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Athenian Festivals
Oschophoria (autumn)
• Oschophoria
• "carring of the vine-branches"
• October (7th Pynanopsion, the month of the
bean porridge, sacred to Apollo)
• the grapes were harvested and pressed
• 2 Noble men in women's clothes
• songs, dances (cheerful and sad)
Rural Dyonisia Month Poseidon
• various villages
• first wine (still not fermented), mixed with
water of springs (nymphs)
• procession of the phallos
• noble lady – basket-bearer
• sacrifice of the goat (dangerous for a guilty
who didn't know his blame), boiled
Lenaia - 12th of Gamelion
(January- month of marriage)
• coldest month: the wine needs cold in its cleaning
• festival of the maenads
• mask atop a wooden column
• Thiades at mount Parnassos
• To wake up Dionysus from the cold of the winter
(the spring is coming)
• in Athens: sanctuary of Lenaion (near the
• tragedies and comedies
c 520 BCE
Older Dionysia - February
• 11, 12 and 13 of Anthesterion (February, "month
of flowers")
• Second pruning of the vines and second
fermentation of the wine
• all the people, slaves included, tasted the wine
• 14 Geirai in 14 temples 14 secret objects in 14
crates in 14 shrines
• Temple Lenaion
Pithoigia ("Opening of the Wine-Jars")
Day 1: 11th February
Opening of the Wine-Jars
Opening of the Mundus (underground)
From the Underground came also Dionysos
"Now there are flowers!"
Ghost of the dead roam the earth: the souls
are thirsty of wine
• Procession in which Dionysos was brought
to Athens in a model of ship mounted ona
Choes ("Pitchers")
Winner of the drinking contest
Second day: 12 Febr
• "Pitchers". Everyone (also children), had a
jug from which they could pour wine to
• Children of 3 years were crowned with
flowers, given little jug, toys and pets,
enrolled in the Phratria (order)
• The child symbolized the little Dionysus
Contests: Dithyrambs
• Official drinking contest:
• a full wineskin as a prize!
• Competition of Dithyrambs (6th century BC).
Themes: Dionysus, legends. Improvvisation.
Rural areas goatskins and goat dances.
• Archilos sung "when the lightning of the wine
lighted his soul"
• The winner gained a Bull (killed in the sacrifice of
the Great Dionysia)
Arion and Dithirambos
• According to the legend, Arion was the first
musician to regulate the dithyramb in
strophes and antistrophes, choruses and solo
• Etymology unknown: maybe twice-born
Antioch (Roman) mosaic, ca 250-300 AD
Chytroi ("Cooking-Pots")
Satyr leading Basilinna - bride of Dionysos
Day 3: 13 of February
• Hiero Gamos: the Basilinna (Queen, wife of
the Archon Basileus, a magistrate) was
formally wedded with Dionysos (legend of
Theseus and Ariadne)
• Ceremony strictly secret
• Offerings of the 14 geirai
Arrival of Dionysos the groom
Aiora Swinging Myth
• "When Father Liber [Dionysos] went out to visit men in
order to demonstrate the sweetness and pleasantness of his
fruit, he came to the generous hospitality of Icarius and
Erigone. To them he gave a skin full of wine as a gift
and bade them spread the use of it in all the other
• Loading a wagon, Icarius with his daughter Erigone and a
dog Maera came to shepherds in the land of Attica, and
showed them the kind of sweetness wine had.
• The shepherds, made drunk by drinking immoderately,
collapsed, and thinking that Icarius had given them
some bad medicine, killed him with clubs.
• The dog Maera, howling over the body of the slain Icarius,
showed Erigone where her father lay unburied.
• When she came there, she killed herself by hanging in a
tree over the body of her father.
Swinging festival
• Father Liber [Dionysos] afflicted the daughters
of the Athenians with alike punishment. They
asked an oracular response from Apollo
concerning this, and he told them they had
neglected he deaths of Icarius and Erigone. At this
reply they exacted punishment from the
shepherds, and in honour of Erigone instituted a
festival day of swinging ." -Hyginus Fabulae 130
Floor mosaics from the late 2nd century House of Dionysos
Aiora ("Swinging")
• The song of the swing-ritual, in honour of
Other rites
• Vegetables were boiled and offered to Hermes as a
guide of souls to the underworld
• People smeared doorways with pitch
• Hydrophoria: Young women carried water to a
chasm in the ground near the temple of Zeus.
Offering to those who died in the great flood
which Zeus sent to punish humankind
• Spirit be gone, Anthesteria is over!
City or Great Dionisia
9th-13th of March
• 9th-13th of Elaphebolion (March "month of the
• Five days following the Spring Equinox
• Dionysius Eleutherion
• Mask of Dionysus
• 9th: Torchlight procession with the statue of
Dionysus: from the temple near the Theatre to the
• Role of the ephebs (military training)
Great Dionysia
10th main procession opening the city Dionysia
Sacrifices of bulls
Procession of phalloi and basket-bearers
Purification of the theatre: sacrifice of a pig
Tragedies and comedies:17.000 spectators
Plays: integral part of the festival
Komos: males roaming the city with torches,
auloi, harps and wine
offering to Dionysus (Attic votive relief) c. 400 B.C.E. (Athens: Nat'l. Mus. Inv. 1500)
Lord of Chorus
• Lord of the chorus and theatre music