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Among the Greeks the birthdays of several major Olympian deities (e.g. of Artemis on the sixth, Apollo on the seventh, and Poseidon on the eighth) were in early times assigned to days of the month and were treated as sacred. Throughout Greek history these ‘monthly’ birthdays continued to be recognized and were often the focal points of the deities' annual festivals. For humans the day of birth itself was marked by congratulatory visits and presents from relatives and friends, but in the Archaic and Classical periods there seems to have been no recurring monthly or annual celebrations of the day. Birthdays of humans first attained significance for the Greeks when they began to assimilate rulers and outstanding individuals to gods (see ruler‐cult). Plato shared Apollo's birthday, and after his death his followers gave him special veneration each year, probably on his birthday. In his will Epicurus endowed an annual banquet for his followers on his birthday. The birthdays and accession days of the Ptolemies (see Ptolemy (1) ), Seleucids, and Attalids were publicly fêted during their lifetimes throughout their kingdoms, both monthly and annually.

The Romans, unlike the Greeks, marked only anniversaries and from earliest times annually celebrated their own birthdays and those of family members, friends, and patrons with gifts, offerings, prayers, vows, and banquets. Roman poets developed a specific type of poem for the occasion. The rituals of the Roman birthday formed part of the cult of the genius of a man or the iuno of a woman. Under the empire the people celebrated annually, as an important part of imperial cult, the birthdays of past and present emperors and members of the imperial family.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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