POPULAR FESTIVALS: FUNERAL RITES: PUBLIC GAMES
THE religion of Homeric Greece, of all ancient Greece for that matter, was essentially official. Each city had its gods. It selected them as a rule from the Pantheon of great deities common to the Hellenic world; but it frequently also had secondary gods of its own. It was bound to these divine beings by a sort of pact which created reciprocal obligations. These deities were in truth members of the city. They had their dwellings there, they had land -- a temenos, which was a veritable concession, granted by the state -- and they maintained servants. By reason of the services they rendered the community, they had a right to a collective tax, or grant, in the form of sacrifices and ceremonies.
These official forms of religion are not strictly to our purpose. But just as in some of our modern cults there exist, side by side with the great and solemn celebrations, a number of minor festivals, familiar and unofficial, sometimes even family affairs, such as Patron Saints' Days, or local or anniversary festivals -- Corpus Christi, the Rogation Days, Mid-Lent, Candlemas, and in certain aspects the great festival of Christmas -- so there always existed in Greece, especially perhaps in the early centuries of the historical period, a succession of popular rites and rejoicings of which the regular return furnished a rhythm for daily life.
In all rural cultures each of the principal actions of the farmer's year, seed time, harvest, threshing, grape harvest, has been and sometimes still is accompanied by festivities which are designed to favour those natural forces that promote fertility, to celebrate their metamorphoses, their seasonal death and resurrection, to