Spartan traditions

Athenaios, Deipnosophistai 14.15-16
And those who practised this kind of sport were called among the Lacedæmonians δικηλισταὶ, which is a term equivalent to σκευοποιοὶ or μιμηταί. There are, however, many names, varying in different places, for this class of δικηλισταί; for the Sicyonians call them φαλλοφόροι, and others call them αὐτοκάβδαλοι, and some call them φλύακες, as the Italians do. Semos the Delian says in his book About Pæans—“The men who were called αὑτοκάβδαλοι used to wear crowns of ivy, and they would go through long poems slowly. But at a later time both they and their poems were called Iambics. And those,” he proceeds, “who are called Ithyphalli, wear a mask representing the face of a drunken man, and wear crowns, having gloves embroidered with flowers. And they wear tunics shot with white; and they wear a Tarentine robe, which covers them down to their ankles: and they enter at the stage entrance silently, and when they have reached the middle of the orchestra, they turn towards the spectators, and say—

Out of the way; a clear space leave
For the great mighty god:
For the god, to his ankles clad,
Will pass along the centre of the crowd.

 And the Phallophori,” says he, “wear no masks; but they put on a sort of veil of wild thyme, and on that they put acanthi, and an untrimmed garland of violets and ivy; and they clothe themselves in Caunacæ, and so come on the stage, some at the side, and others through the centre entrance, walking in exact musical time, and saying—

For you, O Bacchus, do we now set forth –
This tuneful song; uttering in various melody
This simple rhythm.
It is a song unsuited to a virgin;
Nor are we now addressing you with hymns
Made long ago, but this our offering
Is fresh unutter’d praise.

 And then, advancing, they used to ridicule with their jests whoever they chose; and they did this standing still, but the Phallophorus himself marched straight on, covered with soot and dirt.”

Athenaios, Deipnosphistai 631a-b
But the Pyrrhic dance is not preserved now among any other people of Greece; and at the same time that it has fallen into disuse, their wars also have been brought to a conclusion; but it continues in use among the Lacedaemonians alone, being a sort of prelude preparatory to war: and all who are more than five years old in Sparta learn to dance the Pyrrhic dance. But the Pyrrhic dance as it exists in our time, appears to be a sort of Dionysiac dance, and a little more pacific than the old one; for the dancers carry thyrsi instead of spears, and they point and dart canes at one another, and carry torches. And in their dances, they portray Dionysos and the Indians, and the story of Pentheus: and they require for the Pyrrhic dance the most beautiful melodies, and what are called the “stirring” tunes.

Maurus Servius Honoratus, Commentary on the Eclogues of Vergil 8.29
The wife of Dion, king of Laconia, was Iphitea, daughter of Prognaus, who had kindly received Apollo. In return Apollo rewarded her by conferring upon her three daughters (Orphe, Lyco, and Carya) the gift of prophecy on condition, however, that they should not betray the gods nor search after forbidden things. Afterwards Bacchus also came to the house of Dion; he was not only well received, like Apollo, but won the love of Carya, and therefore soon paid Dion a second visit, under the pretext of consecrating a temple, which the king had erected to him. Orphe and Lyco, however, guarded their sister, and when Bacchus had reminded them, in vain, of the command of Apollo, they were seized with raging madness, and having gone to the heights of Taygetus, they were metamorphosed into rocks. Carya, the beloved of Bacchus, was changed into a walnut tree, and the Lacedaemonians, on being informed of it by Artemis, dedicated a temple to Artemis Caryatis.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 3.13.7
Nearby is the temple of Dionysos Kolonates (of the Knoll), by which is a precinct of the hero who they say guided Dionysos on the way to Sparta. To this hero sacrifices are offered before they are offered to the god by the daughters of Dionysos and the daughters of Leukippos. For the other eleven ladies who are named daughters of Dionysos there is held a footrace; this custom came to Sparta from Delphoi.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 3.16.7
The place named Limnaion is sacred to Artemis Orthia. The wooden image there they say is that which once Orestes and Iphigeneia stole out of the Tauric land, and the Lakedaimonians say that it was brought to their land because there also Orestes was king … I will give other evidence that the Orthia in Lakedaimon is the wooden image from the foreigners. Firstly, Astrabakos and Alopekos, sons of Irbos, son of Amphisthenes, son of Amphikles, son of Agis, when they found the image straightway became insane. Secondly, the Spartan Limnatians, the Kynosourians, and the people of Mesoa and Pitane, while sacrificing to Artemis, fell to quarreling, which led also to bloodshed; many were killed at the altar and the rest died of disease. Whereat an oracle was delivered to them, that they should stain the altar with human blood. He used to be sacrificed upon whomsoever the lot fell, but Lykourgos changed the custom to a scourging of the lads, and so in this way the altar is stained with human blood. By them stands the priestess, holding the wooden image. Now it is small and light, but if ever the scourgers spare the lash because of a lad’s beauty or high rank, then at once the priestess finds the image grow so heavy that she can hardly carry it. She lays the blame on the scourgers, and says that it is their fault that she is being weighed down. So the image ever since the sacrifices in the Tauric land keeps its fondness for human blood. They call it not only Orthia, but also Lygodesma (Willow-bound), because it was found in a thicket of willows, and the encircling willow made the image stand upright.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 3.18.11; 3.18.16
I cannot say why Bathycles has represented the so-called Bull of Minos bound, and being led along alive by Theseus. There is also on the throne a band of Phaiakian dancers, and Demodokos singing. Perseus, too, is represented killing Medusa. We have next the rape of the daughters of Leukippos. Here are Dionysos, too, and Herakles wrestling with Achelous, and the fabled binding of Hera by Hephaistos.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 3.19.6
The natives here worship the Amyklaian god and Dionysos, surnaming the latter, quite correctly I think, Psilax. For psila is Doric for wings, and wine uplifts men and lightens their spirit no less than wings do birds.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 3.20.3
In the city there still remains a temple of Dionysos with an image in the open. But the image in the temple women only may see, for women by themselves perform in secret the sacrificial rites.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 3.22.1-2
Just about three stades from the city is an unwrought stone. Legend has it that when Orestes sat down upon it his madness left him. For this reason the stone was named in the Dorian tongue Zeus Cappotas. Nearby is the island Cranae, and Homer says that when Alexander had carried off Helen he had intercourse with her there for the first time. On the mainland opposite the island is a sanctuary of Aphrodite Migonitis (Union), and the whole place is called Migonium. This sanctuary, they say, was made by Alexander. But when Menelaus had taken Ilium and had returned safe home eight years after the sack of Troy, he set up near the sanctuary of Migonitis an image of Thetis and the goddesses Praxidikai (Exacters of Justice). Above Migonium is a mountain called Larysium sacred to Dionysos, and at the beginning of spring they hold a festival in honor of Dionysos, and among the things they say about the ritual is that they find here a ripe bunch of grapes.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 3.24.3-4
The inhabitants have a story, found nowhere else in Greece, that Semele, after giving birth to her son by Zeus, was discovered by Kadmos and put with Dionysos into a chest, which was washed up by the waves in their country. Semele, who was no longer alive when found, received a splendid funeral, but they brought up Dionysos. For this reason the name of their city, hitherto called Oreiatae, was changed to Brasiai after the washing up of the chest to land; so too in our time the common word used of the waves casting things ashore is ekbrazein. The people of Brasiae add that Ino in the course of her wanderings came to the country, and agreed to become the nurse of Dionysos. They show the cave where Ino nursed him, and call the plain the garden of Dionysos.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 3.26.1
From Oetylus to Thalamae the road is about eighty stades long. On it is a sanctuary of Ino and an oracle. They consult the oracle in sleep, and the goddess reveals whatever they wish to learn, in dreams. Bronze statues of Pasiphae and of Helios stand in the unroofed part of the sanctuary. It was not possible to see the one within the temple clearly, owing to the garlands, but they say this too is of bronze. Water, sweet to drink, flows from a sacred spring.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 4.36.7
When Kyparissiai is reached from Pylos, there is a spring below the city near the sea, the water of which they say gushed forth for Dionysos when he struck the ground with a thyrsus. For this reason they call the spring Dionysias.

Strabo, Geography 8.5.1
The site of Sparta is in a rather hollow district, although it includes mountains within its limits; yet no part of it is marshy, though in olden times the suburban part was marshy, and this part they called Limnai; and the temple of Dionysos in Limnai stood on wet ground.

Virgil, Georgics 2. 487
Taygetus, where Spartan girls hold Bacchic rites!