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The festival of the Skira (Ancient Greek: Σκίρα) or Skirophoria (Ancient Greek: Σκιροφόρια) in the calendar of ancient Athens, closely associated with the Thesmophoria, marked the dissolution of the old year in May/June.[1]


At Athens, the last month of the year was Skirophorion, after the festival. Its most prominent feature was the procession that led out of Athens to a place called Skiron near Eleusis, in which the priestess of Athena, the priest of Poseidon, and in later times, the priest of Helios, took part, under a ceremonial canopy called the skiron, which was held up by the Eteoboutadai.[2] Their joint temple on the Acropolis was the Erechtheum, where Poseidon embodied as Erechtheus remained a numinous presence.[3]

At Skiron there was a sanctuary dedicated to Demeter/Kore and one to Athena.

As a festival of dissolution, the Skira was a festival proverbial for license, in which men played dice games, but a time also of daytime fasting, and of the inversion of the social order, for the bonds of marriage were suspended, as women banded together and left the quarters where they were ordinarily confined, to eat garlic together "according to ancestral custom",[4] and to sacrifice and feast together, at the expense of the men. The Skira is the setting for Aristophanes' comedy Ecclesiazusae (393 BCE), in which the women seize the opportunity afforded by the festival, to hatch their plot to overthrow male domination.

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  1. ^ The festival is analysed by Walter Burkert, in Homo Necans (1972, tr. 1983:143-49), with bibliography p 143, note 33.
  2. ^ L. Deubner, Attische Feste (Berlin 1932:49-50); their accompanier in late descriptions, the priest of Helios, Walter Burkert regards as a Hellenistic innovation rather than an archaic survival (Burkert 1983:)
  3. ^ See Poseidon#The foundation of Athens; the connection was an early one: in the Odyssey (vii.81), Athena was said to have "entered the house of Erechtheus" (noted by Burkert 1983:144).
  4. ^ Inscriptiones Graeca, noted by Burkert 1983: 145, note 41; see also Jane Ellen Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion (1903, 3rd ed. 1922:134f).