Anthesteria an Athenian festival held annually in the month of Anthesterion, corresponding nearly to our February, at which time the wine of the previous vintage was considered fit for use. The object of the festival was to celebrate the arrival of that season and the beginning of spring. It lasted three days, from the 11th to the 13th of the month. On the first day, called Pithoigia, or "jar-opening," libations were offered from the newly opened jars to the god of wine, all the household, including servants or slaves, joining in the festivities of the occasion. The second day, which was named Choes, or "the pouring," was a time of merrymaking. The people dressed themselves gayly, some in the disguise of the mythical personages in the suite of Bacchus, and paid a round of visits to their acquaintances. Drinking-clubs met to drink off matches; while others did not forget deceased relations, but poured libations on their tombs. On the part of the State, this day was the occasion of a peculiarly solemn and secret ceremony in one of the temples of Bacchus, which for the rest of the year was closed. The Basilissa (or Basilinna), wife of the Archon Basileus for the time, went through a ceremony of marriage to the wine god, in which she was assisted by fourteen Athenian matrons called Gerarce, chosen by the Basileus, and sworn to secrecy. The third day was named Chutroi, or "jugs." Cooked fruit was offered to Mercury in his capacity of a god of the lower world; rejoicings and games were held; and though no tragedy was allowed to be performed in the theatre, yet there was a rehearsal, at which the players for the ensuing dramatic festival were selected. See Encyclop. Brit. (9th ed.), s.v.

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