals' paws at the angles . A third variety, of which an 8th century s,c. example from Nimrfid exists in the British Museum, is a rectangular
See also:block ornamented at the ends by cylindrical rolls . These altars are in height from 2 to 3 ft . According to
See also:Herodotus (i . 183) the
See also:great altars of Babylonia were made of gold .
See also:Egypt.—In Egypt altars took the form of a truncated
See also:cone or of a cubical block of polished• granite or of
See also:basalt, with one or more
See also:basin-like depressions in the upper
See also:surface for receiving fluid libations . These had channels whereby fluids poured into the receptacles could be drained off .
The surface wasplain, inscribed with dedicatory or other legends, or adorned with symbolical
See also:carving .
See also:Palestine.—Recent excavations, especially at
See also:Gezer, have shown that the earliest altars, or rather sacrifice hearths, in Palestine were circular spaces marked out by small stones set on end . At Gezer a pre-Semitic place of worship was found in which three such hearths stood together, and drained into a cave which may reasonably be supposed to have been regarded as the residence of the divinity . These circular hearths pejsisted into the Canaanite
See also:period, but were ultimately superseded by the Semitic developments . To the
See also:primitive nomadic Semite the presence of the divinity was indicated by springs, shady trees, remarkable rocks and other landmarks; and from this earliest conception
See also:grew the theory that a numen might be induced to take up an abode in an artificial heap of stones, or a pillar set upright for the purpose . The
See also:blood of the victim was poured over the
See also:stone as an offering to the divinity dwelling within it; and from this conception of the stone arose the further and final view, that the stone was a table on which the victim was to be burned . Very few specimens of early Palestinian altars remain . The megalithic structures
See also:common in the Hauran and
See also:Moab may be entirely sepulchral . At Gezer no definite altar was discovered in the great High Place; though it is possible that a
See also:bank of intensely hard compact
See also:earth, in which were embedded a large number of human skulls, took its place . A very remarkable altar, at
See also:present unique, was found at Taanach by the
See also:Austrian excavators . It is pyramidal in shape, and the surface is ornamented with human-headed animals in relief . This, like the earliest Babylonian altars, is of baked earth .
The Old Testament conception of the altar varies with thestage of religious development . In the pre-Deuteronomic period altars are erected in any place where there had appeared to be a manifestation of deity, or under any circumstance in which the aid of deity was invoked; not by heretical individuals, but by the acknowledged religious leaders, such as Noah at
See also:Ararat, Abraham at
See also:Bethel &c., Isaac at
See also:Beersheba, Jacob at Bethel, Moses at Rephidim,
See also:Joshua at Ebal, Gideon at Ophrah,
See also:Samuel at Ramah, Elijah at
See also:Carmel, and others . These primitive altars were of the simplest possible description —in fact they were required to be so by the regulation affecting them, preserved in Exodus xx . 24, which prescribes that in every place where Yahweh records his name an altar of earth or of unhewn stone, without steps or other extraneous ornamentation, shall be erected . The priestly regulations affecting altars are of a very elaborate nature, and are framed with a single
See also:eye to the essential theory of later Hebrew worship—the centralization of all worship at one
See also:shrine . These recognize two altars, which by the authors of this portion of the
See also:Pentateuch are placed from the first in the tabernacle in the wilderness—a theory which is inconsistent with the other evidences of the nature of the earlier Hebrew worship, to which we have just alluded . The first of these altars is that for burnt-offering . This altar was in the centre of the
See also:court of the tabernacle, of
See also:wood, 3 cubits high and 5 square . It was covered with copper, was provided with " horns " at the corners (like those of
See also:Assyria), hollow in the
See also:middle, and with rings on the sides into which the staves for its transportation could be run (Ex.
See also:xxvii . 1-8) . The altar of the Solomonic
See also:temple is on similar lines, but much larger . It is now generally recognized that the description of the tabernacle altar is intended to provide a precedent for this vast structure, which would otherwise be inconsistent with the traditional view of the
See also:simple Hebrew altars .
In the second temple a new altar was built after thefashion of the former (r Macc. iv . 47) of " whole stones from the
See also:mountain." In Herod's temple the altar was again built after the same
See also:model . It is described by
See also:Josephus (v . 5 . 6) as 15 cubits high and 50 cubits square, with
See also:angle horns, and with an " insensible acclivity " leading up to it (a
See also:device to evade the pre-Deuteronomic regulation about steps) . It was made without any use of iron, and no iron
See also:tool was ever allowed to
See also:touch it . The bloodand refuse were discharged through a drain into the
See also:brook Kedron; this drain probably still remains, in the Bir el-Arwah, under the Dome of the
See also:Rock " in the mosque which covers the site of the temple . The second altar was the altar of
See also:incense, which was in the
See also:holy place of the tabernacle . It was of similar construction to the altar of burnt-offering, but smaller, being 2 cubits high and r cubit square (Ex.
See also:xxx. i-5) . It was overlaid with gold . Solomon's altar of incense (i K. vi . 20) is referred to in a problematical passage from which it would appear to have been of
See also:cedar .
But the authenticity of the passages describing the altar of incense in the tabernacle, and the historicity of the corresponding altar in Solomon's temple, are matters of keen dispute among critics . The incense altar in the second temple was removed by
See also:Antiochus Epiphanes (r Macc. i . 21) and restored by Judas Maccabaeus (1 Macc. iv . 49) . That in the temple of Herod is referred to in Luke i. rr . The ritual uses of these altars are sufficiently explained by their names . On the. first was a
See also:fire continually burning, in which the burnt-offerings were consumed . On the second an offering of incense was made twice a
See also:day . In the pre-Deuteronomic passage, Exodus xxi . 14i the use of the altar as an
See also:asylum is postulated, though denied to the wilful murderer . This is a survival of the
See also:ancient belief that the deity resided in the pillar or stone-heap, and that the fugitive was placing himself under the
See also:protection of the
See also:local numen by seeking sanctuary . From i
See also:Kings i .
5o it would appear that the suppliant caught hold of the altar-horns (compare r Kings ii . 28), as though
See also:special protective virtue resided in this important though obscure
See also:part of the structure .
See also:Greece and Rome.—According to the difference in the service for which they were employed, altars fell into two classes . Those of the first class were pedestals, so small and low that the suppliant could kneel upon them; these stood inside the temples, in front of the sacred image . The second class consisted of larger tables destined for burnt sacrifice; these were placed in the open air, and, if connected with a temple, in front of the entrance . Possibly altars of the former class were in
See also:historical times substitutes for, and rendered the same service as, the bases of the sacred images within the temples in earlier ages . In this case the altar of
See also:Apollo at
See also:Delphi, upon which on the Greek vases
See also:Neoptolemus is frequently represented as taking
See also:refuge from
See also:Orestes, might be regarded as the pedestal of an invisible image of the
See also:god, and as fulfilling the same
See also:function as did the base of the actual image of Athene in Troy, towards which
See also:Cassandra fled from Ajax . The second class of altars, called flu pot by the Greeks and altaria by the Romans, appears to have originated in temporary constructions such as heaps of earth,
See also:turf or stone, made for kindling a sacrificial fire as occasion required . But sacrifices to earth divinities were made on the earth itself, and those to the infernal deities in sunk hollows (Odyss. x . 25; Festus s. v . Altaria) . The note of Eustathius (Odyss. xii .
252) perhaps indicates some customs reminiscent of a primitive antiquity in which the sacrifice was made without an altar at all . He says airofwpaa r va iepa (Iv o$K hri fwpoii b KaOaycvpas OA' Frri i 4 ovs —" some holy places away from altars, whose offering is made not on an altar but on the
See also:Pausanias (vi . 20 . 7) speaks of an altar at
See also:Olympia made of unbaked bricks . In some primitive holy shrines the bones and ashes of the victims sacrificed were allowed to accumulate, and upon this new fires were kindled . Altars so raised were, like most religious survivals, considered as endowed with particular sanctity; the most remarkable recorded instances of such are the altars of
See also:Hera at
See also:Samos, and of
See also:Pan at Olympia (Paus. v . 14 . 6; v . 15 . 5), of Heracles at
See also:Thebes (Paus. ix. rt . 7), and of
See also:Zeus at Olympia (Paus. v . 13 .
5) . The last-mentioned stood on aplatform (vpo8voar) measuring 125 ft. in circumference, and led up to by steps, the altar itself being 22 ft. high .
See also:Women were excluded from the platform . Where hecatombs were sacrificed, the rp6evats necessarily assumed
See also:colossal proportions, as in the case of the altar at Parion, where it measured on each side 600 ft . The altar of Apollo at
See also:Delos (6 Kepanvos f wpGs) was made of the horns of goats believed to have been slain by
See also:Diana; while at
See also:Miletus was an altar composed of the blood of victims sacrificed (Pans. v . 13 . 6) . The altar at Phorae in
See also:Achaea was of unhewn stones (Pans. vii . 22 . 3) . The altar used at the festival in
See also:honour of
See also:Daedalus on Mt .
See also:Cithaeron was of wood, and was consumed along with the sacrifice (Paus. ix .
3 . 4) . Others of
See also:bronze are mentioned . But these were exceptional, the .usual material of an altar was marble, and its form, both among the Greeks and Romans, was either square or
See also:round; polygonal altars, of which examples still exist, being exceptions . When sculptured decorations were added they frequently took the form of imitations of the actual festoons with which it was usual to
See also:ornament altars, or of symbols, such as crania and horns of oxen, referring to the victims sacrificed . As a
See also:rule, the altars which existed apart from temples
See also:bore the name of the
See also:person by whom they were dedicated and the names of the deities in whose service they were, or, if not the name, some obvious
See also:representation of the deity . Such, for example, is the purpose of the figures of the Muses on an altar dedicated to them, now to be seen in the British Museum . An altar was retained for the service of one particular god, except where through local tradition two or more deities had become intimately associated, as in the case of the altar at Olympia to
See also:Artemis. and
See also:Alpheus jointly, or that of
See also:Poseidon and
See also:Erechtheus in the
See also:Erechtheum at Athens . The most remarkable instance of multiple dedication was, however, at
See also:Oropus, where the altar was divided into five parts, one dedicated to Heracles, Zeus and Paean Apollo, a second to heroes and their wives, a third to
See also:Hestia, Hermes,
See also:Amphiaraus and the
See also:children of
See also:Amphilochus, a
See also:fourth to
See also:Aphrodite Panacea,
See also:Health, and Healing Athene, and the fifth to the
See also:Nymphs, Pan, and the
See also:rivers Archelous and Cephissus (Pans. i . 34 . 2) . Such deities were styled oGpfIcvpot, each having a
See also:separate part of the altar (Pans. i .
34 . 2) . Other terms are arywvtoc, or dpo(3ia aoe . Deities of an inferior
See also:order, who were conceived as working together—e.g. the
See also:wind gods—had an altar in common . In the same way, the "unknown gods " were regarded as a unit, and had in Athens and at Olympia one altar for all (Paus. i . 1 . 4; V . 14 . 5; cf . Acts of Apostles, xvii . 18) . An altar to all the gods is mentioned by
See also:Aeschylus (SUP P1 .
222) . Among the exceptional classes of altars are also to be mentioned those on which fire could not be kindled (l3wpol 6-repot), and those which were kept
See also:free from blood (/3wpoi avaiparcroe), of which in both respects the altar of Zeus Hypatos at Athens was an example . The lvria was a round altar; the Euxapa, one employed apparently for sacrifice to inferior deities or heroes (but iaXapa 4'oi/3ou, Aesch . Pers . 205) . In Rome an altar erected in front of a statue of a god was always required to be
See also:lower than the statue itself (
See also:Vitruvius iv . 9) . Altars were always places of refuge, and even criminals and slaves were there safe, violence offered to them being insults to the gods whose suppliants the refugees were for the
See also:time being . They were also taken hold of by the Greeks when making their most
See also:solemn oaths . Ancient
See also:America.—As a single specimen of an altar, wholly unrelated to any of the foregoing, we may cite the ancient Mexican example described by W .
See also:Bullock (Six Months in Mexico,
See also:London, 1824, p . 335) .
This was cylindrical, 25 ft. in circumference, withsculpture representing the conquests of the
See also:national warriors in fifteen different groups round the side.' Portable altars and tables of offerings were used in pre-Christian as well as in Christian ritual . One such was discovered in the Gezer excavations, dating about 200 B.C . It was a slab of polished limestone about 6 in. square with five cups in its upper surface . Another from the same place was a small cubical block of limestone bearing a dedication to Heracles . They have also been found in Assyria .
See also:Pocket altars are still used in some forms of worship in India . See the Journal of the Royal
See also:Asiatic Society, 1852, p . 71 . ' Bullock also says (p . 354) that the altar in the
See also:church of the
See also:village of S .
ALTARS IN THE CHRISTIAN
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