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In ancient Greek religion Artemis Caryatis[1] was an epithet of Artemis that was derived from the small polis of Karyai in Laconia;[2] there an archaic open-air temenos was dedicated to Carya, the Lady of the Nut-Tree, whose priestesses were called the caryatidai, represented on the Athenian Acropolis as the marble caryatids supporting the porch of the Erechtheum. The late accounts[3] made of the eponymous Carya a virgin who had been transformed into a nut-tree, whether for her unchastity (with Dionysus) or to prevent her rape.[4] The particular form of veneration of Artemis at Karyai[5] suggests that in pre-classical ritual Carya was goddess of the nut tree[6] who was later assimilated into the Olympian goddess Artemis. Pausanias noted that each year women performed a dance called the caryatis at a festival in honor of Artemis Caryatis called the Caryateia.[7]


  1. ^ Diana Caryatis, noted in Servius scholium on Virgil's Eclogue viii.30.
  2. ^ References to Karyai are collected in Graham Shipley, "'The other Lakedaimonians': the dependent Perioikic poleis of Laconia and Messenia" in M.H. Hanson, ed. The Polis as an Urban Centre and as a Political Community, (symposium) Copenhagen 1997:189-281.
  3. ^ Virgil, Eclogues 8.30 and Servius' commentary; Athenaeus 3.78b; Eustathius of Thessalonica, commentary on Homer, 1964.15, call noted in Pierre Grimal and A. R. Maxwell-Hyslop, The Dictionary of Classical Mythology, s.v. "Carya".
  4. ^ Sarah Iles Johnston, Restless Dead: Encounters between the Living and the Dead in Ancient Greece. (Berkeley: University of California Press), 1999:227.
  5. ^ The feminine plural of the placename suggests an archaic "sisterhood of Karya"; see William Reginald Halliday, ed., The Greek Questions of Plutarch, 1928:181; Jennifer K. McArthur, Place-names in the Knossos Tablets: Identification and Location, 1993:26.
  6. ^ Compare dryads and the ash-tree nymphs called meliai.
  7. ^ The festival is attested by Hesychius, s.v. "Caryai".

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