Parthenoi in Ritual

Robert Parker

in Polytheism and Society at Athens

Published in print March 2007 | ISBN: 9780199216116
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191705847 | DOI:
Parthenoi in Ritual

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This chapter discusses the rituals assigned to parthenoi in ancient Athens, including rituals in which boys of the upper classes participated during their education prior to the ephebate. It was necessary for the presence of a parthenos as ‘basket-bearer’ in every sacrificial procession. In visible rituals it fell to a large extent to parthenoi to embody the feminine presence in Athens. This chapter considers a famous passage of Aristophanes's Lysistrata, in which the chorus explain why they will now offer good advice to the city. They provide rare native testimony to the idea, familiar to outside observers, that it was cultic citizenship above all that gave women a sense of belonging to that city from whose political deliberations they were excluded. They also treat their religious services not as contributions that they have made to the life of the city but as privileges that have been granted to them.

Keywords: parthenoi; rituals; ancient Athens; boys; processions; sacrifices; women; Aristophanes; Lysistrata; cults

Chapter.  19619 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Classical History

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