Historic Site: Brauron
Brauron is on the coast of Athens, enclosed by a temple and three-winged stoa. The temples on this site were sacred to Artemis Brauronia and her priestess Iphigeneia. Here, many offers to Artemis were presented. Often, these were tokens of childhood, or tokens for help with childbirth. Every four years, young Athenian girls approaching marriageable age would perform in a festival for Artemitis. This festival was called the Brauronia. It was a coming of age ceremony, for girls of ages from five to thirteen. They would wear honey colored saffron robes, run races, dance like bears, and make sacrifices to Artemis. A goat was the main choice for sacrifice. Their group was called arktoi, or she-bears. The idea of a bear was derived from many local myths that suggested bears were sacred to Artemis. This was a way to leave childhood behind, and was why they often left tokens of this time in their lives. Many artifacts such as dolls and toys were excavated from the spring, revealing more about the worship of Artemis. Vases excavated from the site and surrounding area show that parts of this ceremony were also performed nude. This shows the freedom that Artemis gave to the girls she would protect and revealed that in ancient Greece, while men had the symposium, women had this ceremony to be introduced from girlhood to womanhood. This was also where they would leave tokens on the eve of their marriage, such as a lock of hair, mirrors, gems, vases, statuettes, scarabs, and rings. Thousands of these have been found in the spring, preserved by the mud. This represented leaving behind the virginity treasured by the goddess but also asking for her protection in childbirth. Artemis held many domains. After giving birth, possessions of the women would be offered, of similar objects. Iphigenia was also worshipped at this site, as myths suggest she was important to Artemis. Artemis saved her when Agamemnon sacrificed her, and Iphigenia set up the cult at...
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