Pythian Games

The Pythian Games (Greek: Πύθια; also Delphic Games) were one of the four Panhellenic Games of Ancient Greece. They were held in honour of Apollo every four years at his sanctuary at Delphi.[1] They were held two years after each Olympic Games, and between each Nemean and Isthmian Games. The Pythian Games were founded sometime in the 6th century BC and featured competitions for art and dance. The art and dance competitions pre-dated the athletic portion of the games, and were said to have been started by Apollo after he killed Python and set up the oracle at Delphi.

The winners received a wreath of bay laurel, sacred to Apollo, from the city of Tempe, in Thessaly. Smaller versions of the Pythian Games were celebrated in many other cities of the Levant and Greece.

Delphi stadium DSC06305
View of the stadium of the Delphi sanctuary, used for the Pythian Games. The stone steps on the left were added under the Romans.
Delphi stadium starting line DSC06301
This starting line at the Delphi stadium used for the Pythian Games at Delphi, Greece, has a design representative of that of many ancient Greek stadiums: stones with two lines in which the athletes nudged their toes, and round holes in which posts could be erected to support the start signalling mechanism.

Mythology

The Pythian Games supposedly start with the death of the mythical serpent, Python. Ovid states that the games were inaugurated to celebrate Apollo having killed the serpent.[2][3] It had been sent to chase the pregnant goddess Leto by a jealous Hera. Leto managed to escape and gave birth to Artemis and Apollo. Despite being only a few days old, Apollo swore vengeance on Python and vowed to kill him. Meanwhile, Python had fled to Delphi and hidden himself there. Apollo followed him and, after a fierce battle, slew the monster with his bow. After burying the body, Apollo founded the oracle of Delphi. However, by slaying Python, Apollo had committed a crime and Zeus declared that he had to make amends. Apollo then created the Pythian Games to pay for the death.[4] According to another version, Apollo exiled himself in the land of the Hyperboreans and founded the Pythian Games upon his return, as a sign of celebration.

History

Delphi charioteer front DSC06255
The Pythian Games included a chariot race.

The historical timeframe of the Pythian Games started in 582 BC, when the administration of the Games was handed over to the Delphic Amphictyony, a council of twelve Greek tribes, at the end of the First Sacred War. As of that time, they did not take place every eight years as in the past, but every four years, two years before and after the Olympic Games, presumably at the end of August.

In the beginning, only musical contests were held in the Pythian Games then extended by singing to instrumental performances. These retained great importance as also in the other big festivals, although with the new rearrangement gymnastic competitions and chariot racing were also introduced to the games.

Preparations for the games began six months prior. Nine citizens from Delphi, called Theoroi, were sent to all Greek cities to announce the beginning of the games in order to attract athletes, as well as to declare the period of the Sacred Truce (Hierominia), aiming at protecting not only the Theoroi and the athletes who travelled to Delphi, but also the temple of Apollo itself. If a city was involved in armed conflict or in robberies during that period, its citizens were forbidden to enter the Sanctuary, participate at the games, or consult the Oracle. At the same time, the truce allowed the Amphictyony to focus on preparing for the games, which included restorations for all structures of the Sanctuary, from the temples to the streets and fountains. Scores of people flocked out of entire Greece, bringing in substantial revenue to the city.

Despite the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire during the 4th century, Delphi remained an active pagan site and the Pythian Games continued to be celebrated at least until AD 424.[5]

Overview

Unfortunately, the testimonials and documents covering the Delphic Games were mainly destroyed through human violence and natural catastrophes. All the remaining resources highlight the glory and glamour of the Games. The records of Aristoteles present an overview about the festivities: the Games lasted for six to eight days and were started by a reenactment of the victory of Apollo over Python. In a festive and glamorous procession a ritual sacrifice was performed in the Temple of Apollo. After four days of festivities the Games began.

Events

The athletic competition included four track sports (stade, diaulos, dolichos and hoplitodromos (racing encumbered with pieces of Hoplite armor)), wrestling, boxing, pankration, and the pentathlon. These sports were introduced to the games gradually over time. The final day of the games was dedicated to equestrian races which gradually came to include harness racing, synoris (a chariot drawn by two horses), chariot drawn by four horses, and racing with a horse (without a chariot), held in a hippodrome in the plain of Krisa, not far from the sea, in the place where the original stadium was sited. (ref: Pindar) The other athletic contests took place in the Stadium.

In the Roman period theatrical competitions were introduced, carried out in the late-Hellenistic theater.

The musical disciplines included:

  • A Hymn addressed to Apollo, the god of arts and music.
  • Aulos (reed pipe) and kithara (an old Greek string instrument) with or without singing
  • Acting and dance
  • Painting

Prizes

No monetary prizes were awarded to winners in the Games. Instead they received a wreath of bay laurel, sacred to Apollo, from the city of Tempe, in Thessaly. This is similar to the practice in the other Panhellenic games, which were all on this account called "stephanitic" ("crown") games. Smaller versions of the Pythian Games were celebrated in many other cities of the Levant and Greece.

Pindar and the Pythionikoi

Of the 45 poems composed by the Theban poet Pindar in honor of winners at the Panhellenic games, 12 were called Pythionikoi, since they were composed for winners at the Pythian Games. In those poems, Pindar praises not only the victors, but also their families, as well as the aristocratic and athletic ideals of the late archaic period.

The Pythionikoi as a source of information

Pindar worked on lyric poetry.[6] The largest part of his surviving works is the Victory Odes (Epinikia), chorus songs to be sung in the homeland of the winner of the Games upon his return.

The Greek aristocracy of the first half of the 5th c. B.C., mostly the tyrants of Sicily and the conservative aristocracy of Aegina, constituted the clientele of the poet. Thus, his Odes of Victory reflect the aristocratic ideals which were losing ground so fast. The winner’s laudation is reinforced by adding mythological details. However, a prerequisite for understanding and cherishing the poems is a well-educated audience. The poet uses his work not only to speak of the victory won by his client and his family, but also to accentuate the family’s history and its connections all over Greece.

The total number of Victory Odes is 45 celebrating the winners in the four most famous panhellenic athletic competitions: the Olympic, the Nemean, the Pythian and the Isthmian Games. The hymns celebrating victories in Pythian Games include 12 odes and offer information on the exact competition of each athlete. Thus, we can constitute a list of the winners as follows:

In 498 B.C. Hippokles from Thessaly won at the children's diaulus (10th Pythionicus).

In 490 B.C. Midas from Akragas won at the musical contests as a flute player (12th Pythionicus).

In 486 B.C. Megakles from Athens won at the chariot racing (7th Pythionicus).

In 475 (?) and in 474(?) B.C. Hieron of Syracuse won the chariot racing (2nd Pythionicus).

In 474 Thrasydaeus from Thebes won at the children's stadium (11th Pythionicus) and Telesikrates from Cyrene won at the armed race (9th Pythionicus).

In 470 B.C. Hieron from Aetna won at the chariot racing (1st Pythinicus).

Finally, in 462/1 B.C. Arkesilaus from Cyrene won at the chariot racing (4th and 5th Pythionikoi).

See also

References

  1. ^ Pythian Games, Encyclopædia Britannica.
  2. ^ Ovid (1899). The Metamorphosis of Ovid: Vol. I--books I-VII. D. McKay. pp. 38–.
  3. ^ Hollis, Adrian S. "Ovid, Metamorphoses 1,445ff.: Apollo, Daphne, and the Pythian Crown." Zeitschrift Für Papyrologie Und Epigraphik 112 (1996): 69-73. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20189773
  4. ^ "Apollo's fight with the monstrous python". Greek-Gods.info. Retrieved 2015-10-28.
  5. ^ Gregory, Timothy E. (1991). "Delphi". In Kazhdan, Alexander (ed.). Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. London and New York: Oxford University Press. p. 602. ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6.
  6. ^ Pindar. The Odes of Pindar including the Principal Fragments with an Introduction and an English Translation by Sir John Sandys, Litt.D., FBA. Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1937

External links

Coordinates: 38°28′57.60″N 22°29′52.97″E / 38.4826667°N 22.4980472°E

Agonothetes

In ancient Greece, an agonothetes (Ancient Greek: ἀγωνοθέτης) was the president or superintendent of one of the sacred Panhellenic Games. At first the person who instituted the games and defrayed the expenses was the agonothetes; but in the great public games, such as the Olympic Games and Pythian Games, these presidents were the representatives of different states, or were chosen from the people in whose country the games were celebrated; thus at the Pythian Games at Athens ten athlothetae were elected for four years to superintend the various contests.

Archon of Pella

Archon (Ancient Greek: Ἄρχων; died 321 BC) was a Pellaean, appointed satrap of Babylonia after the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC. He is probably the same as the son of Cleinias mentioned in the Indian expedition of Alexander. He perished in 321 in a fight against Docimus. An inscription in Delphi shows that Archon had taken part in both the Isthmian and Pythian Games of 333-332, winning some horse-races.

Castalian Spring

The Castalian Spring, in the ravine between the Phaedriades at Delphi, is where all visitors to Delphi — the contestants in the Pythian Games, and especially pilgrims who came to consult the Delphic Oracle — stopped to wash themselves and quench their thirst; it is also here that the Pythia and the priests cleansed themselves before the oracle-giving process. Finally Roman poets regarded it as a source of poetic inspiration. According to some mythological versions it was here that Apollo killed the monster, Python, who was guarding the spring, and that is why it was considered to be sacred.

Chrysothemis

Chrysothemis or Khrysothemis (; Ancient Greek: Χρυσόθεμις, "golden justice"), is a name ascribed to several characters in Greek mythology.Female:

Chrysothemis, a Hesperide pictured and named on an ancient vase together with Asterope, Hygieia and Lipara.

Chrysothemis, daughter of Danaus. She married (and killed) Asterides, son of Aegyptus.

Chrysothemis, wife of Staphylus, mother of Molpadia, Rhoeo and Parthenos. She was also said to have mothered Parthenos by the god Apollo.

Chrysothemis, daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. Unlike her sister, Electra, Chrysothemis did not protest or enact vengeance against their mother for having an affair with Aegisthus and then killing their father. She appears in Sophocles's Electra.Male:

Chrysothemis, the first winner of the oldest contest held at the Pythian Games, the singing of a hymn to Apollo. He was a son of Demeter and Carmanor, the priest who cleansed Apollo for the killing of Python. After being the victor of the first Pythian games, Chrysothemis is said to have consorted with Apollo to produce a child. (In this case, however, Chrysothemis was considered to be the daughter of Demeter and Carmanor)

Daphne

Daphne (; Greek: Δάφνη, meaning "laurel") a minor figure in Greek mythology, is a naiad, a variety of female nymph associated with fountains, wells, springs, streams, brooks and other bodies of freshwater. She is said by ancient sources variously to have been a daughter of the river god Peneus and the nymph Creusa in Thessaly (Hyginus Fabulae 203) or of Ladon (the river Ladon in Arcadia) or Pineios, and to Ge (or Gaia) (Pausanias and others).There are several versions of the myth in which she appears, but the general narrative appears in Greco-Roman mythology, is that due to a curse made by the god Cupid, son of Venus, on the god Apollo (Phoebus), she became the unwilling object of the infatuation of Apollo, who chased her against her wishes. Just before being overtaken by him, Daphne pleaded to her river god father for help, who transformed her into a laurel tree, thus foiling Apollo.

Thenceforth Apollo developed a special reverence for laurel. At the Pythian Games which were held every four years in Delphi in honour of Apollo, a wreath of laurel gathered from the Vale of Tempe in Thessaly was given as a prize. Hence it later became customary to award prizes in the form of laurel wreaths to victorious generals, athletes, poets and musicians, worn as a chaplet on the head. The Poet Laureate is a well-known modern example of such a prize-winner, dating from the early Renaissance in Italy. According to Pausanias the reason for this was "simply and solely because the prevailing tradition has it that Apollo fell in love with the daughter of Ladon (Daphne)". Most artistic depictions of the myth focus on the moment of Daphne's transformation.

Delphi

Delphi (; Greek: Δελφοί [ðelˈfi]), formerly also called Pytho (Πυθώ), is famous as the ancient sanctuary that grew rich as the seat of Pythia, the oracle who was consulted about important decisions throughout the ancient classical world. The ancient Greeks considered the centre of the world to be in Delphi, marked by the stone monument known as the omphalos (navel).

It occupies an impressive site on the south-western slope of Mount Parnassus, overlooking the coastal plain to the south and the valley of Phocis. It is now an extensive archaeological site with a small modern town of the same name nearby. It is recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in having had a phenomenal influence in the ancient world, as evidenced by the rich monuments built there by most of the important ancient Greek city-states, demonstrating their fundamental Hellenic unity.

Eleuther

In Greek mythology, the name Eleuther (Ancient Greek: Ἑλευθήρ) may refer to:

Eleuther, son of Apollo and Aethusa. He is renowned for having an excellent singing voice, which earned him a victory at the Pythian games, and for having been the first to erect a statue of Dionysus, as well as for having given his name to Eleutherae. His sons were Iasius and Pierus. He also had several daughters, who spoke impiously of the image of Dionysus wearing a black aegis, and were driven mad by the god; as a remedy, Eleuther, in accordance with an oracle, established a cult of "Dionysus of the Black Aegis".

Eleuther, one of the twenty sons of Lycaon. He and his brother Lebadus were the only not guilty of the abomination prepared for Zeus, and fled to Boeotia.

Eleuther, one of the Curetes, was said to have been the eponym of the towns Eleutherae and Eleuthernae in Crete.

First Sacred War

The First Sacred War or Cirraean war, was fought between the Amphictyonic League of Delphi and the city of Kirrha. At the beginning of the 6th century BC the Pylaeo-Delphic Amphictyony, controlled by the Thessalians, attempted to take hold of the Sacred Land (or Kirrhaean Plain) of Apollo which resulted in this war. The conflict arose due to Kirrha's frequent robbery and mistreatment of pilgrims going to Delphi and their encroachments upon Delphic land. The war, which culminated with the defeat and destruction of Kirrha, is notable for the use of chemical warfare at the Siege of Kirrha, in the form of hellebore being used to poison the city's water supply. The war's end was marked by the organization of the first Pythian Games.

International Delphic Committee

The International Delphic Committee is the organization which prepares and holds the modern Delphic Games. Their headquarters are located in Russia (officially registered in 2003)Among main priorities of activities is holding the Delphic Games, popularization and development of the International Delphic Movement, search and support of young talents, promotion and development of common to all mankind values by means of art, preservation of world cultural heritage, cultural upbringing of the growing up generation.

The activity of the International Delphic Committee has found support of heads of states and governments in a number of countries. Besides, the International Delphic Committee has established relations with UNESCO and the European Cultural Center of Delphi, which functions under the patronage of the Council of Europe.Events which are held within the Delphic Movement are widely advertised and covered by more than 70 leading mass media and advertising agencies, and Official Opening and Closing ceremonies of the Delphic Games as well as the most important nominations are broadcast by television channels live. These Junior Delphic Games are dedicated to significant domestic events. This International Delphic Committee conducted also in September 2008 the second International Delphic Games in Saratov / Russia, but some Saratov Sunday editions and news portals have questioned the status and legitimacy of the games. However, in the federal press mention of this missing.

A modern attempt to revive an ancient Greek festival Pythian Games. The history of the Delphic or Pythian Games reaches back 2600 years and took place in the year preceding the Olympic Games. The Pan-Hellenic events were dedicated to the god Apollo, who symbolised light and beauty, music, poetry, the healing arts and the Delphic oracle.

Under the patronage of the International Delphic Committee (headquartered in Moscow) and UNESCO were held the First Open Youth European Delphic Games in Volgograd city, Russian Federation, on May 2–7, 2014.

Isthmian Games

Isthmian Games or Isthmia (Ancient Greek: Ἴσθμια) were one of the Panhellenic Games of Ancient Greece, and were named after the Isthmus of Corinth, where they were held. As with the Nemean Games, the Isthmian Games were held both the year before and the year after the Olympic Games (the second and fourth years of an Olympiad), while the Pythian Games were held in the third year of the Olympiad cycle.

Nemean Games

The Nemean Games (Greek: Νέμεα or Νέμεια) were one of the four Panhellenic Games of Ancient Greece, and were held at Nemea every two years (or every third).

With the Isthmian Games, the Nemean Games were held both the year before and the year after the Ancient Olympic Games and the Pythian Games in the third year of the Olympiad cycle. Like the Olympic Games, they were held in honour of Zeus. They were said to have been founded by Heracles after he defeated the Nemean Lion; another myth said that they originated as the funeral games of a child named Opheltes. However, they are known to have existed only since the 6th century BC (from 573 BC, or earlier). The winners received a wreath of wild celery leaves from the city of Argos.

Pair of athletes (Delphi)

The pair of athletes, two bronze figurines at the Archaeological Museum of Delphi, remind vividly of the Pythian Games.

Pindar's First Pythian Ode

Pindar's First Pythian Ode is an ancient Greek epinicion praising Hiero of Syracuse for a victory in the Pythian Games. The poem's occasion is Hiero's victory in the chariot race of 470 BC, corresponding to the foundation of the city of Aetna which is also praised by the poet.

Quintus Sulpicius Camerinus Peticus

Quintus Sulpicius Camerinus Peticus (died AD 67) was a Roman senator during the reign of Nero. Peticus served as suffect consul in 46 with Marcus Junius Silanus as his colleague, and as Proconsul of Africa from 56 to 57.Peticus was a member of the gens Sulpicia. He was also a member of the Arval Brethren, and served as president of the Board of Sacrifice in 60. He was charged with extortion but was acquitted by the Emperor Nero. In 67, he was killed with his son Quintus Sulpicius Camerinus Pythicus by Helius while Nero was in Achaea, on the grounds that he refused to give up his cognomen which "allegedly constituted a slight against Nero's victories at the Pythian games." Peticus also had a daughter called Sulpicia Praetextata who married the consul of 64, Marcus Licinius Crassus Frugi.

Sakadas of Argos

Sakadas of Argos won a musical competition at the Pythian Games in 586 BC, for Nomos Pythicos, a composition for the aulos that told of the battle between Apollo and Python. This event is one of the earliest known examples of the music of ancient Greece, one of the earliest known accounts of the use of the aulos as a solo instrument, and one of the earliest known accounts of program music.

Soteria (festival)

The Soteria were ancient festivals held in many Greek cities from the 3rd century BC. They honoured the saviour (Sôter) of a danger and could be dedicated to all the gods or only one (mainly Zeus Soterios). Heroic men regarded as deliverers were sometimes associated to the divinities, e.g. Aratus at Sicyon.

The most famous Soteria in antiquity were those held at Delphi. They had been instituted to commemorate the victory over the Celt invader Brennus (279 BC). They were composed of sports and musical competitions. Many cities were invited to the Delphi’s Soteria. In 246 BC, the Aetolian confederacy reorganized the festivities in order to equal others ancient games (e.g. the Pythian games).

Timasitheus of Delphi

Timasitheus (Ancient Greek: Τιμασίθεος) was an athlete of Delphi, who was victorious several times in the pankration at the Olympic and Pythian Games, and was also distinguished as a brave soldier.

Vale of Tempe

The Vale of Tempe (Greek: Κοιλάδα των Τεμπών) is a gorge in the Tempi municipality of northern Thessaly, Greece, located between Olympus to the north and Ossa to the south, and between the regions of Thessaly and Macedonia.

The valley is 10 kilometers long and as narrow as 25 meters in places, with cliffs nearly 500 meters high, and through it flows the Pineios River on its way to the Aegean Sea. In ancient times, it was celebrated by Greek poets as a favorite haunt of Apollo and the Muses. On the right bank of the Pineios sat a temple to Apollo, near which the laurels used to crown the victorious in the Pythian Games were gathered.The Tempe Pass is a strategic pass in Greece since it is the main route from Larisa through the mountains to the coast. Though it can be bypassed via the Sarantoporo Pass, the alternative route takes longer. Because of this it has been the scene of numerous battles throughout history. In 480 BC, 10,000 Athenians and Spartans gathered at Tempe to stop Xerxes's invasion. However, once there, they were warned by Alexander I of Macedon that the vale could be bypassed and that the army of Xerxes was overwhelmingly large; accordingly, the Greeks retreated.The US city of Tempe, Arizona, and the Sydney suburb of Tempe are two locations named after it, as is a farm in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, with nearby farms named Olympus and Ossa. The Vale of Tempe Road, tracing a small valley in Penang, Malaysia, and Tempe Terra on Mars are also named after it.

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