Naming a Gift: The Vocabulary and Purposes of Greek Religious Offerings



Block V (fragment) from the east frieze of the Parthenon, ca. 447–433 BC. British Museum, main floor, room 16. Source: Wikimedia Commons


By Dr. Theodora Suk Fong Jim
Academic Fellow, History
Lancaster University


Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 52 (2012), 310–337

THE LAST FEW DECADES have seen several valuable  studies on the vocabulary of offerings to the gods in ancient  Greece.1   After  Rudhardt’s  useful  analysis of Greek religious practices and vocabulary first published in the 1950s, Casabona provided a detailed  treatment  of  the  words for sacrifice, followed by Lazzarini’s research on the formulae of votive offerings in Archaic Greece. More recently Lazzarini has a short note on several religious terms in epigraphic evidence, and the Thesaurus Cultus et Rituum Antiquorum also has a succinct section on various Greek terms and formulae of dedi- cations. Given these important studies, there may seem to be no need for further work on this subject. Nevertheless, while existing scholarship has discussed different forms of offerings, most notably ἀναθήµατα, ἄγαλµα, ἱερά, θυσία, and ἐνάγισµα, historians  have  failed  to  differentiate  among  the  purposes  of offerings. Worshippers could make a θυσία or set up an ἀνάθηµα for a range of reasons and with varying expectations, such as in gratitude for deliverance, to commemorate a victory, to mark the end of childbirth, and to honour the gods for other kinds of assistance; and different Greek words might be used to denote offerings made for different purposes. This article examines the terminology for various types of offerings made on different occasions. My main concern is with vocabulary expressing the reason or purpose, but not the form2 or the location,3 of the offering. I have included every relevant term (though not every instance of the term) that I have been able to discover, but I am likely to have missed some: the topic has barely been discussed before, and my purpose is to demonstrate its interest.

Greek religious offerings could take many forms. Some worshippers might offer an animal sacrifice; this could be accompanied, or substituted, by less expensive bloodless offerings in the form of vegetarian foodstuff, cakes, and/or libations. Other worshippers might prefer more durable  dedications,  which could be objects originally intended for other uses (so- called  ‘raw’  dedications)  or  specially  commissioned  for dedication (‘converted’ dedications).4 Animal sacrifice, offerings of food and drink, and dedications all feature in the present study. Since in most cases the form of offering had no direct correlation with the purpose for which it was made,5 I shall treat them together without differentiating among them. The categorization that follows is based on the function and not on the physical form of the offering.

Before proceeding to the sources, it is important to realize that the vocabulary for different types of offerings is not fixed: ancient authors, and especially Greek tragedians, might occasionally borrow a word normally used in the non-religious sphere to specify the function of a religious offering in a particular context. Some of the words discussed below are attested only in certain genres (such as dramatic poetry) or in isolated instances; and offerings made for similar purposes may be variously termed or without any specific terminology at all. In other words, although there exist different names for various types of offerings as we shall see, the application of these terms is fluid and far from formalized. Nevertheless, despite the flexibility and infrequency with which some of the words were used, their very attestation in our sources is significant for historians: the choice of Greek words is closely connected to the context in which the offering was made, and can reveal much about the ancient worshippers’ expectations and religious experience.

I.  Vocabulary for ‘Offerings’

Of the words collected here, three major kinds of offerings may be identified: thank-offerings made retrospectively in acknowledgement of divine assistance, preliminary offerings made before some enterprise, and propitiatory offerings for the gods and the dead. I shall discuss the Greek terms one by one,6 before reflecting on their wider significance for the study of Greek religion in section II.

(i)   Thank-Offerings


A cognate noun of εὐαγγέλειν (‘to bring good news’), εὐαγγέλιον normally denotes the reward to a messenger for bringing good tidings; its plural form εὐαγγέλια may denote in Classical authors a thank-offering to the gods for good-tidings received. In Aristophanes’ Knights, to curry favour with the boule

Paphlagon proposes sacrificing a hundred heifers to Athena as εὐαγγέλια to celebrate some good news: εὐαγγέλια θύειν ἑκα- τὸν βοῦς τῇ θεῷ (654–656). Menander’s Perikeiromene mentions εὐαγγέλια offered to the gods for Glycera’s good luck in finding her family (992–994). Military victory was often the occasion for sacrificing εὐαγγέλια. According to Xenophon, the Spartan commander Eteonicus offered a sacrifice so termed (ἔθυε τὰ εὐαγγέλια) for the good news of Athens’ defeat in the battle of Arginusae (Hell. 1.6.37). So closely related were εὐαγγέλια and military victory that Agesilaus, in order not to dishearten his troops with the news of Sparta’s naval disaster at Cnidos, announced instead Lysander’s death and Spartan victory and “offered sacrifice as if for good news, and sent around  to many people portions of the victims which had been offered”: λέγων καὶ ἐβουθύτει ὡς εὐαγγέλια καὶ πολλοῖς διέ- πεµπε τῶν τεθυµένων (Hell. 4.3.13–14, transl. Brownson). The murder of Philip II of Macedon in 336 B.C. was also celebrated with such offerings.7


From ζωγρεῖν or ζωὸν ἀγρεῖν (‘to take alive’), the word ζω- άγρια may express the reward to the gods for saving one’s life.8 In the Homeric scene where Thetis comes to Hephaestus for a new set of armour to be made for Achilles, the god describes his second fall from Olympus and Thetis’ rescue of him, on account of which the goddess has a claim to his gratitude: “I must certainly repay fair-tressed Thetis all price for saving my life,” τώ µε µάλα χρεὼ πάντα Θέτι καλλιπλοκάµῳ ζωάγρια τίνειν.9 The expression ζωάγρια τίνειν may be compared to  the phrase ζωάγρι’ ὀφέλλειν in Homer’s Odyssey: Nausicaa claims that Odysseus owes her the ransom of his life (8.462). Both applications are extensions of the word’s normal meaning—the price or ransom paid (usually to warriors) for taking a prisoner alive—known to Homer and Classical authors.10 Underlying these various usages is the basic idea of a debt of gratitude for saving or sparing one’s life. The transfer of the word’s normal usages to the religious sphere appears to occur only in verse. Apart from Homer, there are no other early religious usages of ζωάγρια. It is not until perhaps the late third century B.C. that the word came to denote a thank-offering for deliverance from danger.11 In two late verse inscriptions  the  word ζωάγρια was used of an individual’s dedication to  Asclepius and other gods for recovery from  illness.12



Initiation and Ancient Greek Rituals and Narratives:  New Critical Perspectives / David Dodd

Derived from θρεπτήρ (‘feeder’, ‘rearer’) and τρέφειν (‘to bring up’), the word θρεπτήριον is used in the opening scene of Aeschylus’ Choephoroe to refer to the lock of hair dedicated by Orestes to Inachus, the river(-god) of Argos, as a thank-offering for nurture.13 This is representative of the common practice in ancient Greece, when individuals attained manhood or womanhood, of shedding a lock of hair as an offering to the gods or rivers, as rivers were regarded as κουροτρόφοι.14 The ritual is attested already in Homer but the word is not used: Achilles had intended to offer some of his hair to the river Spercheius on his return home; but knowing that he will never go home, he offers it instead to his dead comrade Patroclus in mourning (Il. 23.140–149). The shedding of hair in both rituals of adolescence and rituals of mourning (see below) makes his transfer of the offering to Patroclus possible. The Aeschylean passage is unique in using θρεπτήριον to denote a ‘nurture offering’; no other adolescent hair-offering to the deities is described as such.15 Where the plural θρεπτήρια appears in Classical literature, it frequently refers to the reward or return for rearing made to nurses by parents or children, as an equivalent of τροφεῖα.16 Whether applied to the offering to the gods or the reward to nurses, θρεπτήριον/α is an acknowledgement of the nurture received from them.



The Maeander Valley:  A Historical Geography from Antiquity to Byzantium / Peter Thonemann

Etymologically associated with κείρειν (‘to cut’, ‘to shear’) and κουρά (‘cropping of the hair’),17 κούρειον usually refers to a sacrifice offered for the induction of boys into the phratry on the third day of the Apatouria, called Koureotis.18 A hair-cutting ritual was apparently also performed on this day.19 Another kind of κούρειον is attested in a fourth-century lex sacra from Thebes at Mycale. It requires goatherds to offer to Hermes a young goat from each of their own herds, and shepherds a lamb if there were five new-born, as a κούρειον.20 The word here denotes a shearing offering (of goats and sheep) in spring, “une victime ‘immolée à l’occasion de la tonte.’”21

νικητήρια, ἐπινίκια


Polytheism and Society at Athens / Robert Parker

From νικητήρ (‘winner’) and νικᾶν (‘to win’, ‘to prevail’), the substantive νικητήρια refers to a sacrifice or festival in cele- bration of victory.22 After his conquest of Sardis and Babylon, Cyrus offered sacrifice and celebrated a festival of victory by a banquet: θύσας δὲ καὶ ὁ Κῦρος νικητήρια ἑστιῶν.23 On this occasion it was Cyrus who held the festival and provided the sacrificial feast, but νικητήρια might also be held by friends of the victor. Plutarch tells us that when Phocus, son of the Athenian politician Phocion, won the foot-race in the Panathenaia, many people invited him to a victory celebration with a feast: νικήσαντος δὲ καὶ πολλῶν αἰτουµένων ἑστιᾶσαι τὰ νικητήρια (Phoc. 20.1). These victory celebrations are similar to ἐπινίκια,  a sacrifice or feast in honour of victory.24 Known occasions for ἐπινίκια are, for example, victories in choregic competitions and athletic games.25

ῥύσια, παυσιτοκεῖα

An epigram attributed to Perses, late fourth or third century B.C., uses the word ῥύσια, from ῥύεσθαι (‘to save’) and ῥύσιος (‘delivering’, ‘saving’), to signify ‘offerings for deliverance’ made after childbirth:

Πότνια κουροσόος, ταύταν ἐπιπορπίδα νυµφᾶν καὶ στεφάναν λιπαρῶν ἐκ κεφαλᾶς πλοκάµων,

ὀλβία Εἰλήθυια, πολυµνάστοιο φύλασσε Τισίδος ὠδίνων ῥύσια δεξαµένα.

Goddess, saviour of children, blest Eileithyia, receive and keep as an offering for delivering Tisis, who well remembers, from her pangs, this bridal brooch and the diadem from her glossy hair.26

In this context ῥύσια, with the objective genitive ὠδίνων, refers specifically to an offering to Eileithyia for deliverance from the pain of childbirth. Another word for an offering after childbirth is found in a third-century B.C. inscription from Gonnoi in Thessaly: a woman dedicated to Artemis Eileithyia an offering termed παυσιτοκεῖα (Ἀρτέµιδι Ἰλιθύαι Μενέπολις Ἐπίνου παυσιτοκεῖα ἀνέθηκε). From a compound of παυσι- and τόκος, this otherwise unattested word apparently refers to an offering marking the end of childbirth.27


A cognate noun of σῴζειν (‘to save’), the word σῶστρα is used in Herodotus on one occasion to denote a thank-offering to the gods for deliverance from danger. In his account of the early history of Persia, Herodotus relates how Cyrus had survived despite his grandfather king Astyages’ order to have him killed by the steward Harpagus. In revenge, pretending that he was “about to sacrifice thank-offerings for the boy’s deliverance to those of the gods to whom this honour belongs” (σῶστρα γὰρ τοῦ παιδὸς µέλλω θύειν τοῖσι θεῶν τιµὴ αὕτη προσκέε- ται), he had Harpagus’ son murdered and his flesh served to Harpagus at the dinner.28 All other known applications of the term σῶστρα in the Classical period refer to the reward paid to humans for bringing back lost cattle or run-away slaves.29 Like ζωάγρια, the transfer of the word σῶστρα to the  religious  sphere is found only in verse; in later Greek σῶστρα may also denote a thank-offering to the gods for escape from death30 or to Asclepius for healing.31 Two epigrams on an inscription in Rome describe a physician’s dedication to Asclepius simultaneously as ζωάγρια, σῶστρα, and χαριστήρια, which shows that their meanings and usages are closely related or interchangeable  in  some contexts.32

σωτήρια, ἐλευθέρια

A further word for ‘thank-offering for  deliverance’  is σωτήρια, from σωτήρ (‘saviour’) and σῴζειν (‘to save’).33 In Xenophon’s Anabasis, the Greek troops vowed to sacrifice σωτήρια  to  Zeus  Soter34   as  soon  as  they  reached  a  friendly land: εὔξασθαι τῷ θεῷ τούτῳ θύσειν σωτήρια ὅπου ἂν πρῶτον εἰς φιλίαν χώραν ἀφικώµεθα; the vow was fulfilled when they reached the Greek city of Trapezus on the Euxine Sea.35 Sacrificial offerings aside, the word can also denote a festival held in honour of the gods and in celebration of deliverance from danger, such as the Soteria at Priene ca. 297 B.C. in honour of liberation from a tyrant (I.Priene 11) and the Delphic Soteria established in 279/8 to commemorate the Greek ex- pulsion of the Gauls (Syll.3 398). These are similar in nature to Ἐλευθέρια, “a festival of liberation or liberty” (LSJ) such as the one held at Plataea every four years in commemoration of the Greek victory there in 479.36

In post-Classical usages, the word ἐλευθέρια (from ἐλευθε- ροῦν, ‘to set free’) may denote an offering for liberation from slavery. A marble dedication to Apollo Tempeites in Larisa ca. 100 B.C. by a freedwoman is inscribed: Ἀπόλλωνι Τεµπείτῃ Τάτιον Κλεοπάτρας καὶ Σωστράτου ἀπελευθέρα ξενικῇ ἐλευ- θέρια. Given that Tation was a freedwoman (ἀπελευθέρα), ἐλευθέρια most probably refers to ‘a thank-offering for liberty’ upon her manumission.37 Nevertheless, another dedicatory inscription from Larisa might be using ἐλευθέρια in relation to another form of liberty: Ἄπλουνι Τεµπείτᾳ Αἰσχυλὶς Σατύ- ροι ἐλευθέρια. If it is correct to identify this dedicator as the Aeschylis who was priestess of Artemis Delphinia and who received an honorific statue from the people of Larisa, she is unlikely to have been a slave-woman.38 The word ἐλευθέρια probably refers here to an offering for some other form of liberty; Lazzarini suggests “offerta di ringraziamento per l’av- venuto riscatto da briganti o pirati.”39


In the Classical period the word τελεστήρια is attested only in Xenophon. Towards the end of the Cyropaedia, when Cyrus realized that he was about to die, he offered animal sacrifices to ancestral Zeus and Helios and the other gods, praying that they might accept these things as τελεστήρια and χαριστήρια for his many splendid enterprises: Ζεῦ πατρῷε καὶ Ἥλιε καὶ πάντες θεοί, δέχεσθε τάδε καὶ τελεστήρια πολλῶν καὶ καλῶν πρά- ξεων καὶ χαριστήρια (8.7.3). LSJ had explained τελεστήρια as ‘thank-offering for success’, but in the revised supplement ‘thank offerings to a sanctuary’.40 Etymologically the word is related to τελεῖν (‘to fulfill’, ‘to accomplish’) and τέλος (‘fulfillment’, ‘achievement’). The sense is doubtless that Cyrus was offering sacrifice as a token of gratitude for his past accomplishments when he looked back on his life, as he went on to acknowledge the gods’ help in his past successes (ἐυτυχίαι). The sense of ‘thank-offering for fulfillment’ is preferable to LSJ’s revised explanation.41  The word is restored in a fragmentary inscription at Delphi, dated to the third century B.C.: Προκλῆς Ἀντικλέος Βοιωτ[ὸς – – –] σω[τήρ]ια καὶ τελεστ[ήρ]ια – – – Ἀπόλ[λ]ωνι Πυθίωι – – –. According to the supplements, a Boeotian was making a dedication as a σωτήρια and τελεστή- ρια to Apollo Pythios; but we do not know the context in which it was made.42


A different kind of fulfillment offering seems to be denoted by the word τελείουµα. We have two dedicatory inscriptions from second-century B.C. Thessaly, in which two female dedicators described their offering as τελείουµα: Ἀρτέµιδι Θροσίᾳ Εὐ- πάτρα Πασιµελοντεία τελέουµα, and Δ∆αµµάτερι καὶ Κόρᾳ Μέλισσα Ἐπιγενεία τελείουµα.43 Related to τελειοῦν (‘to complete’) and τέλος, τελείουµα probably signifies a thank-offering for some form of fulfillment. But in the absence of further contextual information, it remains disputed whether the word refers to a dedication on attainment of womanhood or completion of childbirth.44



The Nymphaeum of Kafizin / Terence B. Mitford

Although the word χάρις and its cognates are used as early as Homer,45 it is not until the fourth century, in the works of Xenophon, that χαριστήριον (‘thank-offering’) is attested.46 Cyrus sacrificed χαριστήρια to the gods not only in old age  (see  above), but also earlier in  his  military  career.  Having  routed the Assyrians, he praises the gods and suggests that “we ought, therefore, to render to the gods thank-offerings for these things  of whatsoever we have”: τούτων µὲν οὖν χρὴ χαριστήρια ὧν ἂν ἔχωµεν τοῖς θεοῖς ἀποτελεῖν.47 The word χαριστήρια is also used when Xenophon makes Croesus say that he owes Apollo ‘thank-offerings’ for his blissful life and for Cyrus’ kind treatment of him (7.2.28). In epigraphic evidence, the word is at- tested from the second half of the third century B.C. onwards.48   It is inscribed many times on a group of ceramic vessels dedicated to a Nymph at Kafizin on Cyprus, and on the victory dedications  of  the  Attalids.49  The  related  word εὐχαριστήριον, on the other hand, is not attested until the second century B.C.50

χορεῖα (?)

The Delian inventory lists of the third and second  centuries B.C. record many dedications of  χορεῖα  dispatched  by  the  theoroi of different Greek cities to Delos.51 A common formula is, for example, φιάλην Δ∆ηλιάδων, χορεῖα ἐπιδόντων Κνιδίων, or ἀνάθ[ηµα] Δ∆ηλιάδων, χορεῖον ἐπιδόντων Μεγαλοπολιτῶν (or similar).52 It is unclear what the word χορεῖα signified precisely, and on what occasions they were sent to Delos. Bruneau thus explains the practice: “les théores remettent des honoraires, χορεῖα, aux Déliades qui emploient cette somme à la consécration d’une phiale.”53 LSJ, on the other hand,  take  χορεῖα as ‘thank-offerings for choral victory’.54 If they were choral thank-offerings brought to the gods, it is unclear why the verb used is ἐπιδιδώµι (which seems to carry more specialized meanings) instead of the more common ἀνατίθηµι or related words.

(ii)    Preliminary Offerings

διαβατήρια, ἀναβατήριον

A cognate of διαβαίνειν (‘to cross over’, ‘to pass over’), the word διαβατήρια refers to ‘offerings before crossing the bor- der’ (LSJ). In Classical literature it is confined to Thucydides (three times) and Xenophon (eight); all applications refer to Spartan  practices.55   Before  crossing  a  frontier,  the  Spartan army would customarily make sacrificial offerings termed δια- βατήρια to provide omens; only if they were favourable would the army advance into the territory.56 The διαβατήρια were therefore offerings for learning the gods’ will before a military move, a ‘consultative’ sacrifice according to Parker’s categorization.57 Later Plutarch uses the word in a slightly different context to denote thank-offerings made after (not before) crossing (Luc. 24.6–7): Lucullus sacrificed a bull as διαβατήρια to the river Euphrates (ἔθυσε δὲ καὶ τῷ Εὐφράτῃ ταῦρον δια- βατήρια) in acknowledgement of his army’s safe passage. Plutarch also uses a related word ἀναβατήριον (from ἀναβαίνειν, ‘to mount’, ‘to go on board’), not attested in any other Greek authors,58 of an offering for a safe voyage (attained): tradition held that the men sent by Ptolemy Soter to fetch Sarapis from Sinope were blown off course, but were guided by a dolphin to Cirrha in Phocis; in gratitude for the safe voyage they sacrificed ἀναβατήριον.59

εἰσι(τη)τήρια, εἰσαγώγεια


Athenian Myths and Festivals:  Aglauros, Erechtheus, Plynteria, Panathenaia, Dionysia / Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood

From εἰσεῖναι (‘to enter’, ‘to go into’) and εἰσιτήριος (‘be- longing to entrance’), the word εἰσι(τη)τήρια expresses ‘a sacrifice for entry into a year or an office’.60 Demosthenes twice refers to this kind of sacrifice: the Athenian boule would hold a sacrifice at the beginning of the year, perhaps as an induction of its new members.61 Attic inscriptions have many allusions to εἰσιτητήρια, showing that apart from the bouleutai, other groups (such as the hipparchs and ephebes) were also inaugurated by such sacrifice, whether offered by themselves or by priests and priestesses.62 The εἰσιτητήρια could also be called εἰσαγώγεια (from εἰσάγειν ‘to bring in’, ‘to introduce’),63 but this word is not found in literary sources.


A third-century B.C. inscription from Cyrene has a rarely attested word προθεάρια. Among a long list of names of priests inscribed on a marble stele is a short text mentioning the sacrifice of προθεάρια to Archagetas performed by the treasurers: τοὶ ταµίαι προθεάρια τῶι Ἀρχαγέται θύωντι.64 Dobias-Lalou explains προθεάρια as sacrifices performed by the tamiai to (Apollo) Archegetas before thearoi set off to Delphi.65  Thucydides’ reference to theoroi sacrificing at the altar of Apollo Archegetes at Naxos before sailing from Sicily (6.3.1) makes her view more or less certain.66 But we cannot exclude the possi- bility that the word προθεάρια might carry other meanings in a different context, given the wide range of meanings associated with θεωρία/θεαρία which could include the office of theoros, festival attendance, sightseeing, contemplation, or public spectacle at festivals or games.67 An honorific decree from Ambryssos in Phocis has a supplemented [προ]θεαρίαν, apparently meaning ‘front-seating privilege’ (usually denoted by προεδρία) at public games or in theatres (IG IX.1 10, second century B.C.).


From προτελεῖν (‘to pay beforehand’), the term προτέλεια refers to an offering made before a solemnity, such as before marriage-rites.68 Iphigenia is described as a προτέλεια ναῶν, a sacrifice before the ships could set sail.69 In another variant of the myth, believing Agamemnon to be giving Iphigenia in marriage to Achilles, Clytemnestra asks whether he has already sacrificed ‘pre-marriage offerings’ to the goddess for their child (προτέλεια δ’ ἤδη παιδὸς ἔσφαξας θεᾷ;).70 Perhaps initially a voluntary offering made in kind before marriage,     προτέλεια later signified a cult payment. A fourth-century B.C. thesauros on the Athenian acropolis collects one drachma from Athenian maidens as a ‘pre-marriage offering’ (προτέλεια γάµο) payable to Aphrodite Ourania.71


Derived from χρήστης (‘one who gives oracles’) and χρᾶσθαι (‘to consult an oracle’), χρηστήριον could denote ‘an offering   for the oracle’ made by those consulting it.72 Euripides’ Ion tells the chorus that if they wish to consult Apollo at Delphi, they   can offer a πελανός73 in front of the temple and advance to the altar, but must not approach its inner shrine if a sheep has not been slaughtered: εἰ µὲν ἐθύσατε πελανὸν πρὸ δόµων καί τι πυθέσθαι χρῄζετε Φοίβου, πάριτ’ ἐς θυµέλας· ἐπὶ δ’ ἀσφά- κτοις µήλοισι δόµων µὴ πάριτ’ ἐς µυχόν (Ion 226–229). Later, when Xuthus arrives, he says that he will go inside, since the χρηστήριον—presumably a sheep—has been sacrificed for strangers in common before the shrine: στείχοιµ’ ἂν εἴσω· καὶ γάρ, ὡς ἐγὼ κλύω, χρηστήριον πέπτωκε τοῖς ἐπήλυσιν κοινὸν πρὸ ναοῦ; and he wants to receive the god’s oracle: βούλοµαι    δ᾽ ἐν ἡµέρᾳ τῇδ᾽—αἰσία γάρ—θεοῦ λαβεῖν µαντεύµατα (418– 421).74 Instead of offerings made spontaneously, the χρη-  στήριον is essentially a preliminary sacrifice before oracular consultations.

(iii)      Propitiatory Offerings

ἀρεστήρ, ἀρεστηρία/ἀρεστήριον

Etymologically related to ἀρέσκειν (‘to make amend’, ‘to please’) and ἀρεστός (‘acceptable’, ‘pleasing’), the words ἀρε- στήρ and ἀρεστηρία (or ἀρεστήριον) denoted a ‘propitiatory offering’ to the gods. A fourth-century B.C. lex sacra from Piraeus makes provisions for a ‘propitiatory offering’ termed ἀρεστήρ to be offered to Helios and Mnemosyne (Ἡλίωι ἀρε- στῆρ[α] κηρίον. Μνηµοσύνηι ἀρεσ[τῆ]ρα κηρίον).75 We know from the lexicographers that an ἀρεστήρ was a form of cake offered to propitiate the gods.76 A common occasion for making propitiatory offerings was upon making alterations of sacred property. A fourth-century decree from Oropus, concerning restoration work to the fountain and baths at the Amphiareum, prescribes the use of twenty drachmai for an ἀρεστήριον to be made to Amphiaraus.77 An ἀρεστήριον was likewise required on the occasions of repairing the statue of Athena Nike and of melting down the dedications of the Hero Doctor in Athens.78 This was probably meant to please the gods and to divert any potential danger that might result from altering divine property.79


From ἐκλύειν (‘to release’), ἐκλυτήριον appears only once in Classical  literature  to  denote  an  ‘expiatory  offering’. When Teiresias reveals that Creon must sacrifice his son to appease Ares’ wrath (aroused by Cadmus’ slaughter of his serpent), Creon persuades Menoeceus to flee, saying that he himself is ready to die as an ‘expiatory offering’ for the fatherland: θνῄ- σκειν ἕτοιµος πατρίδος ἐκλυτήριον.80 It is a common mythical motif in Greek literature that a chosen member of the community must die for the common good.81 It was customary to placate the gods with sacrifice (e.g. Hom. Il. 1.446–478); but no other victim (whether human or animal) for appeasing divine wrath is described as an ἐκλυτήριον.


Etymologically related to θελκτήρ (‘soother’, ‘charmer’) and θέλγειν (‘to charm’, ‘to enchant’), the word θελκτήριον is first attested in Homer to refer to a means of enchantment or propitiation.82 In the Odyssey the Trojan horse is described as θεῶν θελκτήριον, a means of appeasing or placating the gods, in other words a ‘propitiatory offering’.83  In Classical literature the word is confined to Aeschylus and Euripides, but only in one other instance is it applied to offerings. Iphigenia describes her libations to Orestes, consisting of milk, wine, and honey, as νεκροῖς θελκτήρια, “soothing offerings to the dead” (Eur.   IT 166). Non-religious applications of the word will not be  discussed here.84

µειλικτήρια, µείλιγµα

Also   used   of   libations   for   the   dead   is   the  substantive µειλικτήρια (‘propitiations’), from µειλίσσειν (‘to soothe’, ‘to appease’, ‘to propitiate’). The word is used only once in Classical literature: Aeschylus describes how the Persian queen brings to the grave of Darius χοαί (of milk, honey, water, wine, oil, and also flowers), as “propitiatory offerings for the dead” (νεκροῖσι µειλικτήρια).85 Similar in meaning and usage is the cognate µείλιγµα. Orestes offers libations to Agamemnon as “appeasement offerings for the dead” (χοὰς φερούσας νερτέ- ροις µειλίγµατα).86 In both Aeschylean passages, we find µειλικτήρια/µειλίγµατα used in apposition to χοαί. Propitiatory libations were also made to the chthonic deities. In another play of Aeschylus, the word µειλίγµατα is used of χοαί ἄοινοι for the Erinyes (Eum. 107).



The Phoenissae of Euripides / A.C. Pearson, Ed.

Derived from πενθητήρ (‘mourner’) and πενθεῖν (‘to mourn’), πενθητήριον is used of ‘mourning offering’ in Aeschylus’ Choephoroe (6–7). After offering a lock of hair to Inachus as a “nurture offering” (θρεπτήριον: see above), Orestes dedicates another lock to Agamemnon as a “mourning offering”: πλό- καµον Ἰνάχῳ θρεπτήριον. τὸν δεύτερον δὲ τόνδε πενθητήριον. In  rituals  of  mourning,  it  was  customary  to  cut  a  strand  or strands of hair and place it upon the corpse or the grave; but only in this Aeschylean passage is the hair offered described as a πενθητήριον.87 This ritual has been variously interpreted as an act of self-immolation, an act of symbolism by which the living dedicated himself to the dead, or a means of establishing contact with the deceased.88

(iv)      Other Offerings


The word ἐκτίµατρα (Doric for ἐκτίµητρα), a cognate of ἐκτιµᾶν, is uniquely attested in a dedicatory inscription from Cnidos from perhaps the third century B.C.: Δ∆άµατρι καὶ Κούραι καὶ τοῖς θεοῖς τοῖς παρὰ Δ∆άµατρι καὶ Κούραι χαριστεῖα καὶ ἐκτίµατρα ἀνέθηκε Πλαθαινὶς Πλάτωνος γυνά (“to Demeter and Kore and the gods with Demeter and Kore, Plathaenis wife of Platon dedicated thank-offering and ἐκ- τίµατρα”).89 Rejecting the view that the word denotes a thank- offering for release (using sacred money) from slavery or captivity,90 Lazzarini prefers “come ringraziamento e segno del massimo apprezzamento.”91 Similarly in the revised supplement of LSJ ἐκτίµατρα is taken as an offering in honour of the goddesses.92 However, the cognate verb ἐκτιµᾶν, apart from the sense of ‘to honour highly’, can also mean ‘to estimate’  or ‘to evaluate’, as in the famous Cyrene cathartic law of the late fourth century B.C.93 We cannot exclude the possibility that ἐκτίµατρα might have some more specific meaning than an ‘honorific offering’.

II.     Offerings in Ancient Greece: Some Observations

This survey of the vocabulary of offerings to the gods (and the dead) is not meant to be exhaustive, as a thorough examination of all the Greek words for ‘offerings’ (and their cognate verbs) would require treatment on a much wider scale. Yet the above analysis suffices to demonstrate the great variety of sacrifice and dedications offered for a range of purposes in ancient Greece, showing that the nature of offerings is much more complex and varied than such categories as ἀναθήµατα, ἱερά, and θυσία may lead us to believe.

Many of the words for ‘offerings’ were formed by adding the suffix -τήριος/τήριον, or less frequently -ιον/ια and -τρα, to a word expressing the reason, context, or desired effect of the offering. Religious terminology formed in this way is seen al- ready in Homer’s θελκτήριον and ζωάγρια; but it is in tragedy that such words are most common. Aeschylus alone provides us with three words for religious offerings ending in -τήριος or -τήρια.94  As we have seen, these words are usually based on  agent nouns ending in -τήρ or τής or based on a verb.95 Nevertheless, the application of these words in our sources is    far  from  consistent.  Thus,  while  Aeschylus  uses  θρεπτήριον, other authors do not describe adolescent hair-offerings to the deities as such. In Euripides’ Alcestis, when the queen is brought back to life by Heracles, Admetus orders his people to hold song-dances and make public sacrifices “for the blessed happenings” (ἐπ’ ἐσθλαῖς συµφοραῖσιν, 1155–1156). This is no doubt a thank-offering for a life saved but neither εὐαγγέλια    nor σῶστρα nor σωτήρια is used. It appears that the same kind of offering may be variously described: the choice of word (if a particular term is used at all) can vary from context to context, and from one author to another. This necessarily complicates   the task for anyone studying gifts to the gods: one has to take into account offerings made both with and without the terms,  and the contextual information (if any) on the circumstances in which  they  were made.

The names of types of offerings are of significance not only to linguists but also to Greek historians, as they capture some of the ways in which the worshippers experienced and conceived of their relations with the gods. We have seen that offerings might be made to thank the gods for a range of divine assistance received: for nurture (θρεπτήριον), for deliverance (σῶστρα, σωτήρια, ζωάγρια), for good news (εὐαγγέλια), for victory of various kinds (νικητήρια, ἐπινίκια), for the profit from shearing (κούρειον), for fulfillment (τελεστήρια), and for any divine favours (χαριστήριον). It is interesting and signifi- cant that most of these terms are extensions from a word, or have an equivalent word, indicating the reward or return made to humans for similar services: an εὐαγγέλιον could denote a reward to a messenger who brought good tidings, θρεπτήρια (in the plural) the return for rearing made to nurses, σῶστρα the reward for bringing back run-away cattle or slaves, σω- τήρια a physician’s fee in later Greek; ζωάγρια usually meant the ransom paid to a warrior for taking a prisoner alive, νικη- τήριον and ἐπινίκια could apply to a prize of victory awarded to a successful competitor or warrior, and χαριστήρια could be made to human benefactors. This assimilation between gifts to the gods and rewards to men reflects the Greeks’ perception of their gods as εὐεργέται: the Greeks could appeal to their gods for all kinds of favours and assistance, in return for which they deserved rewards as did human benefactors. It is unclear whether this kind of human-divine relation was modelled on the relation between human benefactors and beneficiaries, or vice versa. What is evident is that in the Greeks’ imagination of the divine, the gods were thought to interact with worshippers by a process of gift-giving similar to that in human social inter- actions, and to take pleasure in gifts and counter-gifts as men did. This helps to explain why religious life was often construed in terms of exchange relations in ancient Greece.96 While the nature, scale, and means of effecting the benefaction were different, in both sets of relations the idea of reciprocity was fundamental.

The variety of thank-offerings has important implications for Greek piety. Influenced perhaps by the relatively late appearance of the word χαριστήριον, which is not attested until Xenophon, some scholars in the early  twentieth  century  claimed that thank-offerings were conspicuously lacking in the Greeks’ relations with their gods.97 Yet the present study shows that Greek terms for ‘thank-offerings’ are by no means lacking, and are variously expressed in words other than χαριστήριον from    at least the beginning of the Classical period onwards. Instead of focusing narrowly on χαριστήριον as the Greek equivalent of the English ‘thank-offering’, historians should allow the possibility that there were other words and means of expressing gratitude in Greek religion. More importantly, the diversity of thank-offerings should nuance the way in which the nature of gift-giving  in  Greece  is  understood.  Contrary  to  the emphasis in scholarship on do ut des, these offerings suggest that equally prominent in Greek religion is the mentality of do quia dedisti: an offering might be made to the gods for some divine favour attained, whether or not a vow had been made beforehand.

While the terms of thank-offerings indicate the context or reason for bringing the gift, the names of preliminary and propitiatory offerings express semantically the desired effect an offering was intended to bring about. A θελκτήριον was expected to enchant (θέλγειν) the gods, a πενθητήριον to mourn (πενθεῖν) the dead, µειλικτήρια to appease (µειλίσσειν) them,    an ἐκλυτήριον to release (ἐκλύειν) a community from evil, δια- βατήρια to cross (διαβαίνειν) a border, a χρηστήριον  to  in- quire of the god (χρᾶσθαι), and εἰσιτήρια to enter (εἰσεῖναι) a  new year or position. These terms make explicit worshippers’ desires, showing that the Greeks could project their hopes and expectations onto the names of the offerings. A similar phenomenon is seen in the choice of cult epithets: individuals and groups might invoke a god with a title that indicates the effect they wanted to achieve. Greek religious vocabulary was there-  fore a means of expressing the worshippers’ desires, and is revealing about their expectations and   motivations.

Finally we should consider how ancient worshippers  normally described their gifts to the gods. Many of the words collected here are attested exclusively or more  commonly  in  literary than in epigraphic evidence. Instead of these terms, the most commonly attested words in dedicatory inscriptions that have  come  down  to  us  are,  for  example,  ἄγαλµατα,    δῶρα, µνῆµα, ἱερά, ἀπαρχή, and δεκάτη. Compared with some other Greek religious terminology, such as the title(s) under which a god was invoked, the names for the types of gifts being offered to the gods were perhaps not of crucial importance: for most worshippers, what mattered most was the gift itself; how the gift was called was of secondary importance. In other words, although such terms as διαβατήρια, µειλικτήρια, and ἐκλυτήριον could serve as indicators of the desired effects, the ‘correct’ naming or labelling of a gift had little or no bearing on the offering’s efficacy to achieve the desired result. It was the act of making the offering, not the precision with which the offering was described, which concerned the giver and the divine recipient. This may explain the prominence of non-context specific terms, such as ἄγαλµα, ἀναθήµατα, ἱερά, and θυσία, which are applicable to multiple contexts. Amid the innumerable kinds of gifts offered to the gods in different circumstances, there was as much room for individual and local variation98 in religious vocabulary as in cult practices. In Greek religion the custom of offering gifts to the gods was flexible enough to allow individual choice and variety, a variety which is reflected in the value and form of the offerings, the frequency with which they were offered, as well as the names they were given.99


  1.   E.g. J. Rudhardt, Notions fondamentales de la pensée religieuse et actes constitutifs du culte dans la Grèce classique2 (Paris 1992 [1958]); J. Casabona, Recherches sur le vocabulaire des sacrifices en grec (Aix-en-Provence 1966); M. L. Lazzarini, Le for- mule delle dediche votive nella Grecia arcaica (Rome 1976), and “Alcuni termini del lessico sacrale greco nei documenti epigrafici,” in P. Radici Colace (ed.), Atti del II Seminario Internazionale di Studi sui lessici tecnici greci e latini (Messina/ Naples 1997) 207–212; R. Parker, “Dedication. Greek Dedications. I,” in ThesCRA 2 (2004) 269–281. There is also a short but outdated chapter “Formulae” in W. H. D. Rouse, Greek Votive Offerings (Cambridge 1902)   322–334.  On dedicatory vocabulary and formulae at Delphi, see the regional studies in A. Jacquemin, “Ordre des termes des dedicaces Delphiques,” Annali di archeologia e storia antica 2 (1995) 141–157, and Offrandes monumentales à Delphes (Paris 1999) 89–92.
  2. E.g. cakes called πέµµα, πόπανον, πλακοῦς, and liquid offerings variously termed λοιβή, µελίκρητον, σπονδή, χοή. On cakes see E. Kearns, “Cakes in Greek Sacrificial Regulations,” in R. Hägg (ed.), Ancient Greek Cult Practice from  the Epigraphical Evidence  (Stockholm/Jonsered  1994) 65–70, and    “ Ὁ λιβανωτὸς εὐσεβές καὶ τὸ πόπανον: the Rationale of Cakes and Blood- less Offerings in Greek Sacrifice,” in V. Pirenne-Delforge and F. Prescendi (eds.), Nourrir les dieux? Sacrifice et représentation du divin (Liège 2011) 89–103.    On libations see D. Tolles, The Banquet-Libations of the Greeks (diss. Bryn Mawr 1943); W. Burkert, Greek Religion. Archaic and Classical (Oxford 1985) 70–73, and Griechische Religion2 (Stuttgart 2011) 113–117; F.  Lissarrague,  The  Aes- thetics of the Greek Banquet (Princeton 1990) 209–221.
  3. E.g. προσχάραιος θυσία (‘sacrifice at the hearth’, e.g. I.Lindos II 582, 585, 592, 593), προβώµιος θυσία (‘sacrifice before the altar’, e.g. Eur. Ion 376, SEG IX 72.61, 67–68 = Rhodes/Osborne 97). See Blinkenberg in  I.Lindos II p.908.
  4. On the terminology and formulae for sacrifice and dedications, see bib- liography in n.1 above. On food offerings to the gods, e.g. M. H. Jameson, Offerings at Meals. Its Place in Greek Sacrifice (diss. Univ. Chicago 1949); L. Bruit Zaidman, “Offrandes et nourritures: repas des dieux et repas des hommes en Grèce ancienne,” in S. Georgoudi, R. K. Piettre, and F. Schmidt (eds.), La cuisine et l’autel (Turnhout 2005) 31–46. On ‘raw’ and ‘converted’ offer- ings, A. M. Snodgrass, “The Economics of Dedication at Greek Sanctuaries,” ScAnt 3–4 (1989–1990) 287–294, at 291–292.
  5. But note that the offering of a lock of hair from humans was commonly associated with rituals of adolescence and mourning (to be discussed below).
  6. As part of the purpose of this study is to show that some of the names of the offerings could express their purpose or desired effect, in each case I give the etymology and literal meaning of the words where  possible  before looking at their usages in the sources, but without implying that etymology necessarily can capture sufficiently the word’s meaning. E.g. the words σωτήρια and ἐλευθέρια indicate semantically  an  offering  made  in  relation to ‘saving’ or ‘freeing’, but do not tell us what form of ‘rescue’ or ‘liberty’ is meant, for which we depend on the context in which the word is   used.
  7. Aeschin. 3.160. For εὐαγγέλια in epigraphic evidence, see e.g. IG XII.2 645.42 (fourth century), XII Suppl. 168.5, I.Ephesos 108.6 (both late fourth century).
  8. P. Chantraine, Études sur le vocabulaire grec (Paris 1956) 51: “le prix payé pour la vie sauve,” and Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue grecque (Paris 1968– 1980) 401 s.v. ζωάγρια: “‘rançon’ pour sauver la vie d’un prisonnier”;  LSJ s.v. ζωάγρια: “reward for life saved.”
  9. Hom. Il. 18.394–409, at 407. G. Ch. Crusius, A  Complete  Greek  and  English Lexicon for the poems of Homer, and the Homeridae (London/Oxford 1868) 187: “(ζωός, ἀγρεύω), a reward for the preservation of life” (citing  the present passage); R. J. Cunliffe, A Lexicon of the Homeric Dialect (London 1924) 176: “the price of one’s life, a reward for preserving one’s life by care or   help”; G. Autenrieth, Homeric Dictionary (London 1984) 141: “(ζωός, ἄγρα), reward for saving life.”
  10. E.g. Hom. Il. 5.698, Hdt. 3.36.
  11. Dioscorides XVI in Gow-Page, HE I 85–86, II 246–248 (ca. late third century) = Anth.Gr. 6.220 (an offering for escape from a lion). Gow and Page do not comment on the word ζωάγρια.
  12. IG XIV 967 = IGUrbRom 102 (second century A.D.), a.11–12: νούσων   τε κακῶν ζωάγρια, “offering for recovery from grievous illness”; b.11: ζω- άγρια.
  13. Aesch. Cho. 6: πλόκαµον Ἰνάχῳ θεπτήριον. The sentence is incomplete; some scholars take the word as an adjective qualifying πλόκαµον (e.g. T. G. Tucker, Aischylou Choephoroi [Cambridge 1901] 10–11; LSJ s.v. θεπτήριος II) and some as a substantive (e.g. J. Conington, The Choephoroe of Aeschylus [Lon- don 1857] 5).
  14. On the custom of hair-offering see Burkert, Greek Religion 70, 373–374 n.29, and Griechische Religion2 112–113 with n.30; D. D. Leitao, “Adolescent Hair-growing and Hair-cutting Rituals in Ancient Greece,” in D. B. Dodd    and C. A. Faraone (eds.), Initiation and Ancient Greek Rituals and Narratives (Lon- don/New York 2003)  109–129.
  15. The rite (not the word) is attested in e.g. Hdt. 4.34, Eur. Hipp. 1425 ff., Theophr. Char. 21.3.
  16. E.g. Hymn.Hom.Cer. 168, 223; LSJ s.v. θρεπτήριος III.2.
  17. Chantraine, Dictionnaire étymologique 510 s.v. κείρω, 573–574 s.v. κουρά; LSJ s.v. κουρεῖον II κούρειον.
  18. E.g. IG II2 1237.28 = Rhodes/Osborne 5 (396/5 B.C.); Isae. 6.22, with commentary  in  W. Wyse, The Speeches of Isaeus  (Cambridge 1904) 508–509. On the Apatouria and in particular the Koureotis see S. D. Lambert, The Phratries of Attica (Ann Arbor 1993) 161–168; R. Parker, Athenian Religion: A History (Oxford 2005)  458–459.
  19. Suda κ 2179, Hsch. κ 3843.
  20. I.Priene 362 = LSAM 39; recent discussion in P. Thonemann, The Maeander Valley (Cambridge 2011) 196–197.
  21. J. Labarbe, “L’âge correspondant au sacrifice du κούρειον et les don- nées historiques du sixième discours d’Isée,” BAB 39 (1953) 358–394, at 366–368. See also Sokolowski”s comments at LSAM 39; LSJ Suppl. s.v. κούρειον I.B; R. Parker, Polytheism and Society at Athens (Oxford 2005) 459   n.13.
  22. Chantraine, La formation des noms in grec ancien (Paris 1933) 64: “νικη- τήρια ‘sacrifice pour remercier d’une victoire,’ ” and Dictionnaire étymologique 755 s.v. νίκη: “νικητήρια ‘sacrifice pour la victoire’ ”; LSJ s.v. νικητήριος II.2: “festival of victory.”23 Xen. Cyr. 8.4.1; cf. 2.1.24, 8.3.33, where νικητήρια denotes a prize of victory awarded to a human.
  23. Xen. Cyr. 8.4.1; cf. 2.1.24, 8.3.33, where νικητήρια denotes a prize of victory awarded to a human
  24. LSJ s.v. ἐπινίκιος II.2: “sacrifice for a victory or feast in honour of  it.”
  25. Ar. fr.448 K.-A. (unspecified occasion), Pl. Symp. 173A (choregic com- petition), Andoc. 4.29 (Olympic games), Dem. 59.33 (Pythian games). On choral ἐπινίκια see also P. Wilson, The Athenian Institution of the Khoregia (Cam- bridge 2000) 102–103. Like νικητήρια, ἐπινίκια can also denote a prize of victory: e.g. Soph. El.  692.
  26. Perses III in Gow-Page, HE I 156, II 448–449 = Anth.Gr. 6.274 (transl. adapted from Paton). LSJ s.v. ῥύσιος  III.2.
  27. B. Helly, Gonnoi II no. 175 bis: “Ménépolis a consacré ‘ce qui met fin à ses couches, ce qui en marque le terme et sa délivrance’”; J. and L. Robert, Bull.épigr. 1973, 247: “en offrande pour la fin des couches”; LSJ Suppl. s.v. παυσιτοκεῖα: “an offering marking the end of childbirth.” Note that the stone has παυσοτοκεῖα, which the commentators have normalized to παυ- σιτοκεῖα. Lazzarini, in Atti del II Seminario 211: “l’offerta per un parto …, intendendo letteralmente il termine come ‘cessazione dakka gravudabza.’”
  28. Hdt. 1.107–118, at 118. H. Stein, Herodotos I (Berlin 1893) 141: “‘Ret- tungsopfer’, die man (in Hellas) nach überstandenen Gefahren zu bringen pflegte.”
  29. Hdt. 4.9, Xen. Mem. 2.10.2; LSJ s.v. σῶστρα I.2.
  30. Anth.Gr. 9.378, dedication for escape from  a collapsing wall, attributed to Palladas, fourth century  A.D.
  31. IG IV2  483 (Epidaurus, Roman  imperial).
  32. IG XIV 967 = IGUrbRom 102, a.1–2: τῷ [σωτ]ῆρι Ἀσκληπιῷ σῶστρα καὶ χαριστήρια Νικοµήδης ὁ ἰατρός, b.1–2: τῷ βασιλεῖ Ἀσκληπιῷ σῶστρα καὶ [χα]ριστήρια Νικοµήδης Σµυρναῖος ἰατρός (for ζωάγρια in these two epigrams see n.12  above).
  33. Chantraine, Dictionnaire étymologique 1084–1085 s.v. σῶς; LSJ s.v. σω- τήριος II.2.
  34. Presumably because Zeus Soter was thought to have sent the omen:    one of his soldiers sneezed when Xenophon mentioned their hopes of deliverance.
  35. Xen. An. 3.2.9, 4.8.25, 5.1.1. For other examples see Arr. Indica 36.3, Anth.Gr. 6.216 (attributed to Simonides but the ascription may not be re- liable), SEG XVIII 215 (Delphi, third century B.C.; quoted 322   below).
  36. Ἐλευθέρια at Plataea: Plut. Arist. 20.4, 21.1; Diod. 11.29.1; Paus. 9.2.6; but the festival is not attested until the fourth century, see J. Mikalson,  Herodotus and Religion in the Persian Wars (London 2003)  90–101.
  37. T. Tziaphalias, “Anekdotes Thessalikes Epigraphes,” Thessaliko Hemero- logio 7 (1984) 193–234, at 215–216, no. 94 [SEG XXXV 607]. Precisely what ξενικῇ means in manumission documents is disputed: existing sugges- tions are e.g. a mode of manumission through which the freedman acquired the status of a ξένος, or some privilege enjoyed by a freedman (e.g. exemp- tion from paying  taxes  called ξενικά?); the  different views are  summarized  in R. Zelnick-Abramovitz, “The Phrase ΞΕΝΙΚΗΙ ΛΥΣΕΙ in Manumission In- scriptions,” ZPE 153 (2005) 108–112 [SEG LV  597].
  38. IG IX.2 1034 (first century B.C.?); cf. 1035: Ἀρτ̣έµιδι Δ∆ελφινίᾳ Αἰσχυ- λὶς Σατύροι κόρα, γυνὰ Φιλοξενίδα Ἀµουµείτοι λειτορεύσανσα, and SEG XXV 672: [ὁ] δᾶµος ὁ [Λ]α̣ρ̣ισαίουν Αἰσχυλίδα Σατύροι κόραν Φιλο[ξ]ε- νίδα Ἀµουµειτείοι γυναῖκα. LGPN III.B 19 takes Aeschylis in all three in- scriptions to be the same person. Cf. G. Daux, “Notes de lecture,” BCH 92 (1968) 625–632.
  39. Lazarrini, in Atti del II Seminario 208. LSJ s.v. ἐλευθέρια II: “thanks- giving for liberty.”
  40. LSJ and Suppl. s.v. τελεστήριον II. Cf. Chantraine, Dictionnaire éty- mologique 1102 s.v. τέλος: “avec τελεστήρια n. pl. ‘sacrifice pour célébrer un succès.’”
  41. For religious usages of τελεῖν and its cognates signifying fulfillment, cf. e.g. Aesch. Ag. 973–974: Ζεῦ, Ζεῦ τέλειε, τὰς ἐµὰς εὐχὰς τέλει· µέλοι δέ τοί σοι τῶνπερ ἂν µέλλῃς τελεῖν
  42. Bousquet, “Inscriptions de Delphi,” BCH 82 (1958) 61–91, at 66–67 no. 4795 [SEG XVIII 215] (supplements of G. Daux); Bousquet envisaged the possibility of adding [καὶ χαριστήρια] to the end of line two, since the stone is broken on the right-hand edge. Cf. Jacquemin, Annali di archeologia e storia antica 2 (1995) 143 n.18, and Offrandes monumentales 92 and n.81, who notes that we have no literary or epigraphic examples of the two (or three) terms used together. The closest parallels I can find are two later inscrip- tions (n.32 above) in which ζωάγρια, σῶστρα, and χαριστήρια occur.
  43. SEG XXXV 615; IG IX.2 1235 [SEG XLIV 457].
  44. M. B. Hatzopoulos, Cultes et rites de passage en Macédoine (Athens 1994) 39–40: dedication of the occasion of maidens’  ‘achèvement’  and  ‘matura- tion’ (SEG XLIV 1748); LSJ s.v. τελείωµα 2: “dedication on the occasion of τελείωσις II”; s.v. τελείωσις I: “development, completion of physical growth …  II: a. attainment of manhood …  b. marriage.” B. Helly (per ep.) on SEG XXXV 615: “offrande de relevailles”; Lazzarini, in Atti del  II Seminario 211 n.28: “offerta per il compimento della    gravidanza.”
  45. E.g. Hom. Il. 9.609, 11.23, Od. 2.12, 5.307.
  46. Chantraine, Dictionnaire étymologique 1247–1248 s.v. χάρις; LSJ s.v. χαρι- στήριος II. The variant χαριστεῖον is also used: e.g. I.Knidos 138 (late third century  B.C.),  IG  XII.3  416  (Thera,  first  century  B.C.), 420  (undated); LSJ  s.v. χαριστεῖον.
  47. Cyr. 4.1.2 (transl. Miller); see also 4.5.14, where  Cyrus’  command seems to be carried out.
  48. C. Vatin, “Etruschi a Delfi,” Annali della Fondazione per il Museo “Claudio Faina” 2 (1985) 173–181, thinks he sees a fifth-century bilingual Etruscan- Greek inscription on a dedication by the Tyrrhenians in Delphi, the Greek version of which seems to contain the word χαρ[ισ]τέ[ρι]ο[ν]. However, the existence of this inscription has been questioned by M.  Pallottino,  “Pro- poste, miraggi, perplessità nella ricostruzione della storia etrusca,” StEtr 53 (1985)  3–16,  esp.  7–14;  J.  Bousquet,  Bull.épigr.  1988,  640;  SEG   XXXVII 415. Note also Vatin’s proposal to restore [χαριστέριο]ν in another dedi- catory inscription at Delphi of the late sixth or early fifth century: apud G. Colonna, “Apollo, les Étrusques et Lipara,” MEFRA 96 (1984) 557–578, at 565 [SEG XXXIV 405]. However, in  the absence of any epigraphic parallel for the word of this early date, Vatin’s supplements must remain highly conjectural.
  49. T. B. Mitford, The Nymphaeum of Kafizin (Berlin/New York 1980), nos. 119, 124, 139, 147, 193, 206, 229, 253. Attalids: OGIS 269, 273, 280, 328.
  50. Polyb. 5.14.8: τοῖς θεοῖς ἔθυεν εὐχαριστήρια, and SEG LVII 577 (Macedonia,  second  century B.C.).
  51. E.g. IG XI.2 164.A.55–57 (Rhodes), 199.B.14 (Casos), 219.B.25 (Megalopolis), I.Délos 298.A.117 (Cnidos), 313.25  (Cos).
  52. I.Délos 298.A.117, 1439.Ab.21–22.
  53. P. Bruneau, Recherches sur les cultes de Délos à l’époque hellénistique et à l’époque impériale (Paris 1970) 93–114, at 108.
  54. LSJ s.v. χορεῖος III.
  55. Thuc. 5.54.2, 5.55.3, 5.116.1; Xen. Hell. 3.4.3, 3.5.7, 4.7.2, 5.1.33, 5.3.14, 5.4.37 5.4.47, 6.5.12. The practice is very common in Arr. Anab., but the term διαβατήρια is not used; instead Arrian uses the related phrase ἐπὶ τῇ διαβάσει θύειν (or similar), e.g. 4.4.3, 5.3.6, 5.28.4.
  56. In Thuc. 5.54.2, 5.55.3, the Spartans returned home when the δια-  βατήρια were unfavourable. On sacrifice before crossing, see also W. K. Pritchett, The Greek State at War I (Berkeley 1974) 113–115; M. Jameson, “Sacrifice before Battle,” in V. D. Hanson (ed.), Hoplites: The Classical Greek Battle Experience (London 1991) 197–227, at 202–203; R. Parker, “Sacrifice and Battle,” in Hans van Wees (ed.), War and Violence in Ancient Greece (Lon- don 2000) 299–314, esp. 300–302.
  57. Parker, in War and Violence 299.
  58. Except in Geoponica 9.17.8.
  59. Plut. Mor. 984B. LSJ s.v. ἀναβατήριον: “sacrifice for fair voyage”; Chantraine, La formation 63: “sacrifice pour obtenir une heureuse traversée.”
  60. Chantraine, La formation 64: “sacrifice offert par le sénat au commencement de l’année”; LSJ s.v. εἰσιτήριος: “a sacrifice at the beginning of a year or entrance on an office”.
  61. Dem. 19.190, 21.114. On ‘entry sacrifice’ not described with this term, see e.g. Thuc. 8.70.1, Lys. 26.8. P. J. Rhodes, The Athenian Boule (Oxford 1972) 132: “εἰσιτητήρια, inaugural rites.”
  62. E.g. Agora XVI 270.4 (entry of hipparchs), IG II2  1011.5, 34 (ephebes).  See the useful collection of inscriptions in Parker, Polytheism 98, 434    n.64.
  63. SEG XXXIII 115.11–12 (εἰσιτητήρια), 26–27 (εἰσαγώγεια), in relation to the sacrifice performed by the priestess for (perhaps) the ephebes’ induc- tion; discussed in Parker, Polytheism 434 n.64. Cf. C. Sourvinou-Inwood, Athenian Myths and Festivals (Oxford 2011) 197–203, who considered the εἰσιτητήρια as distinct from the εἰσαγώγεια, which in her opinion was performed by the priestess of Aglauros on the εἰσαγωγή (‘bringing in’) of the statue of Athena Polias from Phalerum to the Acropolis in the Plynteria and Kallynteria.
  64. C. Dobias-Lalou, Questions de religion cyrénéenne (Paris 2007) 145–160 [SEG LVII 2010]. It is generally thought that the stele was re-used: the long list of priests was inscribed later above and below the pre-existing sacred calendar.
  65. C. Dobias-Lalou, “Voyageurs cyrénéens,” in H. Duchêne (ed.),  Voyageurs et antiquité classique (Dijon 2003) 11–21, at 17–19. On Apollo Archegetes at Cyrene, cf. Pind. Pyth. 5.60.
  66. Commentary and detailed bibliography  in  S. Hornblower,  A  Commen- tary on Thucydides III (Oxford 2008)  279–281.
  67. Chantraine,  Dictionnaire  étymologique  II  433–434  s.v.  θεωρός;  LSJ  s.v. θεωρία.
  68. Hsch.  s.v. προτέλεια:  ἡ πρὸ τῶν γάµων θυσία,  καὶ ἑορτή;  cf.  Burkert, Homo Necans (Berkeley/London 1983) 62–63  n.20.
  69. Aesch. Ag. 227. J. D. Denniston and D. Page, Aeschylus. Agamemnon (Ox- ford 1957) 89: “preliminary sacrifice on behalf of the ships.” E. Fraenkel, Aeschylus. Agamemnon (Oxford 1950) II 40–41, 129, on lines 65 and 227, noted that Aeschylus is inverting a word with cheerful images (because of its usual association with marriage) and giving it a sinister meaning.
  70. Eur. IA 718; see also 433: Ἀρτέµιδι προτελίζουσι τὴν νεάνιδα.
  71. SEG XL1 182. See also IG I3  5.2: [προτέ]λεια θ̣[ύε]ν.
  72. Chantraine, Dictionnaire étymologique 1276, s.v. χρησ-: “‘sacrifice prélimi- naire’ avant l’oracle”; LSJ s.v. χρηστήριον II.
  73. A πελανός was originally a vegetarian offering, but later signified a cult payment in oracular consultation and other cult services. E.g. Herod. 4.90– 91, with the commentary in I. C. Cunningham, Herodas. Mimiambi (Oxford 1971) 145.
  74. On the preliminary procedures of consulting the Delphic oracle, see P. Amandry, La mantique apollinienne à Delphes (Paris 1950) 86–114; H. W. Parke, Greek Oracles (London 1967) 80–85. But χρηστήριον can also be used in the more general sense of ‘sacrificial victim’, without reference to oracular con- sultations: e.g. Aesch. Sept. 230, Supp.  450.
  75. IG II2 4962.B = LSCG 21B; note that side B is thought to be inscribed later. For ἀρεστήρ see also IG II2 4971 = LSCG 22 (Piraeus), LSCG 26 (Athens), IG XII.6 260.8 = LSS 80 (Samos, all both fourth century  B.C.).
  76. Hsch. α 7134, Phot. α 2801, Suda α 3828, Etym.Magn. 138.54. On cakes in Greek sacrifice see n.2 above.
  77. I.Oropos 290.19 (369/8 B.C.).
  78. LSCG 35.18–19 (mid-fourth century), 41.46 (third  century).
  79. Rudhardt, Notions fondamentales 269. Other examples of ἀρεστήριον/ ἀρεστηρία are e.g. Meiggs/Lewis 23.38 (Athens, 480 B.C.), LSCG 32.58 = Rhodes/Osborne 58 (Athens, 352/1: restored), IG II2 1672.223, 302 (Ath-  ens, 329/8), LSCG 116.24–25 (Chios, fourth  century).
  80. Eur. Phoen. 969. See also the related word λυτήρια (‘expiatory offering’) at Ap. Rhod. 4.704: ἀτρέπτοιο λυτήριον ἥγε φόνοιο.
  81. E.g.  Eur.  Erechtheus  fr.360  Kannicht  (Erechtheus’  daughter), Dem. 60.29 (Leon’s daughters), Pherecydes FGrHist 3 F 154 (king Codrus), Diod. 8.8 (king Aristodemus’ daughter). See E. Kearns, “Saving the City,” in O. Murray and S. R. F. Price (eds.), The Greek City: from Homer to Alexander (Ox- ford  1990) 323–344.
  82. LSJ s.v. θελκτήριον: “charm, spell.” On the  Homeric  usages  of  this word see Crusius, A Complete Greek and English Lexicon 199–200; Cunliffe, A Lexicon of the Homeric Dialect 187; Authenrieth, Homeric Dictionary   150.
  83. Hom. Od. 8.509: ἢ ἐάαν µέγ’ ἄγαλµα θεῶν θελκτήριον εἶναι. See Crusius, A Complete Greek and English Lexicon 200; W. W. Merry  and  J. Riddell, Homer’s Odyssey2 (Oxford 1886) 350; Cunliffe, A Lexicon of the Homeric Dialect 187; Authenrieth, Homeric Dictionary 150; R. D. Dawe, The Odyssey. Translation and Analysis (Lewes 1993) 343–344; A. F. Garvie, Odyssey. Books VI–VIII (Cambridge 1994) 337.
  84. These are Aesch. Supp. 447 (µύθου µῦθος ἂν θελκτήριος), 1004 (ὄµµατος θελκτήριον), Cho. 670 (πόνων θελκτηρία στρωµνή), Eum. 81 (θελκτηρίους µύθους), 886 (γλώσσης ἐµῆς µείλιγµα καὶ θελκτήριον); Eur. Hipp. 478 (λόγοι θελκτήριοι), 509 (θελκτήρια ἔρωτος).
  85. Aesch. Per. 610. On libations for the dead see Burkert, Greek Religion 71– 72, 194, and Griechische Religion2 115–117, 296.
  86. Aesch. Cho. 15. LSJ. s.v. µείλιγµα I.2. See also H. Friis Johansen and E.W. Whittle, Aeschylus: The Suppliants III (Copenhagen 1980) 316, on Aesch. Supp. 1029: “µειλίσσειν and its nominal derivates are most frequently used     of propitiatory libations to the dead or the  potentially  hostile  powers below.”
  87. For hair-offerings for the dead see e.g. Hom. Il. 23.140–149; Soph. Aj.1174; Eur. El. 91, IA 1437, Phoen. 1524–5, Tro. 480.
  88. A. W. Verrall, The Choephori of Aeschylus (London 1893) 2, on Cho. 6–7: “the wish to bring the person of the giver into permanent connexion with a source of help and strength”; A. C. Pearson, Euripides. The Phoenissae (Cam- bridge 1909) 190 on Phoen. 1524–1525: “an act of symbolism, by which the survivor devoted himself to the service of the dead”; see also A. F. Garvie, Aeschylus. Choephroi (Oxford 1986) 51, summarizing various views with bibli- ography.
  89. I.Knidos 138 (= Syll.3  1146).
  90. Syll.3 1146 n.3.
  91. Lazzarini, in Atti del II Seminario 211–212.
  92. LSJ Suppl. s.v. ἐκτίµητρα: “some form of honorific offerings.” Cf. LSJ s.v.: “penalties, SIG 1146 (possibly, = reward for redemption from   slavery).”
  93. Rhodes/Osborne 97.43. Cf. LSJ s.v. ἐκτιµάω.
  94. These are θεπτήριον, µειλικτήρια, πενθητήριον. Chantraine, La for- mation 45, noted that a large number of words ending in -τήριος/ν are  products of the language of  tragedy.
  95. On words formed similarly with the suffix -τήριος/ν, see Chantraine, La formation 45 §38, 62–64 §49; E. Schwyzer, Griechische Grammatik I (Munich 1940) 467, 470; H. W. Smyth, Greek Grammar (Cambridge [Mass.] 1956) 238 no. 14. On words ending in -τήριον in Greek tragedy see D. M. Clay, A  Formal Analysis of the Vocabularies of Aeschylus, Sophocles & Euripides (Min- neapolis/Athens 1958–1960) I 42–43, 95, II 27, 60.
  96. E.g. Pl. Euthphr. 14C. On reciprocity see A.-J. Festugière, “Ἀνθ’ Ὧν,” RSPh 60 (1976) 389–418; J. M. Bremer, “Reciprocity of Giving and Thanksgiving in Greek Worship,” in C. Gill, N. Postlethwaite,  and  R. Seaford (eds.), Reciprocity in Ancient Greece (Oxford 1998) 127–137; R. Parker, “Pleasing Thighs: Reciprocity in Greek Religion,” in Gill et al., 105–125.
  97. E.g. J. W. Hewitt, “On the Development of the Thank-Offering among the Greeks,” TAPA 43 (1912) 95–111, and “The Thank-Offering and Greek Religious Thought,” TAPA 45 (1914) 77–90; H. Beer, Aparche und verwandte Ausdrücke in griechischen Weihinschriften (diss. Würzburg 1914), esp. 125,  133.
  98. E.g. the word τελείουµα in Thessaly.
  99. I am most grateful to Professor Robert Parker for helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper. I thank also the Society of Scholars in the Humanities at the University of Hong Kong for making possible a period of research, during which this article was written.