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Greek. The ministers of a particular sanctuary, charged with the duty of attending to the serviv~of the god of the place. Their duty was to offer appropriate sacrifices and perform other holy offices at the appointed time and manner, and also to assist and instruct worshippers, as to the rites they were to observe. They had to slay the victim, to select the parts for offering, and to lay them on the altar, to utter the accompanying prayers, and the like. In sacred functions which were performed elsewhere (as by the father at the family altar, and by certain State officers, e.g. by the first three archons at Athens, by the kings at Sparta), their assistance was not required, although it was often invited. The general name hiereus represents the priest in his character of an offerer of sacrifice and a minister of sacred rites. In the different cults, however, the priests often took the most various names, and with reference to individual cults had peculiar functions. The priesthoods were filled partly by right of inheritance from within certain families (as some of them were in almost all Greek states; but especially at Athens); partly by election or by a kind of appointment combining election and lot. A general qualification was legitimate descent from citizens, an irreproachable character, and freedom from bodily defects. (The worship of Artemis at Ephesus required the priests to be eunuchs, but it is to be observed that this was not a Greek worship.) Many priesthoods were only filled by men, others by women only; in many temples there we priests and priestesses together; but upon the whole it was a rule, though not without exceptions, that the priests of gods were men, of goddesses, women. In regard to the necessary age, again, the regulations were very various; many priesthoods could only be filled by quite young persons. Virginity and celibacy were required for certain priesthoods, e.g. for those of the virgin goddesses Athene and Artemis. A rule existed in many places, that a woman more than once married was disqualified for the priesthood. At any rate, ritual prescribed chastity for a certain time before undertaking any priestly duty. Here and there, too, the priests were forbidden to taste certain kinds of food. The office was held for very various periods, one year, several years, a life-time. The priests generally wore long hair and white vestments; many of them were clothed in saffron-coloured robes, as (among others) the priests of Dionysus. The priestly ornaments included garlands from the leaves of various trees, always according to the character of the god, and wreaths or fillets of many kinds. The priestly staff is often mentioned. The priests often had an official residence within the temple inclosure. They derived their maintenance partly from the revenue of the temple property partly from their share of the sacrifices, the skins of the animals sacrificed, and other dues of the same kind, and sometimes from actual offertories. Among their privileges, besides their inviolability, were freedom from military service, and a seat of honour at assemblies of the people and at the theatre. In many places dates were reckoned from the time when the priest of the chief divinity entered on office,e.g., in Argos from the priestess of Hera's first year of ministry [Thucydides, ii 2 § 1]. Besides the priests there were many kinds of temple-servants, for the preservation of the sacred buildings, the administration of their revenues, and the performance of the various rites. (Cp. CERYX, HIERODULI, HIERDIOCEI, NEOCORI, PARASITE.)
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