Peri Tes Syries Theoy
De Dea Syria
Concerning the Syrian Goddess

by Lucian of Samosata


Part Five - Ch. 50 through 60


A concatenation of the Loeb Classics edition, translated by A. M. Harmon and modernized by me, and the translation of Harold W. Attridge and Robert A. Oden.

Most of the notes are adapted from Harmon. Some are my own. Wherever Lucian gives only a Greek name, I have tried to include the Phoenician or Syrian name.

More details in Part One

Part Four
Ch. 50-54 - The Galloi
Ch. 55-60 - Pilgrims to the Holy City

The Galloi

50 - And on set days the multitude assembles in the sanctuary, and many Galloi and the religious men that I spoke of perform their ceremonies; and they cut their own arms and beat one another on the back.
And many stand there playing flutes and beating timbrels, and others sing inspired and holy songs. This is done outside the temple, and they who perform it do not come into the temple.

51 - And on these days Galloi are made. For while the rest are playing flutes and performing their rites, frenzy soon enters into many, and many there are who just came to watch who subsequently perform the act. I shall describe what they do. The young man whom Fortune has given to do this casts off his clothing and rushes into the center with a great shout, and takes up a sword, which has stood there many years for this purpose, I believe. Then he immediately castrates himself and runs through the City bearing in his hands those parts he has cut off. And from whatever house into which he shall cast these, he gets female clothing and womanly adornments. Thus they do when they castrate themselves.

52 - And Galloi at their death are not interred like other men, but when a Gallos dies, his companions lift him up and carry him to the outskirts of the City and set down the man himself and the bier on which they brought him, and cast stones upon him; and when this task is done, they go home again.

And they wait for a period of seven days before they enter the temple; for if they enter before, they commit a sacrilege. And the customs that they follow are these. If anyone of them should see a corpse, he does not enter the sanctuary that day; but on the next day, after he has purified himself, then he enters. And those who are the dead mans kin wait for 30 days then shave their heads before they enter.

54 They sacrifice bulls and cows and goats and sheep. Swine alone they neither sacrifice nor eat because they consider them unclean.

Elagabalus, by way of sportula, gave away all manner of animals except pigs; "for he abstained from them by the law of the Phoenicians" (Herodian 5, 6, 9; cf. Dio Cassius 79, 11). Suidas, s.v. Domninos alludes to the custom as Syrian, and Sophronius (Migne 87, 3, p. 3624) in the case of a girl from Damascus ascribes it to the worship of Adonis. See Baudissin, p. 142 sqq. "In Palestine and Syria the animal was used in certain exceptional sacrifices which were recognized as idolatrous (Isaiah 65, 4; 66, 17) and it was an open question whether it was really polluted or holy" (Cook, 48). There was similar uncertainty in Egypt; see Herodotus 2, 47, and Plutarch, Isis and Osiris, 8. Lucian is perhaps thinking of the pig as holy in connection with the Eleusinian mysteries, and Demeter worship generally. It was holy also in Crete, and apparently in Babylon (Ninib)
But other men deem them not unclean but holy. And among birds the dove seems to them a wonderful holy thing, and they are not inclined so much as to touch them; and if they should touch them in spite of themselves, they are unclean for that day. Therefore doves live among them and enter their houses and often gather food on the floor.
"In Syria by the sea is a city named Ascalon. . . . I saw there an impossible number of doves at the crossways and about every house. When I asked the reason, they said it was not permissible to catch them; for the inhabitants, from a remote period, had been forbidden to enjoy them. So tame is the creature through security that it always lives not only under the same roof with man but at the same table, and abuses its immunity" (Philo Judaeus, quoted by Eusebius, Praep. Evang. 8, 14, 50)

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Pilgrims to the Holy City

55 - And I shall tell you what each pilgrim does. When someone will fare to the Holy City for the first time, he shaves his head and his eyebrows; after that, he sacrifices a sheep, then he carves it and eats it all except the fleece which he lays on the earth and then kneels on it, and takes the animal's feet and head and puts upon his own head. Like this he prays, asking that this present sacrifice be accepted and promising a greater one the next time.

And when all this is finished, he puts a garland on his own head and on the heads of his fellows that will make that same pilgrimage. Then leaving his own country he makes the journey; and he uses cold water both for bathing and drinking, sleeping always on the earth; for he may not lie in any kind of bed until his pilgrimage is fulfilled and he returns to his own country.

56 - And in the Holy City a host who he does not really know receives him. For certain men there are appointed to act as hosts for every city, and many families inherit this duty. And Syrians call those men Masters because they teach the pilgrims everything.

57 - And the sacrifices are not performed in the temple, but when the pilgrim has presented the sacrificial animal before the altar and has poured a libation, he leads the animal back alive to his lodging, and when he arrives there he sacrifices it and prays by himself.

58 - There is also this other manner of sacrifice. They decorate the sacrificial animals with garlands and hurl them down the steps of the entry alive, and they die of the falling. And some men drop their own children from there, but not in the same manner as the animals. They lie them on a pallet and lower them down by hand, and they mock them as they do this, saying that they are not children but oxen.

59 - And all pilgrims mark themselves, some on the wrist and some on the neck; and for this reason all Syrians bear marks.

Lucian probably means tattooing, although actual branding was practised on occasion. "Some are afflicted with such an extravagancy of madness that, leaving themselves no room for a change of mind, they embrace slavery to the works of human hands, admitting it in writing, not upon sheets of papyrus as the custom is in the case of human chattels, but by branding it upon their bodies with a heated iron with a view to its indelible permanency; for even time does not fade these letters" (Philo Judaeus, de Monarchia 1, 8 fin.).

60 - And they do another thing, in which they resemble only the people of Troezen among the Greeks, and I shall tell you what they do. People of Troezen have a custom concerning their maidens and bachelors, that they do not marry until they shear their locks in honor of Hypolitos; and so they do. This is done also in the Holy City. The bachelors offer up their beards, and the children/young women let holy curls grow from their birth, which they shear when they are presented in the temple and put in containers either of silver or more often of gold, that they nail fast in the temple, and then go their way, after first inscribing their names. When I was young, I fulfilled that rite; and both my curl and my name are still in the sanctuary.

For the custom at Troezen see Pausanias 2, 32, 1; but he speaks only of girls. Its general prevalence is shown in Frazer's note on that passage, in which the item of chief interest in connection with Lucian is that in Caria, at the temple of Zeus Panamaros, it was customary for a man to dedicate a lock of hair in a stone receptacle on which was carved his name and that of the priest or priestess in charge; the receptacle was preserved in the temple.

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The End




Navigate "The Syrian Goddess"

Back to Part One
Ch. 1-5 - The Temples of Syria and Phoenicia
Ch. 6-9 - The Story of Adon, called by the Greeks, Adonis

Back to Part Two
Ch. 10-13 - The Holy City of the Syrian Goddess
Ch. 14 - The Story of Semiramis and Derketo
Ch. 15-16 - The Story of Kybele and Attis

Back to Part Three
Ch. 17-27 - The Story of Stratonike and Kombabos

Back to Part Four
Ch. 28-29 - The Holy Pillar Sitters
Ch. 30-49 - The Temple of the Syrian Goddess

This Page, Part Five: Back up to:
Ch. 50-54 - The Galloi
Ch. 55-60 - Pilgrims to the Holy City

The Qadash Kinahnu Canaanite-Phoenician Temple Directory


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