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Ancients' feasts, games and rituals (2)
Heraea. The Heraean games were conducted in honor of goddess Hera in the sanctuary dedicated to her, at Prosymna in the wider Mycenae area, 8 km northeast of Argos. The Heraea were conducted already from the Geometric and Archaic period, originally every three years and later on every five years, from the end of June to the beginning of July. The competitions were athletic (running, stade, hoplite, dolichos, pentathlon), equestrian and chariot races, as well as music and drama competitions. The winners received a crown of myrtle and bronze prizes, such as shields, tripods, caldrons and urns. As a result of the bronze prizes, the Heraea were also known by the name of "Chalkeos agon" (Bronze competition). During the 4th-3th century BC, the games were known as "Ekatomboea" whereas from the second half of the 3rd century BC the games were celebrated in Argos along with the Nemean and were named "Heraea at Argos". From the 1st century AD the games were referred to as "the shield from Argos", as a result of the bronze shield that was given as a prize to the winners, a prize that had a particular religious significance to the city. Furthermore, inside Larissa, the acropolis of Argos, lay a sacred fortress named Aspida (shield).
This text is cited June 2005 from the Foundation of the Hellenic World URL below, which contains images.
Heraea (Heraia) is the name of festivals celebrated in honour of Hera in all the
towns of Greece where the worship of this divinity was introduced. The original
seat of her worship, from which it spread over the other parts of Greece, was
Argos; whence her festivals
in other places were, more or less, imitations of those which were celebrated
at Argos (Muller, Dor. ii.
The Argives had three temples of Hera: one (Heraeon)
lay between Argos and Mycenae,
45 stadia from Argos; the
second lay on the road to the Acropolis,
and near it was the stadium in which the games and contests at the Heraea were
held (Paus. ii. 24,2); the third was in the city itself (Paus. ii. 22,1). Her
service was performed by the most distinguished priestesses of the place; one
of them was the high-priestess, and the Argives counted their years by the date
of her office (Thucyd. ii. 2). The Heraea of Argos
were celebrated every fifth year, and, according to the calculation of Boeckh
(Abhandl. der Berl. Akad. von 1818-19, p. 92 ff.), in the middle of the second
year of every Olympiad.
One of the great solemnities which took place on the occasion, was
a magnificent procession to the great temple of Hera, between Argos
and Mycenae. A vast number
of young men--for the festival is called a panegyris--assembled at Argos,
and marched in armour to the temple of the goddess. They were preceded by one
hundred oxen (hekatombe, whence the festival is also called hekatombaia). The
high-priestess accompanied this procession, riding in a chariot drawn by two white
oxen, as we see from the story of Cleobis and Biton related by Herodotus (i. 31)
and Cicero (Tuscul. i. 47, § 113). The hundred oxen were sacrificed, and their
flesh distributed among all the citizens (Schol. ad Pind. Ol. vii. 152, and ad
Nem. x. 39). The sacrifice itself was called lecherna (Hesych. s. v.) or the bed
of twigs (Comp. Welcker on Schwenck's Etymologische Andeutungen).
The games and contests of the Heraea took place in the stadium, near
the temple on the road to the Acropolis.
A brazen shield was fixed in a place above the theatre, which was scarcely accessible
to any one, and the young man who succeeded in pulling it down received the shield
and a garland of myrtle as a prize. Hence Pindar (Nem. x. 41) calls the contest
agon chalkeos. It seems that this contest took place before the procession went
out to the Heraeon, for Strabo (viii. p. 556) states that the victor went with
his prizes in solemn procession to that temple. This contest was said to have
been instituted, according to some traditions, by Acrisius and Proetus (Aelian,
V. H. iii. 24), according to others by Archinus (Schol. ad Pind. Ol. vii. 152;
Hermann, Gottesd. Alterth.52, n. 1).
The Heraea or Hecatombaea of Aegina were celebrated in
the same manner as those of Argos (see Schol. ad Pind. Isthm.
viii. 114; Muller, Aeginet. p. 149; Hermann, Gottesd. Alterth. § 52, n. 19).
The Heraea of Samos, which
island also derived the worship of Hera from Argos
(Paus. vii. 4,4), were perhaps the most brilliant of all the festivals of this
divinity. A magnificent procession, consisting of maidens and married women in
splendid attire, and with floating hair (Asius, ap. Athen. xii. p. 525), together
with men and youths in armour (Polyaen. Strat. i. 23, vi. 45), went to the temple
of Hera (Heraeon). After
they arrived within the sacred precincts, the men deposited their armour; and
prayers and vows were offered up to the goddess. Her altar consisted of the ashes
of the victims which had been burnt to her. (Paus. v. 13,5).
The Heraea of Elis were celebrated
every fifth year, or in the fourth year of every Olympiad. (Corsini, Dissert.
iii. 30.) The festival was chiefly celebrated by maidens, and conducted by sixteen
matrons who wove the sacred peplus for the goddess. But before the solemnities
commenced, these matrons sacrificed a pig, and purified themselves in the well
Piera (Paus. v. 16,5). One of the principal solemnities was a race of the maidens
in the stadium, for which purpose they were divided into three classes, according
to their age. The youngest ran first and the oldest last. Their only dress on
this occasion was a chiton, which came down to the knee, and their hair was floating.
She who won the prize received a garland of oliveboughs, together with a part
of a cow which was sacrificed to Hera, and might dedicate her own painted likeness
in the temple of the goddess. The sixteen matrons were attended by as many female
attendants, and performed two dances; the one called the dance of Physcoa, the
other the dance of Hippodameia. Respecting further particulars, and the history
of this solemnity, see Paus. v. 16,2; Hermann, Gottesd. Alterth.51, n. 3.
Heraea were celebrated in various other places; e. g. in Cos
(Athen. xiv, v), at Corinth
(Eurip. Med. 1379; Philostrat. Her. xix. 14), at Athens
(Plut. Quaest. Rom. vii), at Cnosus
in Crete (Diod. v. 72), at
Pellene in Achaia
(Schol. ad Pind. Ol. vii. 156; ad Nem. x. 82; Aristoph. Av. 1421; Krause, Gymn.
i. pt. 2, p. 715; Hermann, Gottesd. Alterth. § 51, n. 28.)
- A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890) (eds. William Smith, LLD, William Wayte, G. E. Marindin)