Notes on Spartan Religion

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Beliefs: Gods/Goddesses, myths • The Dioscuri (youths of Zeus): Castor and Polydeuces (Pollux) The Dioscuri were associated with young men and their pursuits of horsemanship, athletics and warfare. • Most Spartan Gods were armed • Shunned Gods such Hephaestus and Dionysus Festivals • Karneia The Karneia was named after the god of the herd Apollo Karneios and celebrated during August to September. Two rituals are thought to be performed at this festival. One ritual involved the building and procession of model boats, the other a foot-race that resembled a chase of prey. A runner was dressed in woollen fillets, and set off to run away. If the unmarried men, who were called the staphulodromoi (grape-cluster runners), caught him it was a good omen for the state and, if not, the future was bad. During this festival, Spartans were not allowed to venture to wars or battles. This was the reason behind the late arrival of the Spartans at the Battle of Marathon and the reason for the number of Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae. • Hyakinthia The festival of Hyakinthia was named after a youth who was lover of the god Apollo, and died when Zephyr blew Apollo’s discus into him. The festival took place over three days in the month of July. The first stage of the festival involved rites of sorrow and mourning in honour of Hyakinthos. There would be a ban on the wearing of wreaths and on joyful songs. Offerings were placed at the dead youth’s tomb. The eating of bread and cakes were forbidden; there was a special funeral meal, and then a day of ritual grief. The second stage included rejoicing in honour of Apollo, the wearing of wreaths, the singing of joyful songs, a sacrifice to Apollo, a festive meal, a procession to Amyclae, choral song and dance. • Gymnopaedia The Gymnopaedia was known to be called 'The Festival of the Unarmed

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