|Peplos scene. Block V (fragment) |
from the east frieze of the Parthenon, ca. 447–433 BC.
British Museum, main floor, room 16.
Source: Wikimedia under the Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0
The Plynteria is situated on an apophras hemera as part of a group of apophrades hemerai (ἀποφράδες ἡμέραι), unlucky or unfortunate days (dies nefasti), on which no public business, nor any important affairs of any kind, were transacted (DARG s. v.). Therefore, the concept of purification - purification of the community through its re-connection of its autochthony and primordial core - should have been a central element of the Plynteria's 'nexus'. One of these ritual elements is hegeteria - dried fig-cake of purification - possibly offered as a meal to Athena which was deposited in the temple of Athena Skiras (Sourvinou-Inwood, 2011: 179, 192). DARG suggests that in the procession strings of figs were carried (palathe hegeteria or hegetoria which may symbolise fruitfulness, or may, as Mommsen suggests, have also a more 'mystical' connection with an ancient sacrifice of maidens, similar to that of Thargelia, in which the victims were garlanded with figs (see also Jane Ellen Harrison, 1991, p. 116). I will disagree with Mommsen and DARG explanatory entry of hegeteria and especially with the 'mystical' concept of hegeteria. On the contrary, I will agree with Sourvinou-Inwood explanation of hegeteria and the use of figs in the ritual of Plynteria as an identification of communal purification, autochthony and primordiality (Sourvinou-Inwood, 2011: 12, 140-1).
I will go further to explain why hegeteria (the fig-tree; Hesychios (Phot., Hysch. s.v.) "ἡγητηρία · παρὰ ἡγησασθαι οὖν τῆς τροφῆς κέκληται ἠγητηρία" ) was first a symbol of communal union and for that reason equals to autochthony and primordiality which automatically could have been used for purification 'ritual elements'. In Deipnosophists (B.III.c.6-18) there is a beautiful discussion on figs. Magnus suggests that “fig-tree […] was the guide to men to lead them to a more civilized life”. Athenaeus explains that was “the guide” as it was the first discovered fruit to be cultivated amongst the primordial communities. Later he signified the importance of autochthony by adding that there are many different “species of figs”; Aristophanes in his Farmers, according to Athenaeus states that you could plant all different shorts of figs, but he denies to plant the Lacedæmonian as “this kind is the fig of an enemy and a tyrant”. We read of figs from areas of
The importance of autochthony and primordiality is also stated in the mythological explanation of the fig-tree (συκῆ). Pherenicus, the epic poet, called συκῆ as one of the Hamadryad Nymphs. We witnessing cults related to the existence, production and conception of the figs: in Lacedæmon worshiped Dionysus Sukites, and in
Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood (2011). Athenian Myths and Festivals; Festivals and Genē Oxford Scholarship Online DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199592074.003.0001
Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood (2011). Athenian Myths and Festivals; Reading a Festival Nexus Oxford Scholarship Online DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199592074.003.0003
Jane Ellen Harrison (1991). Prolegomena to the study of Greek religion Princeton University Press Other: 9780691015149