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Apellai (Greek: ἀπέλλαι), was a three-day family-festival of the Northwest Greeks similar with the Ionic Apaturia, which was dedicated to Apollo (Doric form:Ἀπέλλων).[1] The fest was spread in Greece by the Dorians as it is proved by the use of the month Apellaios (Ἀπελλαῖος or Ἀπελλαιών in Ionic Tenos).[2]

Etymology and related words[edit]

The word is derived from the Ancient Greek word pélla (πέλλα), "stone", and it appears in some toponyms in Greece like Pella (Πέλλα).[3]. The Doric word apella (ἀπέλλα) originally meant wall, enclosure of stones, and later assembly of people within the limits of the square . The word usually appears in plural.[4][5] Apella was the popular assembly of Sparta, which corresponds to the ecclesia, in other Greek city-states.[6]

When a pubescent was received into the body of grown men, as a grown Kouros (male youth) he became ἀπελλάξ (apellax, "sharer in secret rites") and he could enter the apellai. The apellaia were the offerings made at the initiation of the young men at a meeting of a family group.[7]

Apellaion is the offering of a part of the hair to the god, and corresponds to the Koureion of the Apaturia.[8] Apellaios is the month of these rites, and Apellon is the "megistos kouros" (the great Kouros).[9]

Ancient practice[edit]

There is evidence for this festival in Epidavros, Olous, Kalchedon, "Heracleia" at Siris, Tauromenion, Chaleion, Lamia, Oite, Tolophon, Delphi and also in Ancient Macedonia.[10][11] The phratry (‘brotherhood’) controlled the access to civic rights. The three-day family-festival included initiation ceremonies, not concerning the state:

  • A father introduced his young child
  • A father presented his son again, later, as grown youth (kouros)
  • A husband presented his wife after the marriage

The corresponding names for the offerings made were paideia (child), apellaia (kouros) and gamela (marriage, Greek: γάμος gamos).[1]

It is almost sure that the fest belonged originally to Apollo, because his name is used in the oaths only near Poseidon Phratrios and Zeus Patroοs. In Athens a common epithet of Apollo as family-god is "Apollo Patroos".[12][13][14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Walter Burkert (1985) Greek Religion. Harvard University Press. p. 255
  2. ^ Ἀπελλαῖος
  3. ^ πέλλα / pella, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon
  4. ^ Spartan verb: ἀπελλάζειν: "to assemble", and the festival ἀπέλλαι, which surely belonged to Apollo: Nilsson, Vol I, p. 556
  5. ^ απελλάζω
  6. ^ Hesychius: apellai (ἀπέλλαι), sekoi (σηκοί "folds"), ecclesiai (ἐκκλησίαι "popular assemblies"): Nilsson, Vol I, p. 556
  7. ^ ἀπελλαῖα
  8. ^ Nilsson, Vol I, pp. 137, 556
  9. ^ Jane Ellen Harrison (2010): Themis: A study to the Social origins of Greek Religion. Cambridge University Press. p. 441. ISBN 1108009492
  10. ^ Martin Nilsson, Die Geschichte der Griechische Religion, vol. I (C. H. Beck), 1955, pp. 555–556
  11. ^ Compare Hesychius: ἀπέλλακες ἱερών κοινωνούς: Sharers in secret rites Nilsson, Vol I, p. 556
  12. ^ Plato, Euthyd., 302c
  13. ^ Demosth. XVIII 141: "To Apollo Pythios, who is the father of the city.": Nilsson, Vol I, p. 556
  14. ^ Temple of Apollo Patroos