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The Honoring of Artemis in Mounichion

Posted by Anna Yamamaya on April 17, 2011 at 7:00 PM

 

Mounichion was the Athenian month of April. Mounukhia (Munychia, Mounichia, or Munichia) was a festival of Artemis that occured on the sixteenth of the month. The sixteenth day of the month was the full moon, and the sixth day was the waxing crescent. Each Athenian month began the first day of the month with the new moon.

 

The Origin of the Sanctuary of Artemis Mounichia

Before Piraeus was a peninsula in Attica, Greece, it was originally an island according to geological evidence.[1] That’s why Piraeus is a derivation of peram which means "opposite."[2] It also means "'crossing' by sea."[3] Munichos was the first who founded the sanctuary of Artemis there; thus, the hill was named after him.[4]

 

Arkteia

The arkteia, a rite of girls around the ages of five to ten acting like bears, was practiced at the following sanctuaries: Artemis Mounichia in Piraeus, Artemis Brauronia in the coast of Brauron and on the Acropolis.[5] Redfield believes that the rite first began in Mounichia and later in Brauron.[6] The arkteia service was available to all Athenian families as believed by Aristophanes.[7] Although there were marble votives dedicated to male children, there hasn't been any literature that marked that boys participated in the rite.[8]

 

Short garment-clothed girls while some were naked ran and danced like bears; they became arktoi which mean bears. Saffron (a yellow-orange color) robes or krokotos were worn in the beginning of the rite. “Sourvinou-Inwood has made a careful argument suggesting that the saffron robe was worn at a relatively early stage in the rite, and that the girls shed it and became naked as a preparation for their return to society in their new status.”[9] The purpose of the rite was to transform the girls into being marriageable because it was believed all little girls were wild.[10] The rite gave them a chance to feel their power and release all their wildness.[11] After the rite they would be tamer.[12] It is suggested that the saffron robes represent sexual maturity.[13] “A Bear is imagined with a krokotos… is otherwise known, not least from Aristophanes, as a full-length yellow gown that makes a woman irresistibly alluring. Krokotoi appear with details of workmanship in the Brauron inventories. Very likely a bride wore it at her wedding. If a little Bear wears it, it is by anticipation, like using a bridal basin.”[14] They can also represent “the skin of the tawny bear in a more civilised mode.”[15]

 

The rite’s purpose also teaches girls about separation from their family since they would be living with their husbands after marriage;[16] it is why they remain in the sanctuary for a certain period of time. Like some young women who believed in chastity, Hippolytus, a companion of Artemis, vowed to remain a virgin and remarked he had “a maiden spirit.”[17] By acting like bears, the girls are able to relate to Artemis’s fierce chastity.[18] Once they shed their robes as mentioned before, they would be transformed and perhaps accept their fate as brides.[19] This also marks the end of their maidenhood.

 

Arkteia is associated with the Mounichia story; it begins with a she-bear visiting the sanctuary. Each day she visited the sanctuary and grew tamer. One day, a little girl teased the she-bear, and the she-bear attacked her. The brother of the girl killed the bear[20] which invoked Artemis’s anger. The Goddess sent out a plague, and the oracle said that a daughter must be sacrificed to Her in order to stop the plague. Embarus decided to offer his daughter. He dressed her in fine clothes but hid her in the innermost of the sanctuary. Pretending that a she-goat was his daughter, Embarus dressed it up and sacrificed it to Artemis. Artemis accepted his sacrifice, and the plague ended.

 

Brauron’s arkteia is associated with the tale of Agamemnon. One version states that after he killed a deer, he boasted that he was a better hunter than Artemis. As a result, Artemis sent out a storm to prevent Agamemnon and his mates from sailing to Troy.[21] Kalchas, a seer, told Agamemnon to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia, to appease the Goddess’s anger. When Iphigenia was about to be sacrificed, Artemis whisked her away and replaced her with a goat. Iphigenia then became a priestess of Artemis. An Attic chronicler named Phanodemus said that Artemis replaced Iphigenia with a bear instead.[22] He even mentioned that Iphigenia was turned into a bear herself.[23] This is associated with the arkteia in Brauron.

 

Dowden describes the Attic bear-myth motifs:

 

“We can immediately see a cluster of Attic bear-myth motifs: focus on the maiden (like the daughter of Embaros, the girl who provokes the bear, or the Athenian maidens who must henceforth be Bears); a moment of crisis brought on by sexual maturity (the Athenian maidens must perform the rite before marriage, and the mythic girl hints at sexuality in her attitude towards the tame bear); Artemis (as at both Brauron and Mounichia); a segregated – single-sex, single-age-group – community of Artemis (like the Bears, and as implied by the adyton[24]). The wrath of Artemis is implicit in the story and is worked out in different ways in different versions: it is Artemis who turns Kallisto into a bear, or Hera does and Artemis hoots the bear. In any case, this anger is associated with the end of maidenhood (Zeus, Athenian girls before marriage) or the end of the maiden (‘sacrifice’ of Embaros’ daughter).”[25]

 

It’s strange when one thinks that Embarus equated his daughter with a goat. Hence, we get the proverb, “I am Embarus,” which means “crazy like a fox,” and it also means “clever” and “demented.”[26] When he pretended that his daughter was a goat, it showed that he understood what the Goddess actually wanted.[27] Artemis wanted a “mimesis of human sacrifice” and not a maiden.[28] That is why She accepted the goat dressed up like his daughter and saved Iphigenia from being sacrificed.

 

It is also said that priesthood was hereditary in the sanctuary of Artemis Mounichia[29], and only a female could be the priestess[30] that collects the skin, head, and feet of a sacrificial animal from a pregnant woman. This brings up the Mounichia story, especially when new brides in Cyrene usually offered goats to Artemis on the sixth or sixteenth of any month. Also before Embarus sacrifices his daughter, he made a deal with Artemis which Pausanias stated, “Embaros promised to do this on the condition that his family would be granted the office of priest for their lifetime.”[31]

 

Amphiphontes

Amphiphontes, which means “shining on both sides,” were small cakes studded with little torches called dadiai.[32] They were offered to Artemis and Hecate each full moon on every Athenian month.[33] Philemon’s The Poor Girl or The Girl from Rhodes mentions the cake offering to Artemis: “Artemis, dear mistress, to you I carry, lady, this cake shining all around and what is to serve as a drink-offering.”[34]

 

Hiketeria

Hiketes, the “suppliant,” used hiketeria, an olive branch wrapped in wool, to seek protection from the Gods.[35] This made them sacred and inviolable[36] in the temple (this didn’t exclude those who committed a crime[37]). The hiketeria resembled stibas, a seat of fresh branches that were flexible, which is the earliest invention of seats than chairs and beds.[38] Stibas were made for sacrificial feasts, and Gods were also invited to “sit” on them.[39] Thus, laying down the hiketeria on the altar or hearth was “for gods on the one side, and the symbolism of the hiketeria on the other.”[40] You can imagine the suppliant asking the God to “settle” down on the “stibas” and listen to his or her petition.

 

On the sixth day of Mounichion, “a procession of girls walked to the Delphinion” as they carried hiketeria.[41] Simon suggests that the festival could be called “Hiketeria” which was in honor for Artemis as a petition for Her protection.[42] In beginning of The Suppliants by Aeschylus, hiketeria is mentioned when the fifty daughters of Danaus petitioned to Artemis because they didn’t want to marry their Egyptian cousins: “And may the holy maiden daughter of Zeus look with a willing eye on one who seeks her protection, even Artemis who stands there by the sacred wall; and may she a virgin, who has escaped uncaught in so many pursuits, put forth all her strength to rescue a virgin suppliant. For if she does not, we will appeal, a dark and sunburnt race, with suppliant boughs in our hands…”[43] It could be very most likely that the procession of girls in Delphinion were pleading for some sort of protection that dealt with their virginity.

 

The Battle of Salamis

The victory of the Battle of Salamis was decided to be celebrated on the Mounukhia festival even though the battle was won seven months earlier.[44] Because the Athenians associated Artemis with the moon, they believed Artemis helped them win their battle since Her full moon shined on their victory.[45] The celebration on the festival was rather a commemoration of the victory than an anniversary.[46]

 

Summary

Bears and goats were important in Mounichion. We see goats being sacrificed to Artemis, the practicing of arkteia, and the priesthood at Artemis Mounichia being connected to bears. We see girls and women holding suppliant boughs to ask Artemis for Her protection. Lighted round cakes were especially offered to Artemis at the sixteenth of the month, and Her lunar energies were honored once after the victory in Salamis.

 

End Notes

 

[1] Garland, The Piraeus: From the Fifth to the First Century BC, 7.

[2] Garland, The Piraeus: From the Fifth to the First Century BC, 7.

[3] Garland, The Piraeus: From the Fifth to the First Century BC, 7.

[4] Minai, Dancing In Moonlight: Understanding Artemis Through Celebration, 35.

[5] Redfield, The Locrian Maidens: Love and Death in Greek Italy, 99.

[6] Redfield, The Locrian Maidens: Love and Death in Greek Italy, 101.

[7] Robertson, Religion and Reconciliation in Greek Cities: The Sacred Laws of Selinus and Cyrene, 346.

[8] Redfield, The Locrian Maidens: Love and Death in Greek Italy, 100.

[9] Redfield, The Locrian Maidens: Love and Death in Greek Italy, 108.

[10] Redfield, The Locrian Maidens: Love and Death in Greek Italy, 108; Minai, Dancing In Moonlight: Understanding Artemis Through Celebration, 20.

[11] Redfield, The Locrian Maidens: Love and Death in Greek Italy, 108; Minai, Dancing In Moonlight: Understanding Artemis Through Celebration, 20.

[12] Minai, Dancing In Moonlight: Understanding Artemis Through Celebration, 20.

[13] Redfield, The Locrian Maidens: Love and Death in Greek Italy, 108.

[14] Robertson, Religion and Reconciliation in Greek Cities: The Sacred Laws of Selinus and Cyrene, 346.

[15] Dowden, The Uses of Greek Mythology, 73.

[16] Redfield, The Locrian Maidens: Love and Death in Greek Italy, 108.

[17] Redfield, The Locrian Maidens: Love and Death in Greek Italy, 111.

[18] Redfield, The Locrian Maidens: Love and Death in Greek Italy, 114.

[19] Redfield, The Locrian Maidens: Love and Death in Greek Italy, 114.

[20] Redfield, The Locrian Maidens: Love and Death in Greek Italy, 101.

[21] Hansen, Ariadne's Thread: A Guide to International Tales Found in Classical Literature, 54.

[22] Robertson, Religion and Reconciliation in Greek Cities: The Sacred Laws of Selinus and Cyrene, 339.

[23] Robertson, Religion and Reconciliation in Greek Cities: The Sacred Laws of Selinus and Cyrene, 339.

[24] The adyton is the innermost section of a sanctuary that is secretive.

[25] Dowden, The Uses of Greek Mythology, 76.

[26] Redfield, The Locrian Maidens: Love and Death in Greek Italy, 102.

[27] Redfield, The Locrian Maidens: Love and Death in Greek Italy, 107.

[28] Redfield, The Locrian Maidens: Love and Death in Greek Italy, 107.

[29] Robertson, Religion and Reconciliation in Greek Cities: The Sacred Laws of Selinus and Cyrene, 341.

[30] Robertson, Religion and Reconciliation in Greek Cities: The Sacred Laws of Selinus and Cyrene, 341.

[31] Burkert, Pinder, The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age, 73.

[32] D'Este, Artemis: Virgin Goddess of the Sun & Moon, 32.

[33] D'Este, Artemis: Virgin Goddess of the Sun & Moon, 32.

[34] Minai, Dancing In Moonlight: Understanding Artemis Through Celebration, 36.

[35] Smith, Masterpieces of Classic Greek Drama, 85.

[36] Nilsson, Greek Popular Religion, 33; Smith, Masterpieces of Classic Greek Drama, 85.

[37] Hägg, Marinatos, Greek Sanctuaries: New Approaches, 73.

[38] Burkert, Structure and History in Greek mythology and Ritual, 44.

[39] Burkert, Structure and History in Greek mythology and Ritual, 44.

[40] Burkert, Structure and History in Greek mythology and Ritual, 44.

[41] Simon, Festivals of Attica: An Archaeological Commentary, 79.

[42] Simon, Festivals of Attica: An Archaeological Commentary, 79; Minai, Dancing In Moonlight: Understanding Artemis Through Celebration, 37.

[43] Aeschylus, The Suppliants, 4.

[44] Minai, Dancing In Moonlight: Understanding Artemis Through Celebration, 36.

[45] Mikalson, Herodotus and Religion in the Persian Wars, 76.

[46] Mikalson, Herodotus and Religion in the Persian Wars, 76.

 

Bibliography

 

Aeschylus. Aeschylus. Trans. F. A. Paley. London: Cambridge: Deighton Bell &, 1871. Print.

 

Burkert, Walter, and Margaret E. Pinder. The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age. Cambridge (Mass.): Harvard UP, 1995. Print.

 

Burkert, Walter. Structure and History in Greek Mythology and Ritual. Berkeley: University of California, 1982. Print.

 

D'Este, Sorita. Artemis: Virgin Goddess of the Sun & Moon. London: Avalonia, 2005. Print.

 

Dowden, Ken. The Uses of Greek Mythology. London: Routledge, 1992. Print.

 

Garland, Robert. The Piraeus: From the Fifth to the First Century BC. Bristol: Bristol Classical, 2001. Print.

 

Hansen, William F. Ariadne's Thread: A Guide to International Tales Found in Classical Literature. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2002. Print.

 

Marinatos, Nanno, and Robin Hägg. Greek Sanctuaries: New Approaches. London: CRC, 2002. Print.

 

Mikalson, Jon D. Herodotus and Religion in the Persian Wars. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2003. Print.

 

Minai, Thista. Dancing in Moonlight: Understanding Artemis Through Celebration. Hubbardston, MA: Asphodel, 2007. Print.

 

Nilsson, Martin P. Greek Popular Religion. New York: Columbia UP, 1947. Print.

Redfield, James M. The Locrian Maidens: Love and Death in Greek Italy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2003. Print.

 

Robertson, Noel. Religion and Reconciliation in Greek Cities: The Sacred Laws of Selinus and Cyrene. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010. Print.

 

Simon, Erika. Festivals of Attica: An Archaeological Commentary. Madison (Wis.): University of Wisconsin, 2002. Print.

 

Smith, Helaine L. Masterpieces of Classic Greek Drama. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2006. Print.

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