A festival celebrated in honour of Zeus on the Lycaean Mount in Arcadia. In the sacred enclosure on its highest peak, where, according to popular belief, no object cast a shadow, there was an altar of heaped-up earth, and before it two columns with gilt eagles on top of them, looking to the east. At the festivals, probably celebrated every ninth year, the priests, who alone were allowed to enter the precincts, offered mysterious sacrifices to the god, including a human sacrifice. These were said to have been instituted by Lycaon, and were kept up till the second century A.D. The man who had been chosen by lot to perform the sacrifice was afterwards compelled to flee, and wandered about for nine years; like Lycaon, in the shape of a wolf, so the people believed. In the tenth he was allowed to return and regained his human form--i. e. the taint was removed. Besides the festival there were also athletic contests.
This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited April 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
Lycaea, a festival celebrated by the Arcadians in honour of Zeus Lycaeus on Mount Lycaeon. The account given by Pausanias (viii. 38) is that it was founded by Lycaon, son of Pelasgus, and that besides the games (of which we have no particular account) there was a sacrifice to Zeus of a child, whose blood was poured over the altar, after which Lycaon himself was turned into a wolf, and he records the tradition that ever after at the annual festival a man was turned into a wolf for a period of ten years, or, if he tasted human flesh, for life. It is not improbable that these wehrwolf stories, however ancient, are a perversion of something older still from a false connection of the name with lykos, and similarly that the references to the sacrifice as a rite of the pastoral Arcadians as a protection against wolves, like the Roman Lupercalia are equally illusory. It is more likely that the name of the mountain belongs to the root lyk- (luk-), light, as in the Attic hill Lycabettus, with which we may compare many mountain names of other countries, such as the Strahlhorn. These names come from the fact of the mountain peak catching the sunlight first and retaining it last. It is a remarkable coincidence that Pausanias, speaking of Lycosura, the town founded by Lycaon on the Lycaeon mountain, which he calls the most ancient in Greece, uses the phrase kai tauten eiden ho helios proten. In accordance with this origin of the name, the worship was the earliest Pelasgian worship of Zeus, represented by no statue, but dwelling in light on the summit of the Lycaeon mountain, where was the altar of human sacrifice on the highest point, with two pillars standing eastward of it surmounted in later times by two golden eagles. Below the altar was a grove, which no man might enter, where it was believed that no shadow could fall, and in the grove the holy spring Hagno, in which the priest in time of drought dipped an oak-bough after sacrifice (Paus. viii. 38.) The sacrifice was particularly connected with prayers for rain; and it is probable that human sacrifices were retained to a late period. Pausanias does not mention their discontinuance, and says, epi toutou tou bomou toi Lukaioi Dii thuousin en aporretoi. polupagmonesai de ou moi ta es ten thusian hedu en, echeto de hos echei kai hos eschen ex arches. The contests seem to have included horse-races and foot-races; for Pausanias mentions in front of the grove of Pan on the same mountain hippodromos kai stadion, where at one time the Lycaean festival was held.
This text is from: A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890) (eds. William Smith, LLD, William Wayte, G. E. Marindin). Cited June 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
Founded by Lycaon.
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