2. Priestly Personnel of the Ephesian Artemision: Anatolian, Persian, Greek, and Roman Aspects*

Jan Bremmer
The Indo-Europeans had neither a separate priestly class nor a specific term for priests or priestesses. This tradition may be one of the reasons why the Greeks had no clearly defined priestly class either. Every city could develop its own organization and vocabulary, [1] and the larger the city, the more specialized and developed priesthoods could become. In spite of this absence of an established order we tend to impose our own Judaeo-Christian ideas of priesthood on the Greeks. In other words, while we may be inclined to think of one particular kind of person, the Greeks included several kinds of religious officials within the term priest(ess), [2] who had neither the same duties nor the same training as our priests.
The lack of a sharply defined function must have favored the incorporation of native institutions in areas like Ionia, where the Greeks were relatively late arrivals. One such example is undoubtedly the complex cult of Artemis at Ephesus. Hers was a particularly hospitable cult that in the course of time incorporated Anatolian, Persian, Cretan and Roman influences. The last full survey of all priestly functions within the cult of Artemis was presented in 1922, when Charles Picard published his still valuable study of Ephesus and Claros. [3] Since then we have seen only two more, if much less detailed, attempts at surveying the major priesthoods. [4] Recent decades have witnessed an increasing interest in the Anatolian background of Greek religion, [5] a growing knowledge of ancient Persian onomastics, [6] a steady stream of newly published Ephesian inscriptions and new insights on the relation between myth and ritual. [7] A new analysis, then, is not out of place—the more so, since not even the literary evidence has been fully exploited. I shall therefore discuss the characteristics of religious functions at the Artemision in light of their complex background; the paper focuses on those officials who are referred to as priests in our sources [8] , carried out tasks of priests, such as sacrificing, [9] or are called priests in modern discussions. In Ephesian terms this means that the study examines the Megabyxos, the male priests of the Roman period, the priestess, the essēnes and the Kouretes. Finally, I shall consider how my observations bear on the character of Greek priesthood in general.

1. The Megabyxos

As the Old Persian (DB IV 85), Elamite (DB elam. III 91), and Babylonian (DB babylon. 111) versions of Darius’ famous inscription on the rock of Behistun attest, there was a Persian named Bagabuxša among the seven conspirators against the false Smerdis (§68). At least from Herodotus (3.70.3) onwards, the Greeks transcribed the name as Megabyxos, and the same name is attested as the title of the temple warden of Ephesian Artemis. [10] Although it literally means He who serves (satisfies) God, [11] there is no reason to assume that the warden demonstratively accepted the Persian title to stress his relation to the goddess. [12] After all, our oldest known Megabyxoi were no temple officers at all. We simply do not know how and when the Ephesian Megabyxos acquired his name. Yet his name strongly suggests that at some point a Persian had replaced a Greek after the Persian conquest of Ephesus around 500 BC, just like the Galatians had taken over the wealthy priesthood of Pessinous after their invasion of Asia Minor in the third century BC. [13] Yet the fact that Megabyxos became a generic proper name may have been an Anatolian feature of the cult: the main priests of Pessinous called themselves Attis and those of Cilician Olba usually Teukros or Aias. [14]
Our oldest source for the Megabyxos probably is the comedy Tolmai of Crates (c. 450–430 BC), where a character says: “He cajoles the victual-seeker, but though shivering in the house of Megabyxos …” (Crates F 37 KA), [15] clearly meaning “starving in the house of plenty” (thus Gomme on Thucydides 1.109.3). The Ephesian Artemision surpassed all other Greek sanctuaries—apart from Delphi—in wealth because of its extensive landed property. [16] Accordingly, its warden (see below) must have surpassed similar officials of other Greek temples; and indeed, his wealth long remained proverbial. [17]
The first, absolutely certain reference to the function of the Ephesian Megabyxos comes from Xenophon, who relates in the Anabasis that he left a tithe for Artemis with the Megabyxos, who later, perhaps in 384 BC, returned the money to him when he visited Olympia (5.3.6–7). Like many Greek sanctuaries, [18] the Artemision functioned as a bank, [19] as must have been the case in Menander’s Dis exapatōn, [20] although, unfortunately, the context of the mention of the Megabyxos in the play (F 5 Sandbach) cannot be established. [21] Apparently, the Megabyxos was so important that he represented his hometown at the Olympic Games. In some way he may also have been involved in Xenophon’s founding of the cult of Artemis Ephesia at Scillous, where his presence must have contributed not only to Xenophon’s status but also to his own prestige.
An inscription from Priene dating to 334/3 BC speaks of “Megabyxos, son of Megabyxos” (IPriene 3). As he had helped to pay for the completion of the temple of Athena (one more indication of his wealth), the city had granted him the usual honors, such as a bronze statue (for which he had to pay himself). [22] At first sight, it is surprising that the civic decree did not extend the privileges, as is often the case, to the descendents of the Megabyxos. However, one need not look far for the reason of this omission, as in this case continuity in naming could have led only to the fiction but not the reality of filial succession. The explanation is supplied by Strabo, who relates that the Ephesians “had eunuchs as priests, whom they called Megabyxoi (they always tried to get from elsewhere some who were worthy of such a wardenship), and they held them in great honor” (Strabo 14.1.23). The castration is confirmed by the pseudo-Heraclitean letters of the second century AD that mention a trial against Heraclitus held at Ephesus ([Heraclitus] Epistle 9). [23]
Eunuch priests were common in Anatolia. [24] Those in the cult of Cybele and Attis in Pessinous were famous, and they are also attested for the cult of Hecate at Carian Lagina, and in the temple of the Galli in Phrygian Hierapolis. [25] Evidently, after their arrival at Ephesus the Greeks had incorporated (parts of) an existing indigenous cult; we may still have the name of the original indigenous goddess: Ûpis. [26] Yet it is also clear from Strabo’s words that the Ephesians themselves were less keen to suffer “the unkindest cut of all”; they imported males from elsewhere to occupy this high position. The French king Henri IV may have thought that Paris was well worth a mass, but well-bred Ephesian males clearly did not think that the priesthood of Artemis was worth the loss of their testicles!
In the middle of the first century BC the Megabyxos was still so important that the Ephesians pleaded for him before Cleopatra when Marc Antony intended to bring him to court (Appian Civil War 5.1.9). [27] Soon after, the function must have been abolished. Strabo, who perhaps visited Ephesus in the very last decades of the pre-Christian era, speaks of him in the past. Around the year 30 BC Vedius Pollio, a freedman’s son and amicus of Augustus, reorganized the cult of the Artemision (IEphesos 17.47–8; 18b.6; 18c.10–1; 18d.4), [28] and wealthy members of the Ephesian elite may well have bribed him to abolish the function of the Megabyxos for their own profit [29] —perhaps after the death of the last incumbent.
It is clear from this outline that we have only the sketchiest idea of the role played by the Megabyxos in the context of the Artemision and Ephesian society at large. The combination of castration and the name Megabyxos could mean that the first Persian was a court eunuch who had taken up the function after the Persian conquest of Ephesus. [30] Yet this remains speculation because we do not know if the Persians made any changes to the organisation of the Artemision at all. Regarding his function, Xenophon tells us that he was a neōkoros , a warden, the official responsible for the financial affairs of a sanctuary, [31] and the function is confirmed by the inscription from Priene (IPriene 231). In other words, the Megabyxos was not a priest proper and therefore perhaps not the one who sacrificed at Artemis’ impressive altar. [32] That may well have been the priestess [33] because we know that in several sanctuaries the most important officials were the neōkoros and the priest(ess), functions that were sometimes combined into one hand. [34] However, in his summary of Xenophon’s life, Diogenes Laertius (2.51) calls the Megabyxos a “priest”, and male priests are attested after the end of the office of the Megabyxos. [35]
In spite of all these uncertainties our sources reveal that the Megabyxos was much concerned with his self-representation. Already around 400 BC we hear of Parrhasius painting his portrait (Tzetses chiliades 8.400) and of Zeuxis commenting on his clothing and his slaves (Aelian Varia Historia 2.2). Unfortunately, the latter anecdote is also told of Apelles (Plutarch Moralia 58d; 471–472), [36] who certainly painted a procession of the Megabyxos (Pliny Natural History 35.93), just as, around the same time, Antidotus painted his grave (Pliny Natural History 35.132). The evidence is, of course, anecdotic, [37] but the employment of the most famous painters of Greece indicates a feeling of self-esteem and importance that is rather unique among Greek temple officials.

2. Priestesses

Strabo supports the idea that the Megabyxos performed priestly functions by stating, “… maidens had to be joint priests with them [the Megabyxoi]” (Strabo 14.1.23). Burkert as well as Picard assume that these words prove the existence of a group of priestesses in the sanctuary. [38] Picard supports his case with the mention of the maidens, [39] whereas Burkert’s view seems to rest on a misunderstanding of Strabo’s reference to both Megabyxoi and priestesses. As Strabo clearly uses the plural in the case of the Megabyxos in order to refer to all former priests, this must apply also to the priestesses. Consequently, we should infer that there was a single maiden priestess serving the Ephesian Artemis in the Artemision.
In fact, both the literary and the epigraphical sources confirm the existence of a single priestess. According to Strabo, when the Phocaeans left their city in the context of the Persian conquest of Ionia, they first landed at Ephesus because of the oracular advice to accept a guide from Artemis Ephesia for their journey. At Ephesus, an upper-class woman named Aristarche told them that Artemis had appeared to her in a dream instructing her to join the Phocaeans and to take along a copy of the goddess’ image. Aristarche became the first priestess in Massilia (Strabo 4.1.4), [40] and later the Massiliote cult image of Artemis was copied by the Romans and dedicated on the Aventine (Strabo 4.1.5). [41] Unfortunately, we do not know how old the Massiliote tradition is, but the lack of details suggests that it served an aetiological function, namely to explain the resemblance of the Phocaean cult image and its female priesthood to the Ephesian cult. It is noteworthy that there is no reference to Aristarche’s husband, which suggests that the first Massiliote priestess was also a maiden. Evidently, the Phocaeans imitated the Ephesian profile of the priesthood. If they did this already when they founded Massilia, the institution of a maiden priestess must go back to the Archaic period.
A virgin priestess of Artemis also appears three times in the ancient novel. [42] The closing of Achilles Tatius’ novel takes place in Ephesus and describes an ordeal in a cave of Artemis that no woman who was no longer a virgin could enter. The detail can be paralleled with the similar prohibition for women to enter the Ephesian temple of Artemis, which we are informed of by Artemidorus, an inhabitant of Ephesus (Artemidorus 4.4). [43] More importantly, however, the place was supervised by a virgin priestess (6.8.14)! [44] The same function is also mentioned in Heliodorus’ Aethiopica (1.22), which takes us to the first decades of the third century. [45] In this novel, Chariclea explains that she and her brother Theagenes, who belong to the Ephesian nobility, both became priests. Whereas her brother was a priest of Apollo, she became priestess of Artemis for the duration of one year. The evidence, then, suggests that at least during this period the priestess of the Ephesian Artemis was a maiden who was appointed for one year only.
Additional information is found in the Historia Apollonii regis Tyrii, a novel originally written around AD 215 [46] but surviving only in two later, Christian recensions (RA, RB). In our present text, the young wife of Apollonius was sent to the sacerdotes Dyane feminas where omnes virgines inviolabiliter servabant castitatem (RA 27). Here the wife, a king’s daughter, soon held inter sacerdotes principatum (RAB 48). After Apollonius had recognized her in the temple, she abdicated her priesthood and ipsa vero constituit sacerdotem, que sequens ei erat et casta caraque (RB 49). [47] It is striking that this notice confirms a hitherto isolated passage of Plutarch (Moralia 795e), who mentions that there were three degrees, the melliera, hiera, and parhiera, the future, present, and past priestess. We may safely conclude that at least from the second century onwards there was a group of priestesses of whom one was a high priestess. We also have a reference to a parthenōn at Ephesus, an institution that was not uncommon in (South-)Western Asia Minor [48] and that may have been the place where the maidens and, later, the priestesses were housed during their term of office. [49]
The idea of a maiden priestess may seem surprising to us, but in several cults in the more conservative areas of Greece, such as the Central and Northern Peloponnese, youths could indeed function as priests. Given her importance as initiatory goddess, it is not surprising that Artemis’ cult supplies the majority of adolescent priests. This is the case in the initiatory cult of Artemis Triclaria of Patrae, [50] the Artemis cult of Aegeira, where the priesthood ended with marriage (Pausanias 7.26.3), and the cult of Artemis Cnagia in Sparta. [51] An epigram in the Anthologia Palatina mentions a dedication of a statue of Artemis made by a priestess to an unknown sanctuary reserved for girls, and the fact that the priestess is named after her father, not her husband, also suggests a virgin priest (Anthologia Palatina 6.269). [52] Finally, we have a lacunose epigram from Patmus, which relates that Artemis herself made “Cydonia, the daughter of Glaucies, priestess and hudrophoros ... to bring minor sacrifices.” [53] Hudrophoroi are well attested in Didyma and Miletus and it seems clear “both from consistent lack of reference to husbands, and from the fact that frequently the hudrophoros’ father held the prophecy (at Didyma) at the same time, that normally the hudrophoros was a young, unmarried girl.” [54] It will not have been different on Patmus or, for that matter, in Ephesus.
Our evidence regarding adolescent priests is almost exclusively late, but luckily we know that during the destruction of Siris in 530 BC the attackers killed fifty youths together with the priest, a male adolescent dressed as a girl, in the sanctuary of Athena Ilias (Lycurgus Alexander 984–92, with scholion on 984; Iustinus 20.2.3). [55] Apparently, the phenomenon of the adolescent priest developed from the directorship of choruses, as fifty is a well known number of Greek choruses. After the disappearance of the choruses with their initiatory function in the course of the Classical and Hellenistic era, the priesthood must have continued to exist. [56]
Apparently, the same development took place at Ephesus, where maiden choruses are well attested. However, the oldest testimonies do not concentrate on human maidens but on the Amazons. According to Pindar (F 174 Maehler), [57] these had founded Artemis’ sanctuary during their fight against Theseus. In his Hymn to Artemis (237-258), Callimachus supplies more details. He relates that Hippo, the queen of the Amazons, set up a statue dedicated to Artemis on the shore and performed a ritual for the goddess while the Amazons danced a war dance in full armor, followed by a circular choral dance. The description of the dance fits the way the prulis was danced on Crete, where the Kouretes shielded young Zeus with their dances (Hyginus Fabulae 193.3; Apollodorus 1.1.7). That the dance was rather ecstatic we can infer from the fact that it was accompanied by the surinx and that the feet loudly beat the ground. [58] Differing versions of the story about the Amazons exist [59] and competing stories claim that Coressus and Ephesus were founders of the sanctuary [60] but undoubtedly Amazons were at the heart of Artemis’ cult and sanctuary.
Pausanias adds an interesting detail in his version of the sanctuary’s foundation (7.2.8). [61] He relates that even before Theseus some Amazons came as refugees to Artemis’ temple, fleeing from Dionysus. The combination of Dionysus and Artemis is not uncommon in Greek mythology and cult. More detailed parallels reveal that Artemis ends the marginal period caused by Dionysus through either healing a person or, further removed from the ritual, through killing him or her. Thus, Ariadne is killed by Artemis on Dionysus’ indictment, and the Proitids are healed from their Dionysiac madness by Artemis, just like Eurypylus by Artemis Triclaria; the katabasis of Dionysus ends in the temple of Artemis Soteira in Troizen. [62] With regard to the Amazons, the return to normality is achieved by their being granted asylum, an important function of the Artemision. [63]
The dancing Amazons must have been the model for the real girls involved in the service of Artemis. Our sources start in the later fifth century with Aristophanes’ reference to the “maidens of the Lydians” revering Ephesian Artemis (Clouds 598-600), [64] and they become more specific with Autocrates in his comedy Tympanistai (F 1 KA), where he mentions the ecstatic, slightly lascivious dancing of the “maidens of the Lydians.” [65] The maidens also appear in Menander’s Kitharistes (93-97 Sandbach), where they participate in a “deipnophoria of maidens”. This is perhaps the precursor of the deipnophoria attested for the reign of Antoninus Pius (IEphesos 221), which in turn may be the same as that referred to in another inscription dated to the third century AD (IEphesos 1577).
It seems plausible that the combination of maidens and a meal was inspired by the annual ritual in honor of Artemis described by the Etymologicum Magnum in an explanation of Artemis’ epithet Daitis. The aition relates that once upon a time the maidens and boys of Ephesus under the leadership of the daughter of the king, Clymena, carried the statue of Artemis from the city to a field near the sea, where they danced and sung. When they failed to make the customary offering of salt the goddess became angry, and she was expiated only after the Ephesians repeated the ritual, which is still attested for the end of the first century BC (Etymologicum Magnum 402; Anecdota Oxon. II.435). [66] As Calame persuasively argues, the ritual’s “substance is characteristic of several rites of adolescence, such as that begun by the Proitides at Lousoi or the one honoring Artemis at Brauron.” [67]
A procession of boys and girls is also attested for the middle of the second century AD, namely in the famous opening scene of Xenophon of Ephesus (1.2.2-3). [68] We are told that all Ephesian boys and girls went in a procession from the city to the sanctuary. Each group was led by the most beautiful boy and girl respectively, Habrocomes and Anthea. As we are explicitly told that the festival was an occasion for match making between boys and girls, the event obviously marked the completion of adolescence. Although it was no longer “properly ritualized”, the coming of age of the Ephesian adolescents was still firmly linked with the city goddess.
The various sources supplement one another and, as Calame has shown, all point to a scenario in which maidens collectively take part in a procession and choral dances celebrating the completion of their adolescence. Naturally, the leader of the girls in Xenophon’s novel, Anthea, excels in beauty, because the Greeks customarily entrusted the position of the director of the chorus to the most beautiful person. [69] Yet one element does not match the common descriptions. As we have seen, the aition of the ritual of Artemis Daitis mentions that both boys and girls were led by the daughter of the king, Clymena. Although we do hear of boys leading choruses of girls, there is no parallel of girls leading choruses of boys. [70] This pattern leads us to believe that the aition is of a relatively late date and perhaps reflects the situation where the priestess was the most important cult official.
Ephesian inscriptions from the Roman period confirm the institution of the priestess of Artemis. Evidently, the function was one of great honor and by far the most common office taken on by upper-class women, apart from the priesthoods of the imperial cult (IEphesos 104, 411, 492, 615 [improved text: ITralleis 87], 661, 892, 980–990, 982, 989, 994, 1026, 3059, 3072, 3232, etc.). [71] In all cases that furnish us with this type of information the priestess appears to be an unmarried woman, as she is regularly associated with her father but not with a husband. [72] Unfortunately, we are not well informed about her activities. The priestess adorned the temple and performed public sacrifice (IEphesos 987), reorganized the cult (IEphesos 3059), and shared out money to the humnōdoi on the birthday of Artemis (IEphesos 27). In the course of time priestesses started to hold multiple functions and became prutanis and/or gumnasiarch as well. [73] One possible explanation for this development could be a diminished status of the priesthood itself. Be this as it may, priestesses are still attested for the third century whereas male priests are not. [74]

3. Male Priests in the Roman Period

The disappearance of the Megabyxos did not entail that Artemis’ sanctuary abandoned male priests altogether. For some reason these are neglected in recent studies of the priesthoods of Ephesian Artemis, but they are certainly attested in both epigraphical and literary sources. The edict of the Roman proconsul of Asia, Paullus Fabius Persicus, which was issued to the Ephesians in AD 44, talks about corrupt practices in connection with the personnel of the Artemision. Apparently, the civic authorities had started to create priesthoods that enabled the elite to gain profit from the perquisites assigned to these priesthoods (IEphesos 18b). [75] The close co-operation between the two groups shows that they came from the same background, the Ephesian elite. Around AD 100 priests were still so prestigious that they belonged to the class of the “gold bearing” citizens (IEphesos 27.456), but inscriptions do not mention them afterwards.
The literary sources draw a somewhat different picture. The anonymous author of the apocryphal Acts of John, who wrote around AD 160, mentions a resurrection of the priest of Artemis (46). His contemporary Achilles Tatius describes a priest of Artemis who is clearly in charge of the sanctuary and who is much respected by the population (Achilles Tatius 7.12.15–16; 8.3). As both authors probably came from South-Western Asia Minor, [76] they must have been well informed about Ephesian institutions. In both cases, the reduction to only one priest could be a dramatization by the authors but it could equally signal a change in the organisation of the priesthood. As we have a lot more epigraphical testimonies regarding Artemis’ priestesses than her priests, it seems likely that in the course of time most male aristocrats shifted their interests to the imperial priesthoods, even though Artemis’ priesthood must have long remained prestigious due to its venerable age and wealth.

4. The Essēnes

Regarding the next group of religious functionaries, the essēnes, our sources are scarce and not always easy to interpret. [77] At one time, they must have been important figures in the temple, since they are mentioned in a series of Ephesian inscriptions, ranging from the late fourth until the later third century BC. They are commonly referred to as priests, [78] but as far as I can see they are never called that way in our tradition, even though they could perform sacrifices to Artemis on behalf of the city and were connected with the Artemision. [79] Although, unfortunately, the size of this group is never specified, their activities are reasonably transparent. Their main function was to assign new citizens via a lottery to their phulē and chiliastus, subdivisions of the Ephesian citizenry (IEphesos 1408f, 1413, 1440, 1443, 1447f, 1451, 1453, 1455 etc.); in addition, they sometimes handled money in connection with the sale of citizenship (IEphesos 2001). This is where our knowledge about their activities in the Hellenistic period stops. Burkert assumes that they also elected the Megabyxos, but I see no evidence for this. [80]
Callimachus uses the term twice. In his Hymn to Zeus he sings, “not a lottery made you essēn of the gods, [81] but the works of your hands” (66). It seems reasonable that in this case Callimachus means king because the same meaning occurs in one of his fragments (F 178.23 Pfeiffer) where he calls Peleus essēn of the Myrmidonians’. [82] Given that the lexicographical tradition interprets essēn as king or king bee, [83] it is not surprising that the Etymologicum Magnum (383.30) combines all this information and states, “king according to the Ephesians.” Comparing the Athenian basileus and the Roman rex sacrorum, one scholar has suggested that Ephesus knew a group of sacrifical kings [84] but in Athens and Rome there was only one sacrificial king and the sacrificial duties of the essēnes are nearly negligible in our sources. In short, we should not be led astray by the imaginations of lexicographers, who evidently had no more reliable information than we have. Even though the bee is prominent on Ephesian coins, [85] we are totally in the dark about the associations of the Ephesians when they started to call this group of men essēnes. Our only certainty is that they derived the word from a neighbouring Anatolian language that has not yet been identified. [86]
After Alexander the Great we no longer hear of a connection between the essēnes and citizenship. Their function must have lost importance. Although particulars are lacking, they seem to have become the victim of the restructuring of the temple organisation that took place during the period of the Diadochoi (IEphesos 26). Our information starts to flow again with Pausanias, who notes the lifelong chastity of the priest and priestess of Artemis Hymnia in Orchomenus and observes, “I know of similar things that last a year and no more in the case of the histiatores of Artemis Ephesia, those called essēnes by the citizens” (8.1.13). Interestingly, the term histiatōr is found with this spelling only in a fragment of the Archaic lawgiver Charondas (apud Stobaeus 4.2.24). Yet the term was quite normal in the Greek world and even used by Apollonius of Tyana (Epistle 65 Penella) with regard to Ephesus. Apparently, the essēnes not only had to be chaste for a year but also had to host banquets. As in Greek religion the latter usually went concomitant with sacrifice, the notice may well be an indication of a sacrificing activity of the essēnes.
In the course of the late second and third centuries, the office seems to have lost even more of its importance. It became part of the functions of the neopoioi, and members often recorded that they had fulfilled two terms of essēneia. Moreover, we now regularly hear of only two essēnes so that it may be concluded that the corporation was limited in size in the later Roman period, just like the Kouretes [87] , before it disappeared altogether (IEphesos 956–958, 963, 1582, 1588, 3263, 4330).
The origin of the office is lost in the dark of time. Yet the oldest known duties do not suggest that we are dealing with a major priesthood or a very important office. The obligation of remaining chaste for a year hardly fits the profile of an older male, as such a temporary celibacy during male adulthood seems to be totally out of place in the Greek world, even in an area that was influenced by Anatolian traditions. It would thus appear that the essēnes developed from a group of upper-class adolescents, who had to stay in the sanctuary for a year. This interpretation corresponds with a neglected notice by Aristophanes of Byzantium, who explains the term as hēlikia tis (F 100 Slater). [88] We hear indeed of young men officiating in the service of Artemis. Strabo relates that during an annual festival in Ortygia in honor of the goddess, young men (neoi) “vie for honour, particularly in the splendour of their banquets there” (14.1.20). [89] He does not use a technical term but it is possible that these histiatores were the essēnes.

5. The Kouretes

While the neoi were carrying out their office in the sacred grove of Ortygia another corporation was also active, the Kouretes. Strabo mentions that they held sumposia and performed some “mystic [probably: secret] sacrifices” (14.1.20). [90] The corresponding myth related that they had helped to keep Hera away from Leto when she gave birth to Artemis and Apollo in Ortygia. The Kouretes were thus connected with Artemis and it is therefore no surprise that they were also connected with the Artemision, which we learn from two inscriptions dated around 300 BC, one about a business in frankincense (IEphesos 4102) and the other about a request for citizenship (IEphesos 1449). In both cases, the Kouretes are mentioned after the neopoioi, who seem to have been their superiors. [91] From the names in the former inscription we can also infer that the corporation counted at least four members at that time, which suggests that the regular number of six in the imperial era went back to old times. [92] However, after the Augustan period we no longer hear about a connection with the Artemision. The building of the new prutaneion will have gone concomitant with a restructuring of the ancient corporation and with an assignment to cultic functions in the prutaneion. [93]
Originally, the Kouretes were groups of young men on the brink of adulthood, but their once widespread corporations had survived only in marginal areas of the Greek world, such as Acarnania, Messene and Aetolia. Yet the connection of the term with the process of coming of age was still felt in the Hellenistic period, witness the Greek-Egyptian term mallokourētes. [94] The Kouretes were especially worshipped on Eastern Crete, as is illustrated by the famous hymn of Palaecastro on Zeus and the Kouretes. [95] It is thus conceivable that the term was exported from Crete to Ephesus in the early Archaic period: architects from Cnossus built the Archaic temple of Artemis, and Cretan artistic influence on early Ephesus is well attested; [96] Zeus Cretagenes and the Kouretes appear in neighbouring Mylasa (IMylasa 102, 107, 806) and Amyzon (IAmyzon 14f).
Yet at Ephesus the Kouretes were not connected with Zeus but with Artemis. This tie may well be old, and in Aetolia the goddess was also closely associated with the Kouretes. [97] In contrast, in Cnossus the Kouretes were associated with Rhea, [98] and such connections of groups of men with a goddess, often with an initiatory background (as in the cases of the Kabeiroi, [99] Kouretes and Korubantes), regularly point to pre-Greek traditions. [100] Although in eastern Greece Artemis is occasionally associated with the mother of the Korubantes and the Meter, [101] the presence of the essēnes perhaps makes a Greek origin of the Kouretes more probable. Otherwise we would have to postulate the original existence of a goddess with two groups. However, the Kouretes were certainly no priests, even if they may have, on occasion, officiated as sacrificers in Artemis’ cult.

6. Conclusion

The priesthood of Artemis had a complicated history. On the one hand Artemis’ traditional supervision of the coming of age of girls is reflected in the choruses of maidens and the role of the priestess. On the other hand, her cult also incorporated elements of the cult of a pre-existing Anatolian goddess, namely a eunuch priest and a group of young men. It is even feasible that the Ephesians combined native (priestess) and Anatolian (eunuch) elements in the Artemis priesthood from a relatively early stage onwards.
What can we now conclude from our discussion with regard to general characteristics of Greek priesthood? I would like to single out four aspects of Artemis’ cult that are typical for Greek priesthood but at the same time rather different from a concept of priesthood that stems from a monotheistic experience. First, it was evidently acceptable that a eunuch held one of the most important, if not the most important, functions in Artemis’ cult. Whereas the organisation of the Christian Church has guaranteed that, before and after the Reformation, the Catholic priesthood and the Protestant ministry have remained identifiable and fairly strictly defined offices, Greek priesthood was clearly characterised by a flexibility that could continuously adapt to new circumstances.
Secondly, this flexibility made the Greek priesthood much more liable to political manipulation than the Christian one. We do not know how and when the Megabyxos received his name but it must have to do with the Persian conquest of Ephesus. Whereas the Orthodox Church in Greece preserved Greek identity in the times of the Ottoman Empire and the Polish priests sustained a sense of nationalism in the face of communism, the most important religious functionaries of Ephesus apparently had no trouble in co-operating with the occupying powers, be they Persian, Macedonian or Roman. In this respect, the Greek priesthood was perhaps more different from the clergy familiar to us than we might always have thought.
Thirdly, in many religions priests have managed to monopolize the performance of sacrifice. It was different in ancient Greece, where in principle everybody had this right. [102] The range and duties of the religious officials in the Artemision confirm that the performance of sacrifice alone is not sufficient to call somebody a priest or priestess.
Fourthly and finally, the existence of adolescent priests and the temporary character of many Greek priesthoods are confirmed by the profiles of the Ephesian priestess and, probably, the essēnes. This is a commonplace in the study of Greek religion but certainly forms a stark contrast with the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim traditions. Neither did the function require years of training, such as is obligatory for modern priests, ministers, imams, and rabbis. These factors contributed to the fact that pagan priesthoods were no competition for the Christian bishops when the confrontation between Christianity and paganism became of vital importance for the survival of paganism. [103] However, the Ephesian case is fascinating because it asserts very Greek characteristics of priesthood in the context of a very un-Greek genesis and context.


[ back ] * I thank Beate Dignas, Jitse Dijkstra, and Stelios Panayotakis for information and comments.
[ back ] 1. See the still useful survey in Kretschmer 1930:81–89.
[ back ] 2. Term, of course, does not correspond to vocabulary here. The one person we might expect may be called hiereus/hiereia or by any other title. My discussion below gives many examples.
[ back ] 3. Picard 1922:162–197 (Megabyxos, essēnes, priestesses), 277–287 (Kouretes).
[ back ] 4. Talamo 1984:197–216 (no discussion of the priestesses); Burkert 1999:59–70 (no discussion of the Kouretes); on the Megabyxos, see also Burkert 2004:105–107.
[ back ] 5. Burkert 1992, 2003 and 2004; West 1997.
[ back ] 6. See especially the many studies of Rüdiger Schmitt; cf. the bibliography in Breidbach and Huyse 2000.
[ back ] 7. See Bremmer 1992:265–276 and 2005:21-43; Burkert 2002:1–22.
[ back ] 8. Again, this is not limited to hiereis but also refers to a Greek equivalent of this.
[ back ] 9. For this and other priestly prerogatives in the context of daily ritual activities, see Chaniotis in this volume.
[ back ] 10. See now Bremmer 2004a:9–10. For a discussion of the name and function of the Megabyxos, see Smith 1996: 323–335, which, however, is not very helpful.
[ back ] 11. Benveniste 1966:108–117; accepted by Miller 1968:846; Mayrhofer 1979:16; Schmitt 2002:63.
[ back ] 12. Contra Burkert 1999:63 and 2004:106.
[ back ] 13. See my detailed re-evaluation of the earlier stages of this cult in Bremmer 2004.
[ back ] 14. Pessinous: see Bremmer 2004; Olba: Strabo 14.5.10; see also Gotter in this volume.
[ back ] 15. Translation taken from Gulick (Loeb), adapted: the rest of the fragment is corrupt.
[ back ] 16. Cf. Callimachus Hymns 3.250; Knibbe et al. 1979:139–147; Strelan 1996:76–79 (“The wealth of Artemis”); several studies in Muss 2001; Dignas 2002:141–156, 172–177.
[ back ] 17. Cf. Apollonius of Tyana Epistle 2 Penella; Luc. Tim. 22.
[ back ] 18. Bremmer 2003:32.
[ back ] 19. Cf. Timaeus FGrH 566 F 150b; Caesar Civil War 3.33, 105; Dio Chrysostom 31.48, 54; FiEphesos I.261–262.
[ back ] 20. As we can infer from Plautus Bacchides 306ff., where the Megabyxos is called Megalobulus. Plautus’ dependence on Menander’s Dis Exapatōn is now firmly established by E. W. Handley on P.Oxy. 64.4407. See also Zwierlein 1992.
[ back ] 21. Menander, DE F 5 Sandbach, which calls him zakoros instead of neōkoros (see below). For the term, see J. Nollé on ISide 228.1.
[ back ] 22. As is noted by F. Hiller von Gaertringen, IPriene on no. 231.
[ back ] 23. Quintillian 5.12.21 mentions the Megabyxos as an example of effeminacy.
[ back ] 24. For other Anatolian aspects of Artemis, see most recently Morris 2001:135–151 and 2001a:423–434, esp. 428–434.
[ back ] 25. Pessinous: Bremmer 2004; Lagina: IStratonikeia 513, 544, 1101. Hierapolis: Strabo 13.4.14.
[ back ] 26. See Timotheus F 778 Page/Hordern = Alex. Aet. F4 Magnelli (with Hordern and Magnelli ad loc.); Antimachus F 99 Matthews; Callimachus Hymns 3.204, 240, 4.292 (with the scholia ad loc.); Burkert 1979:130.
[ back ] 27. This has been overlooked by LiDonnici 1999:201–214 and refutes her theses. Note also the reservations of Dignas 2002:190.
[ back ] 28. Syme 1979:526 (date); Eck DNP 12.1 1154 s.v. Vedius [II 4] P. V. Pollio.
[ back ] 29. See below.
[ back ] 30. For the Persian eunuchs, see Briant 1996:I.279–288; Llewellyn-Jones 2002:19–49.
[ back ] 31. For an interesting case, see Dignas 2002:139–140.
[ back ] 32. For the altar, see now Muss and Bammer 2001, to be read with the devastating review by Kuhn 2003:197–226.
[ back ] 33. See below.
[ back ] 34. See e.g. also SEG 40.303 (Corinth); IG XII v 186 (Paros); IAssos 14; IPrusias Hyp. 53 (high priestess and neōkoros); IPergamon 3.152; IMagnesia 100a; ILabraunda 2, no. 45, etc.
[ back ] 35. See below.
[ back ] 36. For the anecdotes, see also Gschwantler 1975:123. For Zeuxis, see Ameling 1987:76 (probably from Heraclea Pontica).
[ back ] 37. For stimulating reflections on the value of such anecdotes, see Saller 1980:69–83; Kortum 1997:1–29.
[ back ] 38. Picard 1922:182–190; Burkert 1999:73.
[ back ] 39. See below.
[ back ] 40. Cf. Malkin 1987:69–72; Scheer 2000:244–247.
[ back ] 41. Cf. Turcan 2000:657–669.
[ back ] 42. For the passages, see also Thomas 1995:82–117, who neglects their mention of the virgin priesthood.
[ back ] 43. Cf. Schwabl 1999:283–287. Similarly, Achilles Tatius 7.13; on the Ephesian background of Artemidorus, see Bowersock 2004:53-63, with prosopographical analysis on 54-56.
[ back ] 44. For the ordeal, see Bremmer 1999:21–29, who overlooked Versnel 1994:152–153.
[ back ] 45. For Heliodorus’ date, see Bremmer 1999:26–27. See also Baumbach in this volume.
[ back ] 46. For the date, see Bremmer 1998a:169–170
[ back ] 47. For the passage, see Panayotakis 2002:112–114.
[ back ] 48. Cyzicus: Michel, Receuil d’inscriptions greques 538. Didyma: SEG 35.1097. Magnesia: IMagnesia 100. Apollonia Salbace: L. and J. Robert 1954:281. Bargylia: SEG 44.868. Olymus: Robert 1935:159.
[ back ] 49. Cf. IEphesos 900-900a.
[ back ] 50. Calame 1977:137 (with full bibliography); Baudy 1998:143–167.
[ back ] 51. See Bremmer 1999c:189–190, from which I have taken over this paragraph, abbreviated and updated.
[ back ] 52. Cf. Graf 1985:237–238.
[ back ] 53. Merkelbach and Stauber 1998:169–170.
[ back ] 54. SEG 39.855. Cf. van Bremen 1996:90n31.
[ back ] 55. Cf. Graf 2000:267–269.
[ back ] 56. Dowden 1989:157–158; Calame 1977:22–23 (choruses of fifty members); Bremmer 1999c:188–189 (development from initiation).
[ back ] 57. Maehler wrongly ascribes the notice to Apollo’s sanctuary in Didyma.
[ back ] 58. For the dance and its relationship to the purrhichē of the Kouretes, see Ceccarelli 1998:135–136.
[ back ] 59. See Pliny Natural History 34.53; Dionysius Periegetes 827–829, and schol. ad loc.; Hyginus Fabulae 223, 225; Pausanias 4.31.8.
[ back ] 60. See Pausanias 7.2.7. Note also Coressus as Ephesian place name (Kreophylos FGrH 417 F 1; Anthologia Graeca 5.59.5); the Koressian gate (IEphesos 212, 425, 566); and the neighbourhood of the Koresseitai (IEphesos 9); Karwiese 1985:214-225; Knibbe 2002:207-219.
[ back ] 61. See also Tacitus Annals 3.61; Pausanias 4.31.8.
[ back ] 62. See Homer Odyssey xi 325 (Ariadne); Hesiod F 131 MW (Proitids); Pausanias 7.16.6–9 (Eurypylos); Pausanias 2.31.2 (Troizen). Graf 1985:242–243, who also compares Artemis’ killing of Actaeon (Hesiod F 217a MW; Stes. F 236 Davies), but in that case Dionysos does not play a role.
[ back ] 63. For this function, see now Rigsby 1996:385–393.
[ back ] 64. Calame 1977:96 also compares Ion TrGF 19 F 22 and Diogenes Athenaeus TrGF 45 F1, but in both cases the reference is clearly to maidens from Sardis.
[ back ] 65. For the dancing, see Calame 1977:93, who well compares Aristophanes F 29 (wrongly quoted as 30) and 147 (wrongly quoted as 148) KA.
[ back ] 66. Heberdey 1904:210–215, Beiblatt 44 (IEphesos 14); Calame 1977:94–96.
[ back ] 67. Calame 1977:95.
[ back ] 68. For Xenophon’s date, see Bremmer 1998a:170.
[ back ] 69. See Athenaeus 13.565ff. Cf. Calame 1977:43, 72. Note also Bremmer 1999b:316–318.
[ back ] 70. Calame 1977:48–73.
[ back ] 71. Cf. van Bremen 1996:86.
[ back ] 72. For a list, see Rogers 1991:75n73.
[ back ] 73. See the list in van Bremen 1996:316–332.
[ back ] 74. IEphesos 617, 892, 3233.
[ back ] 75. Cf. Dignas 2002:150–153, 188–193.
[ back ] 76. For the date and place of origin of the Acts of John, see Bremmer 1998a:162 (= Bremmer 2001:153–154, 167–168). For Achilles Tatius, see Bremmer 1998a:167–168; Bowie 2002:60–61.
[ back ] 77. Picard 1922:190–197; Talamo 1984:207–213; Burkert 1999:68; Dignas 2002:191.
[ back ] 78. Picard 1922:190: “un corps sacerdotal”; Talamo 1984:208: “esseni-sacerdoti; Burkert 1999:68: “Priesterkollegium.”
[ back ] 79. See IEphesos 1448, 1473.
[ back ] 80. Burkert 1999:68.
[ back ] 81. The refererence is to Iliad XV 184–199. Cf. Burkert 1992:88–93 for its dependence on the Accadian epic Atrahasis (but note the reservations of West 1997:110).
[ back ] 82. Pfeiffer wrongly writes essēn with a rough breathing in his edition. Cf. Masson 1962:49.
[ back ] 83. King: Hsch. e 6335 Latte. King bee: Et. Gud., Suda s.v. essēn
[ back ] 84. van Berchem 1980:29–30.
[ back ] 85. Karwiese 1995:152–164, 168–184, 197–207.
[ back ] 86. Furnée 1972:172n118 with a collection of other words ending in -ēn.
[ back ] 87. See below.
[ back ] 88. Slater (ad loc.) observes that no example of this usage exists, but that can hardly be an argument against the reliability of this gloss, as the same can be said about other glosses (F 11A, 14, 25, 30, 31, 103 etc.). He also approves the suggestion made by Nauck (1848:106) that the gloss is a corruption of the preceding one (F 99), but such a corruption is hard to imagine.
[ back ] 89. Translation taken from Jones (Loeb).
[ back ] 90. For other connections of Kouretes with sacrifice, see Istros FGrH 334 F 48; Pausanias 4.31.9.
[ back ] 91. For the Ephesian neopoioi, see Dignas 2002:192–193.
[ back ] 92. For the number, see Knibbe 1981:97.
[ back ] 93. Thus Graf 1999:258; Dignas 2002:200. For the social status of the new Kouretes, see also Rozenbeek 1993:103–105.
[ back ] 94. See P.Oxy. 24.2407. Cf. Legras 1993:113–127.
[ back ] 95. For text, translation and commentary, see now Furley and Bremer 2001:I.67–76; II.1–20. For a full enumeration of the Cretan worship of the Kouretes, see Sporn 2002:389.
[ back ] 96. Muss 2000:149–155.
[ back ] 97. See the excellent observations in Grossardt 2001:15, 238–239.
[ back ] 98. Sporn 2002:124.
[ back ] 99. For the initiatory background of the Kabeiroi, see Wachter 2001:326–327.
[ back ] 100. See especially Graf 1985:115–120.
[ back ] 101. See IChios 33. Cf. Graf 1985:55, 117.
[ back ] 102. Bremmer 1994:28. This is confirmed by Chaniotis; see Chaniotis in this volume.
[ back ] 103. For the importance of the early bishops, see e.g. Brown 1992; Drake 2000.