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HYACI´NTHIA (Ὑακίνθια), a great national festival, celebrated every year at Amyclae by the Amyclaeans and Spartans. The festival dated from pre-Dorian times, but, like the Carneia, had been taken over by the Dorians; and was held in honour of the Amyclaean Apollo and of the youthful hero Hyacinthus, whom he accidentally struck dead with a quoit. This Amyclaean Apollo, however, with whom Hyacinthus was associated, must not be confounded with Apollo, the national divinity of the Dorians. (Müller, Orchom. p. 327; Dor. 2.8.15.) This Hyacinthus is unmistakably a personification of the drying up of vegetation by the heat of summer: the quoit (δίσκος) is the sun's disc, Apollo the god who hurls it (Schömann, Alterth. 2.404). The Hyacinthia lasted for three days, and began on the longest day of the Spartan month Hecatombeus (the Attic Hecatombaeon, Hesych. sub voce Ἑκατομβεύς: Manso, Sparta, 3.2, p. 201; called also Ὑακίνθιος from this festival, Stein on Hdt. 9.7). On the first day of the Hyacinthia sacrifices were offered to the dead, and the death of Hyacinthus was lamented. Nobody wore any garlands or sung paeans at the sacrifices, nor was any wheaten bread offered: plain sacrificial cakes, apparently unleavened, were the order of the day, and great abstinence was practised. This serious and melancholy character was foreign to all the other festivals of Apollo. The second day, however, was wholly spent in public rejoicings and amusements. Amyclae was visited by numbers of strangers (πανήγυρις ἀξιόλογος καὶ μεγάλη, Didymus ap. Ath. iv. p. 139 e), and boys played the cithara or sang to the accompaniment of the flute, and celebrated in anapaestic metres the praise of Apollo, while others, in splendid attire, performed a horse-race in the theatre. This horse-race is probably the ἀγὼν mentioned by Strabo in connexion with the Hyacinthia (vi. p. 278). After this race there followed a number of choruses of youths conducted by a χοροποιός (Xen. Ages. 2.17), in which some of their national songs (ἐπιχώρια ποιήματα) were sung. During the songs of these choruses dancers performed some of the ancient and simple movements with the accompaniment of the flute and the song. The Spartan and Amyclaean maidens, after this, riding in chariots made of wickerwork (κάναθρα), and splendidly adorned, went in solemn procession. Numerous sacrifices were also offered on this day, and the citizens kept open house for their friends and relations; and even slaves were allowed to enjoy themselves. (Didymus, ap. Ath. iv. p. 139.) One of the favourite meals on this occasion was called κοπίς. and is described by Molpis (ap. Ath. iv. p. 140) as consisting of cake, bread, meat, raw herbs, broth, figs, dessert, and the seeds of lupine. Some ancient writers, when speaking of the Hyacinthia, apply to the whole festival such epithets as can only be used in regard to the second day; for instance, when they call it a merry or joyful solemnity. Macrobius (Macr. 1.18.2) states that the Spartans wore chaplets of ivy at the Hyacinthia as at a Bacchic rite, which can only be true if it be understood of the second day. The incorrectness of these writers is however in some degree excused by the fact, that the second day formed the principal part of the festive season, as appears from the description of Didymus, and as may also be inferred from Xenophon (Xenoph. Hell. 4.5.11; compare Ages. 2.17), who makes the paean the principal part of the Hyacinthia. The third day's ceremonies are not specially described (Schömann, l.c.), but, according to the tradition, were of a solemn character, resembling those of the first day. The great importance attached to this festival by the Amyclaeans and Lacedaemonians is seen from the fact, that the Amyclaeans, even when they had taken the field against an enemy, always returned home on the approach of the season of the Hyacinthia, that they might not be obliged to neglect its celebration (Xen. Hell. 4.5, § 11 Paus. 3.10.1), and that the Lacedaemonians on one occasion concluded a truce of forty days with the town of Eira, merely to be able to return home and celebrate the national festival (Paus. 4.19.3); and that in a treaty with Sparta, B.C. 421, the Athenians, in order to show their good--will towards Sparta, promised every year to attend the celebration of the Hyacinthia. (Thuc. 5.23.)

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