The Ancient Library

Scanned text contains errors.

On this page: Priapus – Priests



Messala, who, like other distinguished men of that age, occupied himself with trivial amusements of this kind.

Priapus. According to the usual ac­count, son of Dionysus and Aphrodite, a god of the fruitfulness of the field and of the herds. Horticulture, vine-growing, goat and sheep-breeding, bee-keeping, and even fishing, were supposed to be under his protection. The original seat of his worship lay in the towns of Asia Minor, situated on the Hellespont, especially Lampsacus. From here it afterwards spread over Greece and Italy. His statues were usually placed in gardens, generally in the form of rude hermit: cut out of wood, stained with ver­milion, with a club and sickle and a phallic symbol of the creative and fructifying powers of nature. The sacrifices offered to him included asses, as well as the first-fruits of the garden and the field.

Priests. (1) Greek. The ministers of a particular sanctuary, charged with the duty of attending to the service of the god of the place. Their duty was to offer appropriate sacrifices and perform other holy offices at the appointed time and manner, and also to assist and instruct worshippers, as to the rites they were to observe. They had to slay the victim, to select the parts for offer­ing, and to lay them on the altar, to utter the accompanying prayers, and the like. In sacred functions which were performed elsewhere (as by the father at the family altar, and b}7 certain State officers, e.g. by the first three archons at Athens, by the kings at Sparta), their assistance was not required, although it was often invited.

The general name hlSreus represents the priest in his character of an offerer of sacri­fice and a minister of sacred rites. In the different cults, however, the priests often took the most various names, and with reference to individual cults had peculiar functions. The priesthoods were filled partly by right of inheritance from within certain families (as some of them were in almost all Greek states; but especially at Athens); partly by election or by a kind of appointment combining election and lot. A general qualification was legitimate descent from citizens, an irreproachable character, and freedom from bodily defects. (The wor­ship of Artemis at Ephesus required the priests to be eunuchs, but it is to be observed that this was not a Greek worship.) Many priesthoods were only filled by men, others by women only; in many temples there were priests and priestesses together; but upon

the whole it was a rule, though not without exceptions, that the priests of gods were men, of goddesses, women. In regard to the necessary age, again, the regulations were very various ; many priesthoods could only be filled by quite young persons. Virginity and celibacy were required for certain priesthoods, e.g. for those of the virgin goddesses Athene and Artemis. A rule existed in many places, that a woman more than once married was disqualified for the priesthood. At any rate, ritual prescribed chastity fora certain time before undertaking any priestly duty. Here and there, too, the priests were forbidden to taste certain kinds of food. The office was held for very various periods, one year, several years, a life-time. The priests generally wore long hair and white vest­ments ; many of them were clothed in saffron-coloured robes, as (among others) the priests of Dionj'sus. The priestly ornaments included garlands from the leaves of various trees, always according to the character of the god, and wreaths or fillets of many kinds. The priestly staff is often mentioned. The priests often had an official residence within the temple inclosure.

They derived their maintenance partly from the revenue of the temple property,, partly from their share of the sacrifices,, the skins of the animals sacrificed, and other dues of the same kind, and sometimes from actual offertories. Among their privi­leges, besides their inviolability, were free­dom from military service, and a seat of honour at assemblies of the people and at the theatre. In many places dates were reckoned from the time when the priest of the chief divinity entered on office, e.g., in Argos from the priestess of Hera's first year of ministry [Thucydides, ii 2 § 1]. Besides the priests there were many kinds of temple-servants, for the preservation of the sacred buildings, the administration of their revenues, and the performance of the various rites. (Cj>. cebyx, hieroduli, hieropcei, neocoki, parasite.)

(2) Roman. At Rome, the State religion was under the management of a number of priesthoods, which, by the order of the State, performed the regularly prescribed sacred rites or those specially decreed by the State on their recommendation. In the time of the kings the superintendence of the entire ritual belonged to the kings, among whom Nuuia, as the founder of an organized worship of the gods, holds a

About | First | Index



page #  
Search this site
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.