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The Tyche sacrifices in John Malalas: virgin sacrifice and fourth-century polemical history

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virgins sacrifices, Perseus, Iphigenia, tyche cults, Seleucus, Antiochus Soter, Aimathe, Malalas, Constantine, Orestes

Abstract (summary)

Scattered throughout John Malalas' history of the world from Adam to Justinian there are some dozen accounts of virgins being sacrificed at the foundation of various cities. ' In most cases the sacrifice is overseen by a king or ruler, after the sacrifice an image of the virgin selected is set up which becomes the cult statue of the civic tyche, and she gives her name to the tyche of the city. These tyche sacrifices are carried out by the heroes of Greek legend such as Perseus and Iphigenia, by Alexander and Seleucus, by a number of Roman emperors, and finally-in a modified form-by Constantine. Seleucus' foundation of Antioch and initiation of one of the most prominent civic tyche cults (made famous through the statue of Eutychides, a model for other figures), according to Malalas' Chronicle, offers a good representative example of these narratives: ... where the village of Bottia was, across from Iopolis, there he [Seleucus Nicator] staked out the foundations of the wall, and through the agency of Amphion the high priest and officiant of the mysteries he sacrificed a virgin girl by the name of Aimathe in the space between the city and the river on the 22nd of Artemisios, or May, at the first hour of the day, as the sun was rising. He called [the city] after the name of his own son who was called Antiochus Soter. And he straightway established a temple, which he called that of Zeus Bottios. And he swiftly raised the tremendous walls through the agency of Xenarios the architect. He set up a bronze stele in the form of a statue of the maiden who had been offered as a sacrifice as the tyche of the city above the river, and at once he made a sacrifice to her as the tyche.

Publication Information

Garstad, Benjamin. “The Tyche Sacrifices in John Malalas: Virgin sacrifice and fourth-century polemical history.” Illinois Classical Studies 30 (2005) 83-136.



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