Thesmophoria

Francis Davis Millet, Thesmophoria, 1894-97
Francis Davis Millet, Thesmophoria (1894-97)

Θεσμοφορία ἑορτὴ Ἑλλήνων μυστήρια περιέχουσα, τὰ δὲ αὐτὰ καὶ Σκιρροφορία καλεῖται‎. ἤγετο δὲ κατὰ τὸν μυθωδέστερον λόγον, ὅτι‎, ὅτε‎ ἀνθολογοῦσα ἡρπάζετο ἡ Κόρη ὑπὸ τοῦ Πλούτωνος, τότε κατ‎’ ἐκεῖνον τὸν τόπον Εὐβουλεύς τις συβώτης ἔνεμεν ὗς καὶ συγκατεπόθησαν τῷ χάσματι τῆς Κόρης‎· εἰς οὖν τιμὴν τοῦ Εὐβουλέως ῥιπτεῖσθαι τοὺς χοίρους εἰς τὰ χάσματα τῆς Δήμητρος καὶ τῆς Κόρης‎. τὰ δὲ σαπέντα τῶν ἐμβληθέντων εἰς τὰ μέγαρα κάτω ἀναφέρουσιν ἀντλήτριαι καλούμεναι γυναῖκες καθαρεύσασαι τριῶν ἡμερῶν καὶ καταβαίνουσιν εἰς τὰ ἄδυτα καὶ ἀνενέγκασαι ἐπιτιθέασιν ἐπὶ τῶν βωμῶν‎· ὧν νομίζουσι τὸν λαμβάνοντα καὶ τῷ σπόρῳ συγκαταβάλλοντα εὐφορίαν ἕξειν‎. λέγουσι δὲ καὶ δράκοντας κάτω εἶναι περὶ τὰ χάσματα, οὓς τὰ πολλὰ τῶν βληθέντων κατεσθίειν‎· διὸ καὶ κρότον γίνεσθαι, ὁπόταν ἀντλῶσιν αἱ γυναῖκες καὶ ὅταν ἀποτιθῶνται πάλιν τὰ πλάσματα ἐκεῖνα, ἵνα ἀναχωρήσωσιν οἱ δράκοντες, οὓς νομίζουσι φρουροὺς τῶν ἀδύτων‎. τὰ δὲ αὐτὰ καὶ Ἀρρητοφόρια καλεῖται καὶ ἄγεται τὸν αὐτὸν λόγον ἔχοντα περὶ τῆς τῶν καρπῶν γενέσεως καὶ τῆς τῶν ἀνθρώπων σπορᾶς‎. ἀναφέρονται δὲ κἀνταῦθα ἄρρητα ἱερὰ ἐκ‎ στέατος τοῦ σίτου κατεσκευασμένα, μιμήματα δρακόντων καὶ ἀνδρείων σχημάτων‎. λαμβάνουσι δὲ κώνου θαλλοὺς διὰ τὸ πολύγονον τοῦ φυτοῦ‎. ἐμβάλλονται δὲ καὶ εἰς τὰ μέγαρα οὕτω καλούμενα ἄδυτα ἐκεῖνά τε καὶ χοῖροι, ὡς ἤδη ἔφαμεν, καὶ αὐτοὶ διὰ τὸ πολύτοκον εἰς σύνθημα τῆς γενέσεως τῶν καρπῶν καὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων οἷον χαριστήρια τῇ Δήμητρι, ἐπειδὴ τοὺς Δημητρίους καρποὺς παρέχουσα ἐποίησεν ἥμερον τὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων γένος‎. ὁ μὲν οὖν ἄνω τῆς ἑορτῆς λόγος ὁ μυθικός, ὁ δὲ προκείμενος φυσικός‎. Θεσμοφορία δὲ καλεῖται, καθότι θεσμοφόρος ἡ Δημήτηρ κατονομάζεται τιθεῖσα νόμους ἤτοι θεσμούς, καθ’ʼ οὓς τὴν τροφὴν πορίζεσθαί τε καὶ κατεργάζεσθαι ἀνθρώπους δέον‎.
(R-Scholia to Lucian, Hetairikoi Dialogoi 2.1)

The Thesmophoria is a festival of the Greeks that includes mysteries and is also called the Skirrophoria. It was celebrated according to the more mythical account because, when Kore was snatched by Plouton as she was gathering flowers, a certain swineherd named Eubouleus was tending pigs in the same place and they were swallowed up by Kore’s chasm. Therefore in honour of Eubouleus piglets are thrown into the chasms belonging to Demeter and Kore. And the rotting [remains] of them, after they have been thrown down into the megara (lit. ‘great halls’), are brought up by women called ‘drawers’, who have stayed pure for three days and who go down into the aduta (‘innermost sanctuaries’) and, after they have brought them up, set them on the altars. They believe that whoever takes some of these and mixes them in with his seed-corn will get an abundant crop. They also say that there are snakes down in the chasms, which eat much of what is thrown down. And on that account they clap their hands, whenever the women draw [up the rotted piglets] and whenever they put the moulded objects back again, in order that the snakes, which they consider guards of the aduta, might move away. These same things are also called Arrhetophoria and are celebrated in the same fashion for the birth of the seed and the engendering of human beings. And also brought up there [or ‘on this occasion’] are holy objects which cannot be named, which are prepared from dough made of grain and resemble snakes and male forms. And they get pine-branches because the plant is so productive [of fruit]. Those things and the piglets (these too because of their fertility) are thrown into the socalled megara, the aduta, as we said already, to symbolize the generation of crops and of men, as thank-offerings, as it were, to Demeter, since by supplying her crops she civilized the human race. The account of the festival given above is the mythical one, but the one just mentioned is the natural explanation. It is called the Thesmophoria because Demeter bears the name Thesmophoros, since she establishes laws and rites (thesmoi), in accord with which men must work and get their nourishment. (tr. Colin Austin & Stuart Douglas Olson)

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