The month of Boedromion is an interesting one. It has barely any large festivals--the huge exception are the Greater Eleusinian Mysteries--but it has a very large number of small sacrifices, minor festivals, and commemorative events. It is a trend that seems to have continued from the previous month where the second half of the month--at least in Erchia, but also Athens--was dotted with them, far more than is usual in any of the other months. I want to risk a guess on why this is, but more on that later.

Today, I want to have a small discussion about six festivals celebrated the third to the seventh of the month. I would have done this yesterday (so as to be on time for the first of these festivals), but family circumstances did not permit that. The festivals and sacrifices we discuss today were largely celebrated in Athens and Erchia, but there are clues that at least one of these was a panhellenic event. These festivals and the dates they were celebrated on this month are:

3 - Plataia
4 - Sacrifice to Basile in Erchia
5 - Genesia
5 - Sacrifice to Epops at Erchia
6 - Kharisteria
7 - Boedromia

Plataia - The Plataia (or Plataea) seems to have been a commemorative festival, for the Hellenes fallen at the battle of Plataea. The Battle of Plataea was the final land battle during the second Persian invasion of Hellas. It took place in 479 BC near the city of Plataea in Boeotia, and was fought between an alliance of the Greek city-states, including Sparta, Athens, Corinth and Megara, and the Persian Empire of Xerxes I. Some 38,700 Hellenes stood their ground against 300.000 Persians. The Hellenes marched out of the Peloponnesus and the Persians retreated to Boeotia and built a fortified camp near Plataea. The Hellenes surrounded the camp, but refused to enter the bare terrain surrounding the camp. They waited for eleven days, and then found their supplies driddled. They attempted to retreat, and Persian general Mardonius ordered his forces to pursue them. The Hellenes, however--particularly the Spartans, Tegeans and Athenians--stood their ground, and won a great victory over the Perians. The Persian infantry was slaughtered, and Mardonius killed. Plutarch gives the date for the battle to be the fourth of this month, but also attested that the Athenians commemorated the event on the third. In Boeotia (and especially in Plataea), the rememberance seems to have been held on the fourth.

Herodotus, in his Histories (9. 52. 1), and Plutarch, in his 'Life of Arestides' both remark the following about what is most likely this battle:

"The seer slew victim after victim, Pausanias turned his face [historical general of the Persian Wars], all tears, toward the Heraion, and with hands uplifted prayed Kithaironion Hera and the other gods of the Plataian land that, if it was not the lot of the Hellenes to be victorious, they might at least do great deeds before they fell."[Life of Aristides, 18. 1]

As such we can assume that, besides the fallen, a sacrifice to Hera was also made.

Sacrifice to Basile in Erchia - In the calendar from Erchia the heroine Basile was given a holókaustos on the 4th of the month of Boedromion. The sacrifice to Basile consisted of a white, female, lamb and was followed by a wineless libation. The colour of the animal is noteworthy, since holókaustoi have commonly been classified as khthonian sacrifices, and it is usually assumed that the victims used in such rituals were black. Basile was also worshipped elsewhere in Attica, but nothing is known of the kind of sacrifices she received at those locations. Basile seems to have been a local heroine. Nothing survives about her deeds, as far as I have been able to find, but she was important enough to warrant her own personal sacrifice--the Erchian calendar also makes note of collective sacrifices to 'the heroines'.

Genesia - The Genesia seems to have been a festival of the dead--especially of dead parents. It was celebrated on the fifth of the month of Boudromion in Athens, but that is all we know for sure. There is reason to believe that the Genesia was panhellenic--although we do not know if all city-states performed the rites on the same day. We are also unsure if the Genesia was a set day for all children to visit their parents' grave and perform sacrifices there, or if there was a public commemoration of all parents. The day is also sacred to Gaea, who housed the remains of the dead, and brought fertility and wealth to the living.

Sacrifice to Epops at Erchia - In the calendar from Erchia, the hero Epops received two holókaustoi on the fifth of Boedromion. The victims of the two holókaustoi to Epops were piglets and the sacrifices were to be followed by wineless libations designated. Sacrifices to Epops are known only from the Erchia calendar. The mythological context of Epops is not clear, but he was a hero, perhaps linked (by Kallimachos) to the conflict between the city-states Paiania and Erchia.

Kharisteria - The Kharisteria takes place on the sixth of the month--a day sacred to Artemis. This festival is another commemoration of a battle, in this case, the battle of Marathon which took place in 490 BC. It was also a festival to pay off a debt to the Theoi. During the battle of Marathon, around 11,000 Hellenes stood their ground against a Persian force between 30.000 and 100.000 men. 203 Hellenes fell, opposite 6,400 Persians. That was quite a victory--especially if you consider that the Hellenes were the attacking side. The casualty numbers are known because the Hellenes set up a memorial for their fallen comrades. The Persian dead were counted for a very speciffic reason: the Hellenes had promised to the Theoi a sacrifice of one goat for ever Persian killed. In the end, they discovered they'd killed so many Persians that they couldn't find enough goats. A payment plan of sorts was divised, and over the course of thirteen years, roughly 500 goats per year were sacrificed, a practice that was still performed in Plutarch’s day. Plutarch also confirms that the sacrifice took place at Artemis Agrotera’s sanctuary at Agrai.

Boedromia - The festival that gives its name to the month. It might have been sacred to Apollon, and was thus most likely held on His sacred day--the seventh of the month. The Boedromia might have been another war commemoration. The epithet of Apollon associated with this festival is 'Boedromios', the helper in distress. The origin of the epithet and festival are explained in different ways. According to Plutarch, the name was awarded to Him (and the festival created) because he had assisted the Athenians in the war with the Amazons, who were defeated on the seventh of Boedromion, the day on which the Boedromia were afterwards celebrated. According to others, the name was awarded after the war of Erechtheus and Ion against Eumolpus, because Apollon had advised the Athenians to rush upon the enemy with a war-shout (Boê), if they wanted to win--and they did.

All these sacrifices have a khthonic character--to me, this is not odd, considering the Mysteries would be held only a few days afterwards. It was a time where death and the afterlife were on the mind, and where the dead were honored--because the Mysteries most likely also included appeasement and remembrances of the dead. Also remember the Niketeria, which was celebrated in the beginning of the month as well, and commemorated another battle.

To a modern Hellenist, none of these events--except perhaps the Genesia--relate to our life. These battles were not exactly in our lifetime, nor our country. Still, it is good to honor the dead, and take a moment to remember that the world would have been a very different place if the Persians had been victorious. Would it have been a worse place? That sort of value judgement is best reserved for the philosophers and historians. I am neither. I will give sacrifice to the dead, and to the heroes and heroines, and I will be thankful that my parents are still alive and I do not have reason to celebrate the Genesia. I will, however, mark the day with a sacrifice for the ancestors, in remembrance of a family line I am not exactly proud of, but am grateful for--because without them, I would not have been here.