Dissertation > History, geography > Customs > The world's customs and habits

A Study on Thesmophoria

Author YangHongLiu
Tutor ZhangQiang
School Northeast Normal University
Course Historical Philology
Keywords Thesmophoria Demeter Persephone
CLC K891
Type Master's thesis
Year 2013
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Thesmophoria is one of the important panhellenic festivals in ancient Greece. Only married women is allowed to celebrate, unmarried women, slaves, metics and men are all forbidden to attend, or even snoop the ceremony. People celebrate the Thesmophoria aiming at praying Demeter and her daughter (Queen of the underworld) Persephone to bestowal the high yield of the land.The first part of this paper main introduces the worship objects of Thesmophoria—Demeter and Persephone. Demeter is the goddess of plant growth and land harvest in the Greek mythology. Persephone is the daughter of Demeter and Zeus, also named Kore. She is the goddess of youth and agriculture. In the mean while, Persephone is the wife of Hades, goddess of death, and the Queen of the underworld. The archetype of this two goddesses are Ancient Mother Goddess and Snake Goddess, both figure can be traced back as a development of the original earth goddess. In ancient Greece, Demeter and Persephone were often adored together.The second part elaborated organizational structure of Thesmophoria, like the clergy, participants and funding. The third section describes the whole process of Thesmophoria.The celebration begins from the11th to13th day of Pyanopsion, and lasts for three days. The first day is called "Kathodos" or "Anodos", which means down and up. On this day, the sacrifice is presided by Priestess of Demeter. A roast is killed and thrown into megara of Demeter temple to leave it to decay. After having had the decontamination for three days, women will go down to megara to dig up the rotten pork, then mix with beans and put on the altar. The Second day is called Nesteia. There are two disputes about Nesteia, scholars like Harrison argue that it means "fast", while M.Dillon and others hold the view that it means "rapid growth". However, regardless the meaning of Nesteia, what really counts is that the women will fast in second day, speaking lewd and dirty words in order to improve the ability of land harvest. The third day is called Kalligeneia, means "beauty born". Actually "Kalligeneia" is the alternative name of the ancient Great Mother. There are no more details about this day, probably the major activity is hold a grant banquet, the women could make the rotten pork which they have dug from underground at the first day, sowing with beans.The fourth part describes the effect of Thesmophoria on Ancient Greek society. Thesmophoria is an important panhellenic festival, all the ancient Greek poleis will hold the celebration. This will definitely be a great help to ease the contradiction among poleis, improve the sense of ethnical identity, and enhance the stability and prosperity of Greek world. Besides, during the Thesmophoria, women could have the rare chance of relax by camping outside and staying away from housework, they could also have the rare rights to sacrifice as men, giving their contribution to the polis by praying for the more fertility of the land, which will improve the women status either in family or society, as well as to ease the social contradiction and maintain the stability of family and polis.

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