I'll answer by quoting a passage from Polly Weddle's academic work Touching the Gods pp. 55-6:
"A similar variety can be found in the ways in which an image might be washed, bathed or
otherwise tended. We know, for example, of some images that were regularly anointed with
oil or water, which may have arisen out of necessity as much as ritual.
Plutarch makes this necessity clear in his description of the polishing of the statue of Jupiter on the Capitol:
“But the polishing of the statue is absolutely necessary; for the red pigment, with
which they used to tint ancient statues, rapidly loses its freshness.”
The notable antiquity of the image is probably significant in its need for care, and given the
supposed age of many cult images it seems likely that others were treated with oils for
preservation. In many cases we do not know the precise motivation for anointing with oils or perfumes, but it is clear the practice was a much-repeated one. That this could change the
appearance of statues, as in the case of the Artemis at Ephesus who was blackened from
regular anointing, means that these images themselves visually displayed the effects of
physical contact over time."
"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106
"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica
"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
The Orphic Way: www.hellenicgods.org
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