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Hyperboreans

HYPERBOREANS ('T7rep/36peot, "Tireppopeioi.) , a mythical people intimately connected with the worship of Apollo. Their name does not occur in the Iliad or the Odyssey, but Herodotus (iv. 32) states that they were mentioned in Hesiod and in the Epigoni, an epic of the Theban cycle. According to Herodotus, two maidens, Opis and Arge, and later two others, Hyperoche and Laodice, escorted by five men, called by the Delians Perpherees, were sent by the Hyperboreans with certain offerings to Delos. Finding that their messengers did not return, the Hyperboreans adopted the plan of wrapping the offerings in wheat-straw and requested their neighbours to hand them on to the next nation, and so on, till they finally reached Delos. The theory of H. L. Ahrens, that Hyperboreans and Perpherees are identical, is now widely accepted. In some of the dialects of northern Greece (especially Macedonia and Delphi) <t> had a tendency to become /3. The original form of Ilep^epees was vwepfapfTiu, or vweptfiopoi (" those who carry over "), which becoming inrtp^opoi gave rise to the popular derivation from /3opeas (" dwellers beyond the north wind "). The Hyperboreans were thus the bearers of the sacrificial gifts to Apollo over land and sea, irrespective of their home, the name being given to Delphians, Thessalians, Athenians and Delians. It is objected by 0. Schroder that the form IIep<eps requires a passive meaning, " those who are carried round the altar," perhaps dancers like the whirling dervishes; distinguishing them from the Hyperboreans, he explains the latter as those who live " above the mountains," that is, in heaven. Under the influence of the derivation from /3opos, the home of the Hyperboreans was placed in a region beyond the north wind, a paradise like the Elysian plains, inaccessible by land or sea, whither Apollo could remove those mortals who had lived a life of piety. It was a land of perpetual sunshine and great fertility; its inhabitants were free from disease and war. The duration of their life was 1000 years, but if any desired to shorten it, he decked himself with garlands and threw himself from a rock into the sea. The close connexion of the Hyperboreans with the cult of Apollo may be seen by comparing the Hyperborean myths, the characters of which by their names mostly recall Apollo or Artemis (Agyieus, Opis, Hecaergos, Loxo), with the ceremonial of the Apolline worship. No meat was eaten at the Pyanepsia; the Hyperboreans were vegetarians. At the festival of Apollo at Leucas a victim flung himself from a rock into the sea, like the Hyperborean who was tired of life. According to an Athenian decree (380 B.C.) asses were sacrificed to Apollo at Delphi, and Pindar (Pythia, x. 33) speaks of " hecatombs of asses " being offered to him by the Hyperboreans. As the latter conveyed sacrificial gifts to Delos hidden in wheat-straw, so at the Thargelia a sheaf of corn was carried round in procession, concealing a symbol of the god (for other resemblances see Crusius's article). Although the Hyperborean legends are mainly connected with Delphi and Delos, traces of them are found in Argos (the stories of Heracles, Perseus, lo), Attica, Macedonia, Thrace, Sicily and Italy (which Niebuhr indeed considers their original home). In modern times the name has been applied to a group of races, which includes the Chukchis, Koryaks, Yukaghirs, Ainus, Gilyaks and Kamchadales, inhabiting the arctic regions of Asia and America. But if ever ethnically one, the Asiatic and American branches are now as far apart from each other as they both are from the Mongolo- Tatar stock.

See O. Crusius in Roscher's Lexikon der Mythplogie; O. Schroder in Archiv fur Religionswissenschaft (1904), viii. 69; W. Mannhardt, Wold- und Feldkttlte (1905) ; L. R. Farnell, Cults of the Greek Slates (1907), iv. 100.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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