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date: 20 April 2024

festivals, Greeklocked

festivals, Greeklocked

  • J. D. Mikalson


Greek festivals were religious rituals recurring, usually every year, two years, or four years, at fixed times in the calendar. Unlike *sacrifices and other *rituals performed for specific occasions (e.g. marriage) or in times of crisis, they were intended, in general terms, to maintain or renew the desired relationship with supernatural powers. In the Classical period it was believed that this relationship was maintained by rendering honour, at the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner, to the deity.

Festivals proper (heortai) should be distinguished from annual sacrifices (thysiai), however large, and the many other rituals that together formed the religious calendar. Heortai are described as pleasant and joyful religious experiences with an abundance of good food, good company, and good entertainment, a combination seen in many Mediterranean religious festivals today. The atmosphere and characteristics of thysiai and other rituals varied greatly, sometimes being very sombre, depending on the deity, purpose, and cult personnel involved. But heortology has traditionally investigated the dating and description of all calendrically recurring rituals, and that is the sense in which ‘festival’ is usually understood in Classical scholarship.


  • Greek Myth and Religion

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