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Originally appearing in Volume V26, Page 840 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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THERSITES, the ugliest man in the Greek camp before Troy, celebrated for his biting tongue. The special objects of his attack were the leaders of the army, and Homer (Iliad, ii. 212) tells how he was chastised by Odysseus for daring to abuse the commander-in-chief. According to a later story, Achilles, after wishing to see whether Theseus was really the son of Poseidon, flung his ring into the sea. Theseus dived and brought it up, together with a golden crown, the gift of Amphitrite. On the return voyage the ship touched at Naxos, and there Theseus abandoned Ariadne. He landed also at Delos, and there he and his comrades danced the crane dance, the complicated movements of which were meant to imitate the windings of the Labyrinth .l In historical times this dance was still danced by the Delians round a horned altar. Theseus had promised Aegeus that, if he returned successful, the black sail with which the fatal ship always put to sea should be exchanged for a white one? But he forgot his promise; and when Aegeus from the Acropolis at Athens descried the black sail out at sea, he flung himself from the rock and died. Hence at the festival which commemorated the return of Theseus there was always weeping and lamentation. Theseus now carried out a political revolution in Attica by abolishing the semi-independent powers of the separate townships and concentrating those powers at Athens, and he instituted the festival of the Panathenaea,3 as a symbol of the unity of the Attic race. Further, according to tradition, he instituted the three classes or castes of the eupatrids (nobles), geomori (husbandmen), and demiurgi (artisans). He extended the territory of Attica as far as the isthmus of Corinth. He was the first to celebrate in their full pomp the Isthmian games in honour of Poseidon; for the games previously instituted by Hercules in honour of Melicertes had been celebrated by night, and had partaken of the nature of mysteries rather than of a festival. Of Theseus's adventures with the Amazons there were different accounts. According to some, he !sailed with Hercules to. the Euxine, and there won the Amazon Antiope as the meed of valour; others said that he sailed on his own account, and captured Antiope by stratagem. There-after the Amazons attacked Athens. Antiope fell fighting on the side of Theseus, and her tomb was pointed out on the south side of the acropolis. By Antiope Theseus had a son, Hippolytus. On the death of Antiope, Theseus married Phaedra. She fell in love with her stepson Hippolytus, who, resisting her advances, was accused by her to Theseus of having attempted her virtue. Theseus in a rage imprecated on his son the wrath of Poseidon. His prayer was answered: as Hippolytus was driving beside the sea, a bull issuing from the waves terrified his horses, and he was thrown and killed. This tragic story is the subject of one of the extant plays of Euripides' The famous friendship between Theseus and Pirithous, king of the Lapiths, originated thus. Hearing of the strength and courage of Theseus, Pirithous desired to put them to the test. Accordingly he drove away from Marathon some cows which belonged to Theseus. The latter pursued, but when he came up with the robber the two heroes were so filled with admiration of each other that they swore brotherhood. At the marriage of Pirithous to Hippodamia (or Deidamia) a fight broke out between the Lapiths and Centaurs, in which the Lapiths, assisted by Theseus, were victorious, and drove the i The Ostiaks of Siberia have an elaborate crane dance, in which the dancers are dressed up with skins and the heads of cranes (P. S. Pallas, Reise durch verschiedene Provinzen des russischen Reichs, 1778). 2 So, too, the ship that sailed annually from Thessaly to Troy with offerings to the shade of Achilles put to sea with sable sails (Philostratus, Heroica, xx. 2). The ship that was to bring Iseult to the mortally wounded Tristram was to hoist a white sail if she was on board, a black sail if she was not. The black sails recur in the modern Greek version of the tale of Theseus. Cf. Asiatick Researches, ix. 97. 3 Besides the Panathenaea Theseus is said to have instituted the festival of the Synoikia or Metoikia. Wachsmuth ingeniously supposes that the latter festival commemorated the local union in a single city of the separate settlements on the Acropolis and its immediate neighbourhood, while the Panathenaea commemorated the political union of the whole of Attica (C. Wachsmuth, Die Stadt Athos im Alterthum, 1874, P. 453 sq). ' Theseus is also said to have taken part in the Argonautic expedition and the Calydonian boar-hunt. Centaurs out of the country. Theseus and Pirithous now carried off Helen from Sparta, and when they drew lots for her she fell to the lot of Theseus, who took her to Aphidnae, and left her in charge of his mother Aethra and his friend Aphidnus. He now descended to the lower world with Pirithous, to help his friend to carry off Proserpine. But the two were caught and confined in Hades till Heracles came and released Theseus. When Theseus returned to Athens he found that a sedition had been stirred up by Menestheus, a descendant of Erechtheus, one of the old kings of Athens. Failing to quell the outbreak, Theseus in despair sent his children to Euboea, and after solemnly cursing the Athenians sailed away to the island of Scyrus, where he had ancestral estates. But Lycomedes, king of Scyrus, took him up to a high place, and killed him by casting him into the sea. Long afterwards, at the battle of Marathon (490 B.C.), many of the Athenians fancied they saw the phantom of Theseus, in full armour, charging at their head against the Persians. When the Persian war was over the Delphic oracle bade the Athenians fetch the bones of Theseus from Scyrus, and' lay them in Attic earth. It fell to Cimon's lot in 469 B.C. to discover the hero's grave at Scyrus and bring back his bones to Athens. They were deposited in the heart of Athens, and henceforth escaped slaves and all persons in peril sought and found sanctuary at the grave of him who in his life had been a champion of the oppressed. His chief festival, called Theseia, was on the 8th of the month Pyanepsion (October 21st),- but the 8th day of every other month was also sacred to him.6 Whatever we may think of the historical reality of Theseus, his legend almost certainly contains recollections of historical events, e.g. the ouvoiKieuds, whether by this we understand the political centralization of Attica at Athens or a local union of previously separate settlements on the site of Athens. The birth of Theseus at Troezen points to the immigration of an Ionian family or tribe. With this agrees the legend of the contest between Athena and Poseidon for supremacy on the acropolis of Athens, for Theseus is intimately connected with Poseidon, the great Ionian god. Aegeus, the father of Theseus, has been identified by some modern scholars with Poseidon. The well-preserved Doric temple to the north of the acropolis at Athens, commonly known as the Theseum, was long supposed to be the sanctuary in which the bones of Theseus reposed. But archaeologists have generally abandoned this conjecture. There were several (according to Philochorus, four) temples or shrines of Theseus at Athens: Milchhofer considers he has found one of them in the neighbourhood of Peiraeus s - Our chief authority for the legend of Theseus is the life by Plutarch, which is a compilation from earlier writers; see also Bacchylides. G. Gilbert, who has investigated the sources from which Plutarch drew for his life of Theseus, belieyes that his chief authority was the Althis of Inter, and that Ister mainly followed Philochorus (Philologus, xxxiii., 1874, p. 46 sq.). There is a modern Greek folk-tale which preserves some features of the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur, but for the Minotaur has been substituted a seven-headed snake. See Bernhard Schmidt; Griechische Marchen, Sagen and Volkslieder (1877), p. 118 sq. Among modern monographs on Theseus may be mentioned: A. Schultz, De Theseo (Breslau, 1874); Th. Kausel, De Thesei Synoikismo (Dillenburg, 1882) ; E. Prigge, De Thesei rebus gestis (Marburg, 1891); O. Wulff, Zur Theseussage (Dorpat, 1892; see also O. Gruppe, Griechische Mythologie, i. pp. 581-6o8; J. E. Harrison, Mythology and Monuments of Ancient Athens (189o); " Der Theseische Synoikismos " in C. F. Hermann's Lehrbuch der giechischen Staatsaltertumer, i. (1892), pp. 30 -306; A. Baumeister, enkmaler des klassischen Altertums, iii. (1888). THESMOPHORIA, an ancient Greek festival, celebrated by women only in honour of Demeter eeoµocpopos. At Athens, Abdera, and perhaps Sparta, it lasted three days. At Athens the festival took place on the 11th, 12th and 13th of the month 3 The Athenian festival in October, popularly supposed to cotnmemorate the return of Theseus from Crete, is interesting, as some of its features are identical with those of harvest-festivals still observed in the north of Europe. Thus the eiresione, a branch of olive wreathed with wool and decked with fruits, bread, &c., which was carried in procession and hung over the door,bf the house, where it was 'kept for a year, is the Erntemai (Harvest-may) of Germany. See W. Mannhardt, Antike Wald- and Feld-Kulte (1877), p. 212 sq. 3 See Erlauternder Text to the Kasten von Atli/ea (Betiin, 1881), i. P. 37 sq. Pyanepsion (24th, 25th and 26th October), the first day being called Anodos (ascent), or, according to others, Kathodos (descent), the second Nesteia (fast), and the third Kalligeneia (fair-born).' If to these days we add the Thesmophoria, which were celebrated on the loth at Halimus, a township on the coast near Athens, the festival lasted four days.' If further we add the festival of the Stenia, which took place on the 9th, the whole festival lasted five days.' The Stenia are said by Photius to have celebrated the return of Demeter from the lower world (Anodos), and the women railed at each other by night.' The Thesmophoria at Halimus seem to have included dances on the beach.' The great feature of the next day (the Anodos) is generally assumed to have been a procession from Halimus to Athens, but this assumption seems to rest entirely on an interpretation of the name Anodos, and it loses all probability when we observe that the day was by others called Kathodos.' Probably both names referred to the descent of Demeter or Persephone to the nether world, and her ascent from it? The next day Nesteia, was a day of sorrow, the women sitting on the ground and fasting.' As to what took place on the Kalligeneia we have no information' Nor can we define the time or nature of the secret ceremony called the " pursuit," or the " Chalcidian pursuit," and the sacrifice called the " penalty."10 During the Thesmophoria (and for nine days previously, if Ovid, Met., x. 434, is right, and refers to the Thesmophoria) the women abstained from intercourse with their husbands, and to fortify themselves strewed their beds with Agnus castus and other plants. The women of Miletus strewed their beds with pine branches, and put fir-cones in the sanctuaries of Demeter." Whether unmarried women were admitted to the festival seems doubtful; in Lucian's time it would appear that 1 [Or, mother of a fair daughter, i.e. Persephone.] Schol. on Aristoph., Thesmophoriazusae, 8o and 585; Diog. Laert., ix. 43; Hesychius, s.v. rpi$pepos (the reading here is uncertain) and &sober; Alciphron, in. 39; Athenaeus, vii. 307 f. Plutarch (Vii. Demosth., 30) states that the Nesteia took place on the 16th of Pyanepsion, but in this he stands alone. s Schol. on Aristoph., Thesm., 8o; Photius, Lex., s.v. AeapoOophev iaipai. S' (where Naber should not have altered the MS. reading b' into .b') ; Hesychius, s.v. ratan A€Qµo~opiwv. Schol. on Aristoph., Thesm., 834. Photius, Lex., s.v. anima; cf. Apollodorus, i. 5, 1. Plut., Solon, 8; for this passage probably refers to the Thesmophoria, the Cape Colias mentioned being near Halimus (see Erlduternder Text to the Karten von Attika, ii. i sq.). The Thesmophorion at Halimus is mentioned by Pausanias (i. 31, 1). ' Hesychius (s.v. &vobos) and the Schol. on Arist., Thesm., 585, suppose that the day was so called because the women ascended to the Thesmophorion, which (according to the scholiast) stood on a height. But no ancient writer mentions a procession from Halimus. For the name Kathodos, see Schol., loc. cit. ; Photius, Lex., s.v. Aeapo¢oplwv itpipai Si. For the statement that at one part of the festival (commonly assumed, by the writers who accept the statement, to be the Anodos) the women carried on their heads the " books of the law," we have only the authority of the scholiast on Theocritus, iv. 25, who displays his ignorance by describing the women as virgins (see below), and saying that they went in procession to Eleusis. The statement may therefore be dismissed as an etymological fiction. Aristophanes, Eccles., 222, is no evidence for the book-carrying. ' The Boeotian festival of Demeter, which was held at about the same time as the Athenian Thesmophoria, and at which the megara (see below) were opened, is distinctly stated by Plutarch (De Is. et Osir., 69) to have been a mourning for the descent (Kathodos) of Persephone. I'lut., Dem., 30; Id., De Is. et Osir., 69. 9 [It was a day of holiday and rejoicing.] is Hesychius, s.v. biwypa [perhaps the pursuit of Persephone] ; Suidas, s.v. XaXKibucbv bf ypa [according to whom, the prayers of the women at the Thesmophoria caused the flight of the enemy to Chalcis]; Hesychius, s.v. igafa. For flight and pursuit as parts of religious ceremonies, cf. Plutarch, Quaest. Graec., 38, Quaest. Rom., 63, De Def. Orac., 15; Aelian, Nat. An., xii. 34; Pausanias, i. 24, 4, viii. 53, 3; Diodorus, i. 91; Lobeck, Aglaophamus (1829), p. 676; Marquardt, Staatsverwaltung, 2nd ed. (1885), iii. 323. 11 Aelian, Nat. An., ix. 26; Schol. on Theocr., iv. 25; Hesychius S.V. v.v& pov; Pliny, N. H., 24, 59 ; Dioscorides, i. 135 (134, ed. Sprengel); Schol. on Nicander, There 70 sq. ; Galen, xi. 808, ed. Kuhn; Steph. Bye., s.v. Mianros.they were.12 The women of each deme (township) elected two married women of their number to preside over them at the festival; and every married man in the township who possessed property to the value of three talents had to provide a feast for the women on behalf of his wife." During the festival the women seem to have been lodged by twos in tents or huts, probably erected within the sacred precincts of the Thesmophorion." They were not allowed to eat the seeds of the pomegranate or to wear garlands of flowers." Prisoners were released at the festival," and during the Nesteia the law-courts were closed and the senate did not meet." Aristophanes's play on the festival sheds little light on the mode of its celebration. At Thebes Thesmophoria were celebrated in summer on the acropolis (Cadmeia); at Eretria during the Thesmophoria the women cooked their meat, not at fires, but by the heat of the sun, and they did not invoke Kalligeneia (which seems to mean that they did not celebrate the last day of the festival); at Syracuse, during the festival, cakes called mylloi, made of sesame and honey in the shape of pudenda muliebria, were handed round.'" Agrigentum, Ephesus and Dryme, in Phocis, had also their Thesmophoria.19 The above was nearly all that was known about the Thesmophoria down to 1870. In that year E. Rohde published in the Rheinisches Museum, n.s., xxv., p. 548 sq., a scholion on Lucian (Dial. Meretr., ii. 1), which he discovered in the Vatican MS. Palatinus 73, and which furnishes some curious details about the Thesmophoria. It also explains two obscure and corrupt passages of Clemens Alexandrinus and Pausanias, the true meaning of which had been divined by Lobeck (Aglaophamus, p. 828). The sub-stance of the scholion is this. When Persephone was carried off by Pluto, a swineherd called Eubuleus was herding his swine at the spot, and his herd was engulfed in the chasm down which Pluto had vanished with Persephone. Accordingly at the Thesmophoria it was customary, in memory of Eubuleus, to fling pigs into the " chasms of Demeter and Persephone." (These chasms " may have been natural caverns or perhaps vaults. The scholiast speaks of them also as adyta and megara.40) In these chasms or adyta there were supposed to be serpents, which guarded the adyta and consumed most of the flesh of the pigs that were thrown in. The decayed remains of the flesh were afterwards fetched by women called " drawers " (antletriai), who, after observing rules of ceremonial purity for three days, descended into the caverns, and, frightening away the serpents by clapping their hands, brought up the remains and placed them on the altars." Whoever got a portion of this decayed flesh and sowed it with the seed in the 12 Lucian, Dial. Meretr., ii. t. On the other hand, we read in Strabo (i. 3, 20) of virgins at Alponus ascending a tower as spectators (Karp Bice') of the Thesmophoria. which would seem to imply that they did not participate in it. 13 Isaeus, De Cironis Hered., 19; Id., De Pyrrhi Hered., 80. is Aristoph., Thesm., 624, 658, with the Schol. ad ll. As to the custom of camping out at festivals, Plutarch (Quaest. Conviv., iv, 6, 2) compares the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles with the Greek Dionysia; from which we may perhaps infer that the worshippers camped out at the Dionysia. Ct. J. Gumilla, Histoire de l'Orenoque, i. p. 256 sq. [1758]. is Clem. Alex., Protrep., ch. ii. [p. 16, ed. Potter]; Schol. on Sophocles, Oed. Col., 681. is Marcellinus on Hermogenes, in Rhetores Graeci, ed. Wale, iv. 462; Sopater, ibid., viii. 67. 17 Aristoph., Thesm., 80. The word ratan seems to mean the Nesteia, as the Schol. ad 1. takes it. That the " middle day " was the Nesteia we know from Athenaeus, vii. 307 f. " Xenophon, Hellen., v. 2, 29; Plutarch, Quaest. Gr., 31; Athenaeus, xiv. 647a. is Polyaenus, v. 1, 1; Herodotus, vi. i6; Pausanias, x. 33, i i. 70 C. T. Newton discovered in the sanctuary of Demeter and the Infernal Deities at Cnidus a chamber which may have been one of the megara referred to by the scholiast. It contained bones of pigs and marble figures of pigs. The chamber was not, however, originally subterranean. See Newton's Discoveries at Halicarnassus (1863), ii. p. 383, Travels and Discoveries in the Levant (1865), ii. p. 18o sq. According to Porphyry (De Antro Nympharum, 6) the Infernal Deities had megara, as the Olympian had temples, and the sacrificial pits of the former corresponded to the altars of the latter. 21 Compare the functions of the two Arrephoroi at Athens (Pans., i. 27, 3). For serpents in connexion with Demeter, compare Strabo, ix. 1, 9. ground was supposed thereby to secure a good crop). The rest of the scholion is obscure, and perhaps corrupt, but the following seems to be the sense. The ceremony above described was called the arretophoria [the carrying of things which must not be spoken of], and was supposed to exercise the same quickening and fertilizing influence on men as on fields. Further, along with the pigs, sacred cakes made of dough, in the of serpents and of phalli, were cast into the caverns, to symbolize the productivity of the earth and of man. Branches of pines were thrown in z for a similar reason. The custom described in this important scholion is clearly the same as that referred to by Clemens Alexandrinus (Protrep., ch. ii.) [p. 14, ed. Potter] and Pausanias (ix. 8, I). From the latter we learn that the pigs were sucking pigs, and from the former (if we adopt Lobeck's emendation iteyhpots 'wvras for µeyap4-ovres) that they were thrown in alive. From Pausanias we may further perhaps infer (though the passage is corrupt) that the remains of the pigs thrown down in one year were not fetched up till the same time next year (cf. Pans., x. 32, 14). The question remains, At what point of the Thesmophoria did the ceremony described by the scholiast on Lucian take place? Rohde thinks that it formed part of the ceremonies at Halimus, his chief ground being that Clemens (Protrep., 34) and Arnobius (Adv. Genies, v. 28) mention phalli in connexion with the " mysteries at Halimus "; but it is not certain that these mysteries were the Thesmophoria. The legend of Eubuleus seems to show that the ceremony commemorated the descent of Persephone to the nether world; and, if we are right in our interpretation of the name Kathodos as applied to the first day of the Thesmophoria proper, the ceremony described would naturally fall on that day. Further, if our interpretation of Pausanias is correct, the same day must have witnessed the descent of the living pigs and the ascent of the rotten pork of the previous year. Hence the day might he indifferently styled Kathodos or Anodos (" descent " or " ascent ") ; and so in fact it was. It is usual to interpret Thesmophorus " lawgiver " and Thesmophoria " the feast of the lawgiver." But the Greek for " lawgiver " is not Thesmophorus but Thesmothetes (or Nomothetes, when limos displaced thesmos in the sense of " law "). If we compare such names of festivals as Oschophoria, Lampadephoria, Hydrophoria, Scirophoria (" the carryings of grapes, of torches, of water, of umbrellas ") with the corresponding Oschophorus, Lampadephorus, Hydrophorus, also Thallophorus and Kanephorus, we can scarcely help concluding that Thesmophoria must originally have meant in the literal and physical sense the carrying of the thesmoi, and Thesmophorus the person who so carried them; and, in view of the ceremony disclosed by the scholiast on Lucian (compared with the analogous ceremony observed by the Artephoroi at Athens), we are strongly tempted to suppose that the women whom he calls Antletriai may have been also known, at one time or other, as Thesmophoroi, and that the thesmoi were the sacra which they carried and deposited on the altar. The word would then be used in its literal sense, " that which is set down." How the name Thesmophorus should have been transferred to the goddess from her ministers is of course a difficulty, which is hardly disposed of by pointing to the epithets Amallophorus (" sheaf-bearing ") and Melophorus (" apple-bearing "), which were applied to men as well as to the goddess. As to the origin of the Thesmophoria, Herodotus (ii. 171) asserts that they were introduced into Greece from Egypt by the daughters of Danaus; while, according to Plutarch (Fragments, p. 55, ed. Dubner [Frag. Incerta, 84]), the feast was introduced into Athens by Orpheus the Odrysian. From these statements we can only infer the similarity of the Thesmophoria to the Orphic rites and to the Egyptian representation of the sufferings of Osiris, in connexion with which Plutarch mentions them. The Thesmophoria would thus form one of that class of rites, widely spread in Western Asia and in Europe, in which the main feature appears to be a lamentation for the annual decay of vegetation or a rejoicing at its revival. This seems to have been the root, e.g., of the lamentations for Adonis and Attis. See W. Mannhardt, Antike Wald- and Feld-Kulte, p. 264 sq. On the Thesmophoria, see Meursius, Graecia Feriata, p. 151 sq.; L. Preller, Demeter and Persephone (1837), p. 335 sq., Griech. Myth., [3], i• p. 639 sq.; Fritzsche's ed. of the Thesmophoriazusae (1838), p. 577 sq.; Aug. Mommsen, Heortologie (1864), p. 287 sq.; Rheinisches Museum, xxv. (1870), p. 548; Gazette Archeologique (188o), p. 17; Andrew Lang, Demeter and the Pig," in Nineteenth Century, April 1887; J. G. Frazer, Golden Bough, ii. 44; J. E. (1885), iii. aid. Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion (1903); and i This, as Andrew Lang has pointed out, resembles the Khond custom of burying the flesh of the human victim in the fields to fertilize them. The human victim was with the Khonds, like the pig with the Greeks, a sacrifice to the Earth goddess. See Memorials of Service in India ... of Major S. C. Macpherson, ed. William Macpherson (1865), p. 129. 2 Reading i 8aAXovot, with Rohde, for Xa i$avovoi. Compare the custom of Miletus supra. The pine-tree played an important part in the worship of Cybele. Cf. Marquardt, Staatsverweltungespecially the exhaustive articles by L. C. Purser in Smith's Dictionary of Antiquities (ed. 3, 1891) and by F. Lenormant (on CERES) in Daremberg and Saglio, Dictionnaire des Antiquiles. (j. G. FR.; X.)
End of Article: THERSITES
THESAURUS (Gr. B17o-avp6s)

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