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The Heloreia Festival at Halaisa Archonideia, Tauromenion, and Syracuse

Paul Iversen

            Recently, two bronze tablets that bear identical copies of the same decree of The Koinon of the Priests of Apollo (τὸ κοινὸν τῶν ἱερέων τοῦ Ἀπόλλωνος) were found in a secure archaeological context (I BCE/I CE) in what appears to be a large private house in Halaisa Archonideia (see Scibona 2009; Manganaro 2009 and 2011) -- an ancient city on the north coast of Sicily about 25 km east of modern Cefalù near Tusa founded by Archonides II in 403/2 BCE with Sikel refugees mainly from nearby Herbita (see Diodorus Siculus 14.16.1-4). In line 6 of both copies of the decree (dating ca. 100 – 50 BCE), the newly attested month of Ἑλώρειος appears, which has heretofore not been recognized as being attested elsewhere. Now, however, with the help of a Polynomial Texture Mapping file (a group of photos taken of the same object with the lighting at different directions and angles that can manipulated with a computer program), I have been able to read this same month (ΕΛΩΡΕ̣ΙΟΥ) at Inscriptiones Graecae XIV 426, column II, line 5 – a financial account from the Sicilian city of Tauromenion (on the financial accounts from Tauromenion, see the recent work of Battistoni 2011). This month should also now be restored Ἑλ[ωρείου πρ. Διο]γένης on another inscription from Tauromenion (Manganaro 1964, pp. 52-52, col. III, l. 30).

            The appearance of the month Ἑλώρειος at Tauromenion is extremely important evidence for its origin, for the month name implies a festival called the Ἑλώρ(ε)ια, which should be named after some hero or place. This talk will argue that the only reasonable attested possibility in Sicily is the Ἕλωρος River, or the homonymous military outpost of the Syracusans on the banks of the Heloros where it disgorged into the sea. That this month and festival were connected to the Heloros River rather than the town is suggested by a passage in Hesychius, who informs us that there was an athletic contest (Ἑλώριος ἀγών) held on the banks of the Heloros. Given that elsewhere Hesychius only used the word ἀγών to refer to athletic games (often paired with a festival, ἑορτή) and never for a battle  (μάχη) or war (πόλεμος), the word ἀγών in this passage undoubtedly refers to an athletic contest, which could have been part of a religious festival. Indeed, the Syracusans could have used the putative Helor(e)ia festival to help lay claim to its (southern) frontier, as festivals were often used (an amphitheater still preserved there might have hosted the festival, see Copani 2005a and 2005b). It is thus likely the month Heloreios and its attendant festival originated at Syracuse and were adopted by the Tauromenians, a colony of Syracusan mercenaries (Diodorus Siculus 14.96.4) and of Naxian refugees (Diodorus Siculus 16.7.1). Further strong corroboration that the month Heloreios originated in Syracuse comes from personal names based on the root Ἑλωρ-, which are attested only of Syracusans, at the Syracusan military outpost of Akrai, at the Syracusan colony of Tauromenion, and probably once at the Syracusan colony of Issa.

            If the month/festival originated at Syracuse, how do we explain its appearance at the Sikel town of Halaisa? This paper will argue that it was either already adopted by Halaisa’s mother city Herbita in the fifth century BCE as a part of a Hellenization movement and simply taken over by the new colony, or possibly it was adopted later (probably from Syracuse) after the First Punic War in 263 BCE when the Halaisans allied themselves with Rome and wanted to “rebrand” themselves as having a Greek foundation by repudiating their Sikel/Herbitaian origins (see Diodorus Siculus 14.16.1-4). This passage in Diodorus also informs us that despite the Halaisans’ repudiation of their Herbitaian origin, the two cities continued to administer jointly a temple of Apollo. I will argue The Koinon of the Priests of Apollo mentioned in the decree refers to this joint administration.

Session/Panel Title

Religion, Ritual, and Identity

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