Festivals in Ancient Greece

Panathenaea.

This was the most important festival in Athens and the grandest in Ancient Greece.

This festival could be attended by everybody except for slaves, and was in honour of the goddess Athena.

It would start with a procession and this would assemble before dawn in the northern sector of the city. The procession would be led by kanephoros (unmarried young women) from Ancient Greece. It was classed as a privilege and a high honour to lead the Panathenaic festival.

A virgin would be selected from an aristocratic family of Athens. Her purity and youth would ensure a successful sacrifice to the gods.

The virgin would carry a kanoun (basket) of barley or fruits, a sacrificial knife and fillets to decorate a bull. She would then carry this through the procession up to the altar on the Acropolis at the Temple of Athena Nike.

Then Athenian citizens only could pass through the Propylaea (monumental gateway) and enter the Acropolis.

The procession would pass the Parthenon (temple) and stop at the great altar of Athena in front of the Erechtheum (temple).

Dionysus

This was a religious festival in honour of the god Dionysus and was the 2nd most important festival to the Panathenaea. The main part of the festival was a performance of tragedies or comedies.

It consisted of 2 related festivals that took part at different times of the year. The Rural Dionysia and City Dionysia.

Lenaia

This was an annual festival with a dramatic competition. It was classed as a lesser festival and was in honour of Dionysus Lenaius.

Anthesteria

This was one of 4 Athenian festivals in honour of Dionysus, held in the January/February full moon. It was preceded by the Lenaia.

It was a wine drinking festival; a celebration of the maturing of wine stored from the previous vintage, and included the opening of the wine containers.

Boedromia

This was a festival held in Athens in honour of Apollo. It was to thank Apollo for helping the Athenians during war.

Thargelia

This was a Athenian agricultural festival held in honour of Apollo and Artemis. It included a purifying ceremony followed by a thanksgiving service. There was also a ritual whereby 2 of the ugliest men that could be found, were chosen to die and then led to the place of sacrifice. They were stoned to death, burnt and their ashes were then thrown into the sea.

Adonia

This was a 2 day festival in honour of Aphrodite and Adonis and was celebrated by women only. On the 1st day statues of Adonis were laid out as corpses on the streets and the women observed funeral rites including beating themselves and uttering lamentations for Adonis. The 2nd day was a celebration and feasting as Adonis was allowed to return to life. He was then allowed to spend half the year with Aphrodite.

Thesmophoria

This was a festival held in honour of Demeter and Persephone. It was a widespread festival to commemorate the 3rd of the year when Demeter abstained from her role as Goddess of the Harvest and Growth. She mourned for her daughter Persephone who had been abducted to the underworld by Hades. The main feature was the sacrifice of pigs.

Skira

This festival marked the dissolution of the old year. It was a procession that led from Athens to Skiron in which the priestess of Athena and the priest of Poseidon took part.

Hermaea

This was an animal festival in honour of Hermes and included athletic contests.

Heracleia

This festival was held in honour of Heracles and commemorated his death.

Amphidromia

This was a family festival celebrated on the 5th or 7th day after the birth of a child.

 

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