Anthesteria

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Anthesteria, one of the four Athenian festivals in honour of Dionysus (collectively the Dionysia), was held annually for three days, the eleventh to thirteenth of the month of Anthesterion (the January/February full moon);[1] it was preceded by the Lenaia.[2] At the centre of this wine-drinking festival was the celebration of the maturing of the wine stored at the previous vintage, whose pithoi were now ceremoniously opened, and the beginning of spring. Athenians of the Classical age were aware that the festival was of great antiquity; Walter Burkert points out that the mythic reflection of this is the Attic founder-king Theseus' release of Ariadne to Dionysus,[3] but this is no longer considered a dependable sign that the festival had been celebrated in the Minoan period. Since the festival was celebrated by Athens and all the Ionian cities, it is assumed that it must have preceded the Ionian migration of the late eleventh or early tenth century BC.

The three days of the feast were called Pithoigia (after πίθοι "storage jars"), Choës (χοαί "libations"; Modern Greek: χοές) and Chytroi (χύτροι "pots").

During the feast, social order was interrupted or inverted, the slaves being allowed to participate, uniting the household in ancient fashion. The Anthesteria also have aspects of a festival of the dead who freely roamed the city, comparable to the Roman Feast of the Lemures, the expulsion of ancestral ghosts: compare All Souls' Night and carnival. Either the Keres (Κῆρες) or the Carians (Κᾶρες) were entertained, and expelled from the city after the festival, symbolizing either the souls of the dead or the aboriginal inhabitants of Attica. A Greek proverb, employed of those who pestered for continued favours, ran "Out of doors, Keres! It is no longer Anthesteria".[4]

A comparable Latin festival, called Rosalia in Latin, was loaned as Rusaliya into Slavic. The Rusalki were originally spirits associated with the cult.

Contents

Origins

The name Anthesteria (Ἀνθεστήρια), according to the account of it given above, is usually connected with ἄνθος (plural: ἄνθη or ἄνθεα; root: ἀνθεσ-) "flower," or the "bloom" of the grape, cognate to Sanskrit andhas "Soma plant".

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