You are here

The Place of the Club-bearer: Thoughts on the New Festival Calendar from Arcadia

Kyle W Mahoney

Sewanee: The University of the South

In early 2015, an inscribed bronze tablet surfaced on the antiquities market in Europe (Heinrichs 2015). The text dates ca. 500 BC, is written in the Arcadian dialect, and mentions a number of Arcadian toponyms that confirm its place of origin. A detailed study by Carbon and Clackson (2016) has elucidated many of the linguistic features and ritual contexts of the inscription. The authors present a clear account of the annual, trieteric, and enneateric festival cycles for which offerings are prescribed at a variety of locations. The enneateric festival was called the Hoplodmia and appears to have been an arming ceremony at which a youth (κόρϝον) “brought out” (ἐξάγεν) armor, weapons, and a red cloak.

I argue that one of the sites singled out for ritual activity, Korynition (ἰν Κορυνίτιον, ἰν Κορυνιτίοι), which has been interpreted as the name of the city-state Gortys (Carbon and Clackson 2016) or the altar of Zeus Lykaios (Heinrichs 2015), should rather be associated with Nestor’s account of Lykoorgos and Areithoos the Club-bearer (Κορυνήτης) from Iliad 7.132-160. Nestor himself defeated Ereuthalion of Arcadia in battle at the Iardanos river, and this Ereuthalion wore the armor of Areithoos the Club-bearer. The latter had been slain through the trickery of the Arcadian Lykoorgos, who trapped him in a narrow passage where his club was of no use. Pausanias (8.11.4) was shown the tomb (μνῆμα) of Areithoos on the road from Mantinea to Tegea, and a scholium to Apollonius of Rhodes (1.164; BNJ 321 F1) says that a festival called the Moleia commemorated the combat (Jost 1985).

Accordingly, Korynition is ‘the place of the club-bearer,’ perhaps the same as the tomb seen by Pausanias, although it is possible that the battle was imagined to have taken place in other locations as well. The inscription prescribes that an ox be sent to Korynition every other year, and at least one male power was offered a ram. This power is called τὀτινίοι, an obscure term. I cautiously suggest that the form be analyzed as τοῖ *Ἀτινίοι (on crasis and vowel contraction in Arcadian: Dubois 1986), which includes the root τεν- (cf. τείνω ‘stretch,’ διατενής, εὐθυτενής, etc.; Chantraine 1999). In the Arcadian dialect epsilon is typically raised to iota before nu (cf. ἐν > ἰν; Dubois 1986), so it is entirely plausible that a descriptive epithet *Ἀτένιος became *Ἀτίνιος in the central Peloponnese. The word should connote a sense of “not stretching out,” which would fit well with the story of Lykoorgos’ ruse to trap Areithoos thus: στεινωπῷ ἐν ὁδῷ, ὅθ᾽ ἄρ᾽ οὐ κορύνη οἱ ὄλεθρον / χραῖσμε σιδηρείη (“in a narrow road, where the iron club did not protect him from death”).

The implications of the above analysis for understanding the relationship between cult, myth, and early Greek epic are intriguing. The name of the Μώλεια festival is clearly derivative of the expression μῶλος Ἄρηος from Nestor’s story in the Iliad (Jost 1985). It has even been suggested that the Moleia included a ritual combat, and the details of the Hoplodmia festival from the inscription – which feature arms, armor, and a youth – point towards a martial context for at least some of the rituals documented in the new inscription. If – as seems plausible – the youth was presented with these implements of war, there is yet another connection with Nestor’s story, for the narrative is developed through the transference of armor [τεύχεα] from one individual to another (Areithoos > Lykoorgos > Ereuthalion > Nestor). Indeed, age is a factor: αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ Λυκόοργος ἐνὶ μεγάροισιν ἐγήρα, / δῶκε δ᾽ Ἐρευθαλίωνι φίλῳ θεράποντι φορῆναι (“but when Lykoorgos grew old in his halls, then he gave [the armor] to his beloved servant Ereuthalion to wear”); γενεῇ δὲ νεώτατος ἔσκον ἁπάντων (“and I [Nestor] was the youngest of all”). Accordingly, the new bronze tablet sheds further light on a local religious ceremony – probably initiatory – that was likely elaborated through the knowledge of epic poetry.

Session/Panel Title

Greek Religion

Session/Paper Number


© 2020, Society for Classical Studies Privacy Policy