Horses

At the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, the Athenians allowed the founding of a sanctuary for the Goddess Bendis and shortly afterward created a state festival, the Bendideia, for her.The first celebration was held on the 19th of Thargelion (May–June), 429 BC, at the Piraeus, the seaport of Athens.

Many pagan calendars list June 6th as the modern equivalent date for this festival honoring the Moon Goddess of Thrace. Other sources give that her festivals were held on the full moon preceding or coinciding with the solstice – and if so, the dates would vary from year to year.

For a description of the festival we have this excerpt of a conversation between Socrates and a friend describing that festival (from Plato’s Republic):

Sokrates: “I went down yesterday to the Peiraios (Piraeus) with Glaukon (Glaucon), the son of Ariston, to pay my devotions to the Goddess [Bendis], and also because I wished to see how they would conduct the festival since this was its inauguration. I thought the procession of the citizens very fine, but it was no better than the show, made by the marching of the Thrakian contingent [i.e. the mercenary force who policed ancient Athens]. After we had said our prayers and seen the spectacle we were starting for town . . . “

‘Do you mean to say,’ interposed Adeimantus, ‘that you haven’t heard that there is to be a torchlight race this evening on horseback in honor of the Goddess?’

‘On horseback?’ said I. ‘That is a new idea. Will they carry torches and pass them along to one another as they race with the horses, or how do you mean?’

‘That’s the way of it,’ said Polemarkhos, ‘and, besides, there is to be a night festival which will be worth seeing. For after dinner we will get up and go out and see the sights and meet a lot of the lads there and have good talk . . . Let this complete your entertainment, Sokrates, at the festival of Bendis.’

On August 21, the ancient Romans celebrated the Consualia, a festival, with games, in honour of Consus, the god of secret deliberations.

circus_max3

It was solemnized every year in the circus, by the symbolical ceremony of uncovering an altar dedicated to the god, which was buried in the earth. This was because Romulus, who was considered the founder of the festival, was said to have discovered an altar in the earth on that spot.

The solemnity took place on the 21st of Augusta with horse and chariot races, and libations were poured into the flames which consumed the sacrifices. During these festive games, horses and mules were not allowed to do any work, and were adorned with garlands of flowers.

This festival is associated with the “Rape of the Sabine Women.” When after the building of Rome the Romans had no women, it is said, and when their suit to obtain them from the neighboring tribes was rejected, Romulus spread a report, that he had found the altar of an unknown god buried under the earth. The god was called Consus, and Romulus vowed sacrifices and a festival to him, if he succeeded in the plan he devised to obtain wives for his Romans. According to legend, it was at the first celebration of the Consualian Games that the Sabine maidens were carried off. The purpose being to populate the newly built town of Rome.

Note: Consus was eventually identified with Neptunus Equester, the alias and counterpart of Poseidon Hippios (Neptune), who was the founder of Atlantis, where, according to Plato, horses (hippos, equus) originated. Hence the connection with the animal.

Found in: A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities

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