Athenian festivals

The festival calendar of Classical Athens involved the staging of a large number of festivals each year.

Athena

Porch of Maidens
Caryatid Porch of the Erechtheion, Athens, 421–407 BCE.

The Panathenaea (Ancient Greek: Παναθήναια, "all-Athenian festival") was the most important festival for Athens and one of the grandest in the entire ancient Greek world. Except for slaves, all inhabitants of the polis could take part in the festival. This holiday of great antiquity is believed to have been the observance of Athena's birthday and honoured the goddess as the city's patron divinity, Athena Polias ('Athena of the city'). A procession assembled before dawn at the Dipylon gate in the northern sector of the city. The procession, led by the Kanephoros, made its way to the Areopagus and in front of the Temple of Athena Nike next to the Propylaea. Only Athenian citizens were allowed to pass through the Propylaea and enter the Acropolis. The procession passed the Parthenon and stopped at the great altar of Athena in front of the Erechtheum. Every four years a newly woven peplos was dedicated to Athena.

Dionysus

The Dionysia was a large religious festival in ancient Athens in honor of the god Dionysus, the central event of which was the performance of tragedies and, from 487 BCE, comedies. It was the second-most important festival after the Panathenaia. The Dionysia actually comprised two related festivals, the Rural Dionysia and the City Dionysia, which took place in different parts of the year. They were also an essential part of the Dionysian Mysteries.

The Lenaia (Ancient Greek: Λήναια) was an annual festival with a dramatic competition but one of the lesser festivals of Athens and Ionia in ancient Greece. The Lenaia took place (in Athens) in the month of Gamelion, roughly corresponding to January. The festival was in honour of Dionysus Lenaius. Lenaia probably comes from lenai, another name for the Maenads, the female worshippers of Dionysus.

The Anthesteria, one of the four Athenian festivals in honour of Dionysus (collectively the Dionysia), was held annually for three days, the eleventh to thirteenth of the month of Anthesterion (the January/February full moon);[1] it was preceded by the Lenaia.[2] At the centre of this wine-drinking festival was the celebration of the maturing of the wine stored at the previous vintage, whose pithoi were now ceremoniously opened, and the beginning of spring. Athenians of the Classical age were aware that the festival was of great antiquity; Walter Burkert points out that the mythic reflection of this is the Attic founder-king Theseus' release of Ariadne to Dionysus,[3] but this is no longer considered a dependable sign that the festival had been celebrated in the Minoan period. Since the festival was celebrated by Athens and all the Ionian cities, it is assumed that it must have preceded the Ionian migration of the late eleventh or early tenth century BCE.

Apollo and Artemis

The Boedromia (Ancient Greek: Βοηδρόμια) was an ancient Greek festival held at Athens on the 7th of Boedromion (summer) in the honour of Apollo Boedromios (the helper in distress). The festival had a military connotation, and thanks the god for his assistance to the Athenians during wars. It could also commemorate a specific intervention at the origin of the festival. The event in question, according to the ancient writers, could be the help brought to Theseus in his war against the Amazons, or the assistance provided to the king Erechtheus during his struggle against Eumolpus. During the event, sacrifices were also made to Artemis Agrotera.

The Thargelia (Ancient Greek: Θαργήλια) was one of the chief Athenian festivals in honour of the Delian Apollo and Artemis, held on their birthdays, the 6th and 7th of the month Thargelion (about 24 and 25 May). Essentially an agricultural festival, the Thargelia included a purifying and expiatory ceremony. While the people offered the first-fruits of the earth to the god in token of thankfulness, it was at the same time necessary to propitiate him, lest he might ruin the harvest by excessive heat, possibly accompanied by pestilence. The purificatory preceded the thanksgiving service. On the 6th a sheep was sacrificed to Demeter Chloe on the Acropolis, and perhaps a swine to the Fates, but the most important ritual was the following: Two men, the ugliest that could be found (the Pharmakoi) were chosen to die, one for the men, the other (according to some, a woman) for the women. On the day of the sacrifice they were led round with strings of figs on their necks, and whipped on the genitals with rods of figwood and squills. When they reached the place of sacrifice on the shore, they were stoned to death, their bodies burnt, and the ashes thrown into the sea (or over the land, to act as a fertilizing influence).

Aphrodite and Adonis

The Adonia (Ἀδώνια), or Adonic feasts, were ancient feasts instituted in honour of Aphrodite and Adonis, and observed with great solemnity among the Greeks, Egyptians, etc. It lasted two days, and was celebrated by women exclusively. On the first day, they brought into the streets statues of Adonis, which were laid out as corpses; and they observed all the rites customary at funerals, beating themselves and uttering lamentations, in imitation of the cries of Venus for the death of her paramour. The second day was spent in merriment and feasting; because Adonis was allowed to return to life, and spend half of the year with Aphrodite.

Demeter and Persephone

The Thesmophoria was a festival held in Greek cities, in honour of the goddesses Demeter and her daughter Persephone. The name derives from thesmoi, or laws by which men must work the land.[4] The Thesmophoria were the most widespread festivals and the main expression of the cult of Demeter, aside from the Eleusinian Mysteries. The Thesmophoria commemorated the third of the year when Demeter abstained from her role of goddess of the harvest and growth; spending the harsh summer months of Greece, when vegetation dies and lacks rain, in mourning for her daughter who was in the realm of the Underworld. Their distinctive feature was the sacrifice of pigs.[5]

The festival of the Skira or Skirophoria in the calendar of ancient Athens, closely associated with the Thesmophoria, marked the dissolution of the old year in May/June.[6] At Athens, the last month of the year was Skirophorion, after the festival. Its most prominent feature was the procession that led out of Athens to a place called Skiron near Eleusis, in which the priestess of Athena and the priest of Poseidon took part, under a ceremonial canopy called the skiron, which was held up by the Eteoboutadai.[7] Their joint temple on the Acropolis was the Erechtheum, where Poseidon embodied as Erechtheus remained a numinous presence.[8]

Hermes

The Hermaea (Ancient Greek: Ἔρμαια) were ancient Greek festivals held annually in honour of Hermes, notably at Pheneos at the foot of Mt Cyllene in Arcadia. Usually the Hermaea honoured Hermes as patron of sport and gymnastics, often in conjunction with Heracles. They included athletic contests of various kinds and were normally held in gymnasia and palaestrae. The Athenian Hermaea were an occasion for relatively unrestrained and rowdy competitions for the ephebes, and Solon tried to prohibit adults from attending. In the Cretan city of Cydonia, the festival had a more Saturnalian character, as the social order was inverted and masters waited on their slaves.[9][10]

Heracles

The Heracleia were ancient festivals honouring the divine hero Heracles. The ancient Athenians celebrated the festival, which commemorated the death of Heracles, on the second day of the month of Metageitnion (which would fall in late July or early August), at the Κυνοσαργες (Kynosarges) gymnasium at the demos Diomeia outside the walls of Athens, in a sanctuary dedicated to Heracles. His priests were drawn from the list of boys who were not full Athenian citizens (nothoi).

Citizenship festivals

The Apaturia (Greek: Ἀπατούρια) were Ancient Greek festivals held annually by all the Ionian towns, except Ephesus and Colophon.[11] At Athens the Apaturia took place on the 11th, 12th and 13th days of the month Pyanepsion (mid-October to mid-November), on which occasion the various phratries, or clans, of Attica met to discuss their affairs.

Family festivals

The Amphidromia was a ceremonial feast celebrated on the fifth or seventh day after the birth of a child. It was a family festival of the Athenians, at which the newly born child was introduced into the family, and children of poorer families received its name. Children of wealthier families held a naming ceremony on the tenth day called dekate. This ceremony, unlike the Amphidromia, was open to the public by invitation. No particular day was fixed for this solemnity; but it did not take place very soon after the birth of the child, for it was believed that most children died before the seventh day, and the solemnity was therefore generally deferred till after that period, that there might be at least some probability of the child remaining alive.

See also

References

  1. ^ Thucydides (ii.15) noted that "the more ancient Dionysia were celebrated on the twelfth day of the month of Anthesterion in the temple of Dionysus Limnaios ("Dionysus in the Marshes").
  2. ^ Walter Burkert, Greek Religion 1985 §V.2.4, pp 237-42, offers a concise assessment, with full bibliography.
  3. ^ Burkert 1985: §II.7.7, p 109.
  4. ^ For a fuller discussion of the name considering multiple interpretations, cf. A.B. Stallsmith's article "Interpreting the Thesmophoria" in Classical Bulletin.
  5. ^ "Pig bones, votive pigs, and terracottas, which show a votary or the goddess herself holding the piglet in her arms, are the archaeological signs of Demeter sanctuaries everywhere."(Burkert p 242).
  6. ^ The festival is analysed by Walter Burkert, in Homo Necans (1972, tr. 1983:143-49), with bibliography p 143, note 33.
  7. ^ L. Deubner, Attische Feste (Berlin 1932:49-50); their accompanier in late descriptions, the priest of Helios, Walter Burkert regards as a Hellenistic innovation rather than an archaic survival (Burkert 1983:)
  8. ^ See Poseidon#The foundation of Athens; the connection was an early one: in the Odyssey (vii.81), Athena was said to have "entered the house of Erechtheus" (noted by Burkert 1983:144).
  9. ^ William Smith (editor). "Hermaea" Archived May 29, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1870), p.604.
  10. ^ C. Daremberg & E. Saglio. "Hermaia", Dictionnaire des antiquités grecques et romaines (1900), tome III, volume 1, pp.134-5.
  11. ^ Herodotus i. 147.
Adonia

The Adonia (Greek: Ἀδώνια) was a festival celebrated annually by women in ancient Greece to mourn the death of Adonis, the consort of Aphrodite. It is best attested in classical Athens, though other sources provide evidence for the ritual mourning of Adonis elsewhere in the Greek world, including Hellenistic Alexandria and Argos in the second century AD.

Anthesteria

Anthesteria (Greek: Ἀνθεστήρια Anthestḗria; also called the Anthesteria) was one of the four Athenian festivals in honor of Dionysus. It was held each year from the 11th to the 13th of the month of Anthesterion, around the time of the January or February full moon. The three days of the feast were called Pithoigia, Choës, and Chytroi.

It celebrated the beginning of spring, particularly the maturing of the wine stored at the previous vintage, whose pithoi were now ceremoniously opened. During the feast, social order was interrupted or inverted, the slaves being allowed to participate, uniting the household in ancient fashion. The Anthesteria also had aspects of a festival of the dead: either the Keres (Κῆρες) or the Carians (Κᾶρες) were entertained, freely roaming the city until they were expelled after the festival. A Greek proverb, employed of those who pestered for continued favors, ran "Out of doors, Keres! It is no longer Anthesteria".

Artemis

Artemis (; Greek: Ἄρτεμις Artemis, Attic Greek: [ár.te.mis]), in the ancient Greek religion and myth, is the goddess of the hunt, the wilderness, wild animals, the Moon, and chastity.

Artemis is the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and the twin sister of Apollo. She was the patron and protector of young girls, and was believed to bring disease upon women and relieve them of it. Artemis was worshipped as one of the primary goddesses of childbirth and midwifery along with Eileithyia. Much like Athena and Hestia, Artemis preferred to remain a maiden and is sworn never to marry.

Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities and her temple at Ephesus was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Artemis' symbols included a bow and arrow, a quiver and hunting knives and the deer and the cypress were sacred to her. The goddess Diana is her Roman equivalent.

Attic calendar

The Attic calendar or Athenian calendar is the calendar that was in use in ancient Attica, the ancestral territory of the Athenian polis. It is sometimes called the Greek calendar because of Athens's cultural importance, but it is only one of many ancient Greek calendars.

Although relatively abundant, the evidence for the Attic calendar is still patchy and often contested. As it was well known in Athens and of little use outside Attica, no contemporary source set out to describe the system as a whole. Further, even during the well-sourced 5th and 4th centuries BC, the calendar underwent changes, not all perfectly understood. As such, any account given of it must be a tentative reconstruction.

Giants (Greek mythology)

In Greek and Roman Mythology, the Giants, also called Gigantes (jye-GAHN-tees or gee-GAHN-tees; Greek: Γίγαντες, Gígantes, singular: Γίγας, Gígas), were a race of great strength and aggression, though not necessarily of great size, known for the Gigantomachy (Gigantomachia), their battle with the Olympian gods. According to Hesiod, the Giants were the offspring of Gaia (Earth), born from the blood that fell when Uranus (Sky) was castrated by his Titan son Cronus.Archaic and Classical representations show Gigantes as man-sized hoplites (heavily armed ancient Greek foot soldiers) fully human in form. Later representations (after c. 380 BC) show Gigantes with snakes for legs. In later traditions, the Giants were often confused with other opponents of the Olympians, particularly the Titans, an earlier generation of large and powerful children of Gaia and Uranus.

The vanquished Giants were said to be buried under volcanoes and to be the cause of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.

Gymnasium (ancient Greece)

The gymnasium (Greek: γυμνάσιον) in Ancient Greece functioned as a training facility for competitors in public game(s). It was also a place for socializing and engaging in intellectual pursuits. The name comes from the Ancient Greek term gymnós meaning "naked". Only adult males were allowed to use the gymnasia.

Athletes competed nude, a practice which was said to encourage aesthetic appreciation of the male body, and to be a tribute to the gods. Gymnasia and palestrae (wrestling schools) were under the protection and patronage of Heracles, Hermes and, in Athens, Theseus.

Jane Ellen Harrison

Jane Ellen Harrison (9 September 1850 – 15 April 1928) was a British classical scholar and linguist. Harrison is one of the founders, with Karl Kerenyi and Walter Burkert, of modern studies in Ancient Greek religion and mythology. She applied 19th century archaeological discoveries to the interpretation of ancient Greek religion in ways that have become standard. She has also been credited with being the first woman to obtain a post in England as a ‘career academic’. Harrison argued for women's suffrage but thought she would never want to vote herself. Ellen Wordsworth Crofts, later second wife of Sir Francis Darwin, was Jane Harrison's best friend from her student days at Newnham, and during the period from 1898 to her death in 1903.

Richard Wagner

Wilhelm Richard Wagner (; German: [ˈʁɪçaʁt ˈvaːɡnɐ] (listen); 22 May 1813 – 13 February 1883) was a German composer, theatre director, polemicist, and conductor who is chiefly known for his operas (or, as some of his later works were later known, "music dramas"). Unlike most opera composers, Wagner wrote both the libretto and the music for each of his stage works. Initially establishing his reputation as a composer of works in the romantic vein of Carl Maria von Weber and Giacomo Meyerbeer, Wagner revolutionised opera through his concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk ("total work of art"), by which he sought to synthesise the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts, with music subsidiary to drama. He described this vision in a series of essays published between 1849 and 1852. Wagner realised these ideas most fully in the first half of the four-opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung).

His compositions, particularly those of his later period, are notable for their complex textures, rich harmonies and orchestration, and the elaborate use of leitmotifs—musical phrases associated with individual characters, places, ideas, or plot elements. His advances in musical language, such as extreme chromaticism and quickly shifting tonal centres, greatly influenced the development of classical music. His Tristan und Isolde is sometimes described as marking the start of modern music.

Wagner had his own opera house built, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, which embodied many novel design features. The Ring and Parsifal were premiered here and his most important stage works continue to be performed at the annual Bayreuth Festival, run by his descendants. His thoughts on the relative contributions of music and drama in opera were to change again, and he reintroduced some traditional forms into his last few stage works, including Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (The Mastersingers of Nuremberg).

Until his final years, Wagner's life was characterised by political exile, turbulent love affairs, poverty and repeated flight from his creditors. His controversial writings on music, drama and politics have attracted extensive comment, notably, since the late 20th century, where they express antisemitic sentiments. The effect of his ideas can be traced in many of the arts throughout the 20th century; his influence spread beyond composition into conducting, philosophy, literature, the visual arts and theatre.

Thargelia

Thargelia (Ancient Greek: Θαργήλια) was one of the chief Athenian festivals in honour of the Delian Apollo and Artemis, held on their birthdays, the 6th and 7th of the month Thargelion (about May 24 and May 25).Essentially an agricultural festival, the Thargelia included a purifying and expiatory ceremony. While the people offered the first-fruits of the earth to the god in token of thankfulness, it was at the same time necessary to propitiate him, lest he might ruin the harvest by excessive heat, possibly accompanied by pestilence. The purificatory preceded the thanksgiving service. On the 6th a sheep was sacrificed to Demeter Chloe on the Acropolis, and perhaps a swine to the Fates, but the most important ritual was the following. Two men, the ugliest that could be found (the Pharmakoi) were chosen to die, one for the men, the other (according to some, a woman) for the women. Hipponax of Kolophon claims that on the day of the sacrifice they were led round with strings of figs on their necks, and whipped on the genitals with rods of figwood and squills. When they reached the place of sacrifice on the shore, they were stoned to death, their bodies burnt, and the ashes thrown into the sea (or over the land, to act as a fertilizing influence). However, it is unclear how accurate Hipponax's sixth-century, poetical account of the ceremony is, and there is much scholarly debate as to its reliability.It is supposed that an actual human sacrifice took place on this occasion, replaced in later times by a milder form of expiation. Thus at Leucas a criminal was annually thrown from a rock into the sea as a scapegoat: but his fall was checked by live birds and feathers attached to his person, and men watched below in small boats, who caught him and escorted him beyond the boundary of the city. Nevertheless, many modern scholars reject this, arguing that the earliest source for the pharmakos (the iambic satirist Hipponax) shows the pharmakos being beaten and stoned, but not executed. A more plausible explanation would be that sometimes they were executed and sometimes they weren't depending on the attitude of the victim. For instance a deliberate unrepentant murderer would most likely be put to death.

Similarly, at Massilia, on the occasion of some heavy calamity (plague or famine), one of the poorest inhabitants volunteered as a scapegoat. For a year he was fed up at the public expense, then clothed in sacred garments, led through the city amidst execrations, and cast out beyond the boundaries.The ceremony on the 7th was of a cheerful character. All kinds of first-fruits were carried in procession and offered to the god, and, as at the Pyanepsia (or Pyanopsia), branches of olive bound with wool, borne by children, were affixed by them to the doors of the houses. These branches, originally intended as a charm to avert failure of the crops, were afterwards regarded as forming part of a supplicatory service. On the second day choruses of men and boys took part in musical contests, the prize for which was a tripod. Further, on this day adopted persons were solemnly received into the genos and phratria of their adoptive parents.

Toga party

A toga party is a Greco-Roman-themed costume party where attendees wear a toga (normally made from a bed sheet) with sandals. The costumes, party games, and other entertainment often adhere to the Roman or Greek theme. Toga parties are associated with keg parties and excessive drinking, and attendees typically tend to be college or university students.

Triptolemos Painter

The Triptolemos Painter was an ancient Greek vase painter, belonging to the Attic red-figure style. He was active in Athens between 490 and 470 BC. His real name is not known. He started working in the workshop of Euphronios, where he was probably taught by Douris. Later, he also worked for the potters Brygos, Hieron and Python. Initially, his style was strongly influenced by Archaic art. His later works are mediocre in quality. Nonetheless, his repertoire is broad, reaching from the Apaturia procession via erotic scenes and Theban scenes to the departure of Triptolemos (his name vase).

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