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Ancient Greek Festivals

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Introduction

The Greeks had a lunar calendar that does not correspond to ours so their holiday dates have little meaning to us. But they had many holidays. The holidays corresponded to festivals for the various deities. Since there were male and female deities, it was common for men to predominate in the festivals for male deities and women to predominate in the festivals for female deities. The festivals were hardly ever quiet but included processions, singing and dancing and sacrifice. The sacrifice did often result in the death of one or more animals, but these were cut up, roasted, and served up at a banquet that was part of the festival, and when they were done celebrating for the night they would make their way home for their beds.

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Festival Activities

Plato mentions what for him were appropriate festival activities: Plato, Laws, 8.828b: "that there are twelve feasts to the twelve gods who give their names to the several tribes: to each of these they shall perform monthly sacrifices and assign choirs and musical contests, and also gymnastic contests, as is suitable both to the gods themselves and to the several seasons of the year;"

Ancient Greek Procession
A procession of ancient Greek ladies at a festival

Homer mentions a festival for Poseidon in Book III of the Odyssey:

"The sun leapt up put of the lovely bay, high into the brazen sky, to give light to the deathless gods and to mortal men all over the fruitful earth...The people were on the shore, sacrificing jet-black bulls to the blue-crested god who shakes the earth. There were nine parties, five hundred sitting in each party, and nine bulls were laid out before each. They had already distributed the stomach lining as food (tripe), and they were roasting the thigh-pieces for the god,...his companions (were) preparing the feast with meat broiling and grilling on the spits....and seated them in front of the spread, upon soft fleeces laid on the sands,...Then he gave them their plates of tripe and chitterlings (small intestine linings) and poured wine into a golden cup...Pray now...to Lord Poseidon...When you have poured your drops and offered your prayer as usual, pass on the cup to your friend...The others took the broiled meat off the spits, and distributed the portions and all had a famous feast. The pouring of the drops was the libation of "grace before drink." The attendant poured a few drops in the cup, the drinker spilt them upon the ground with a prayer; then the attendant filled the cup, and he drank...the sun set and darkness came....cut the tongues of sacrifice, and mix the wine, that we may pour libations to Poseidon and the other immortals...for the light has gone down into the west, and it is not fitting to sit ling at a feast of sacrifice, but to pass on...Attendants poured water over their hands; boys filled the mixing-bowls to the brim, and served wine to all after pouring in the first drops; the cast the tongues in the fire, and the company standing poured out one after another the first drops in honor of the gods. And when the libation was done and they had drunk as much as they wished,...

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Months of the Greek Calendar with the Attic Calendar as an Example

The approximate translation of the months in Attica are as follows:

  1. January - Gamelion
  2. February - Anthesterion
  3. March - Elaphebolion
  4. April - Mounichion
  5. May - Thargelion
  6. June - Skirophorion
  7. July - Hekatombaion (The first month of their year)
  8. August - Metageitnion
  9. September - Boedromion
  10. October - Pyanopsion
  11. November - Maimakterion
  12. December - Poseideon (Ποσῐδηϊών)
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Festivals List

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Festivals by Deity

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Music and Dance

Music and dance were an important part of festivals and celebrations. We even know the names of some of the dances. When the youths were freed from the Minotaur by Theseus they danced the Crane dance. It is illustrated as follows: Crane dance, Florence 4209

Aristotle points out that the effect of music was sometimes quite dramatic: In the Politics 1342a6 he states "For feelings such as pity and fear, or again, enthusiasm, exist very strongly in some souls, and have more or less influence over all. Some persons fall into a religious frenzy, which we see as a result of the sacred melodies--when they have used the melodies that excite the soul to mystic frenzy--restored as though they had found healing and purgation. Those who are influenced by pity or fear, and every emotional nature, must have a like experience, and others in so far as each is susceptible to such emotions, and all are in a manner purged and their souls lightened and delighted. The purgative melodies likewise give an innocent pleasure to mankind."

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Processions

Ancient Greeks often carried art objects such as statues and sacred clothing in religious processions. The temples themselves were works of art. The general populace was able to enjoy the art of the culture during festivals because it was displayed at that time. Ancient Greeks had little art in their homes; most of the art was public art, and most of it was associated with religion.

Demeter's great festival the Themophoria, was celebrated in Athens and other centers in Greece. This ceremony was named after her title Thesmophoros ('bringer of law') and confined only to women, who prayed for fertility for themselves and the City. (Jun 7) 12 Skiraphorion (G) Skira secret Festival of Demeter, celebrating the fertility of women and the soil; grain was cut and threshed (Jun 7) 12 Skiraphorion (G) Skiraphoria Festival of Athene Sacrifices to Demeter , Kore, and Poseidon as well as Athene. Procession along the sacred road from Athens to Eleusis, pigs were sacrificed to Athene in the village of Skiron, with prayers to Athene to prevent the summer from being too hot. The Skiraphorion seems to be part of the Themophoria.

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Other Rituals at Festivals

Festivals involved other rituals besides sacrifice. Athletic contests are fairly common. Statues were bathed and dressed in new robes.

Aphrodite was connected to the festival of Apaturia.

The sarcophagus from Hagia Triada contains a complex illustration of a ritual that can be interpreted in very primitive terms. Since this image contains elements in common with a number of later rituals it can be considered a source out of which the later rituals developed. Primitive man was very concerned with food and its availability and the image can be interpreted as a ritual to encourage the fertility of the earth and the subsequent availability of food. On the far right of the bull is a altar with the horns of consecration on it. The altar itself is a pillar suggesting a trunk of a tree. Tree trunk represents a god because when lightning strikes a tree, pieces of the trunk remain as a relic of the lightning. The Xoan may be the actual relic while the column trunk is symbolic of that relic.

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Banquets

Festivals were commonly in the form of banquets. The details of such a banquet are in book 7 of the Odyssey as Odysseus visits the mansion of Alcinous. The details follow:

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The Orgy

A less common festival was the orgy. In fact this was a festival of worship of the God Dionysus. As described in the Bacchae by Euripides the festival is somewhat different than commonly described.

There is commonality between the festival of Dionysus and the images of festivities from the Minoan culture. The suspicion is that there is some connection. In spite of the heavy involvement of wine, drunkenness is not the goal. Rather a loosening of the spirit that involves insight and prophesy is the goal. Sexual promiscuity is not that appropriate either because fertility is not the goal either. The sacrifice is rather a matter of recognizing the continuity of life. This involves the birth, life, death, and rebirth cycle.

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Wedding Festivals

A wedding feast is described in Book IV of the Odyssey. "And so there was feasting in the lofty hall,... In the company there was a minstrel playing on the (lyre); and as he struck up his tune, a couple of tumblers were making wheels all over the place. ...a brilliance like the light of the sun or moon filled the lofty rooms (perhaps from torches?)....the servants took charge of (the guests) and led them to the bathroom, bathed them and rubbed them with oil, dressed them in woolen robes and tunics, and conducted them to seats according (to their honor). A maid poured the hand-wash out of a golden jug over a silver basin, and set a smooth table by their side. A dignified housewife brought them bread, and laid ready all sorts of vittles,... A carver set out plates of all sorts of meat, and put golden cups ready at hand. If one person sat on a couch with a footstool did the others? Perhaps. She sent the wine around in one act.

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Pictures of Festivals

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Resources

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Ask a Question

To ask a question about this topic note the topic (Festivals) and Click here

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Questions and Answers

Question: What did they celebrate?

Answer: They celebrated the major changes in their life. A celebration can be understood a a ritual with a joyful purpose. They celebrated with joyful ritual many of the same events that we celebrate: a birth, a marriage, a victory, a good harvest. But the rhythm of their life was different. Their calendar was more in tune with natural events such as the motion of the sun and moon and the associated deities that they desired to have good relations with. This meant sacrifices. This could be a libation or a gift of a liquid, a fasting, or it could mean a sacrifice. If the sacrifice was a sacrifice of an animal, then there usually was an associated festival that would involve the cooking and eating of parts of the animal. Such a festival might have music and dancing as well. Such a festival might be very similar to a barbecue or a pig roast that we enjoy.

There was also a possibility of a human sacrifice. Though this was fairly rare, the Iliad does describe one. It does not seem to us that such would be the cause of a celebration. In fact the one in the Iliad is part of a funeral. But you should try to understand why such might be a cause for celebration. The case of the sacrifice of Iphiginia is a good example. One of the soldiers in Agamemnon's army had killed a pregnant rabbit. For Artemis this was a powerful taboo. Because of her anger the wind blew wrong and the army could not sail. A seer was consulted to determine how to propitiate Artemis. It was decided that the daughter of Agamemnon must be sacrificed perhaps because she was a virgin. The seer also foretold ultimate victory if this was carried out. Iphiginia was sacrificed in front of the whole army. The wind blew and the army went on to defeat the Trojans.

Because the sacrifice of Iphiginia ultimately lead to victory, her sacrifice was a cause of celebration. Of course you had to have a lot of faith in the ability of the seer. You also have to wonder about the deaths of all those young men who fought in the Trojan War. Iphiginia was just one of many causalities. But none of the young men could claim that their death had lead to victory. It is odd but the most important sacrifice was the sacrifice of a mere girl. Later sacrifices were condemned because they had a demeaning effect on the young men. And some of the victims were made out to be heroes by the Greek playwrights.

Festivals involved other rituals besides sacrifice. Athletic contests are fairly common. Statues were bathed and dressed in new robes.

Question: pomagranates

Answer: Pomegranates are fruit of the pomegranate tree, a semitropical shrub native to Asia. It is grown for decoration as well as for its fruit. The fruit has a tough reddish rind which contains a bundle of fruits within, each with a fleshy outside and a seed within. The inner fruits have clear red flesh and jewel-like faceted surfaces. This fruit has an important role in the myths of Demeter and Persephone.

Question: what were traditions at greek festivals

Answer: During the rites of Dionysus followers, mainly women called maenads, surrendered to an ecstatic frenzy in order to achieve a sense of freedom and well being. They were believed to roam mountains with music and dancing, while they performed supernatural feats of strength. These feats included uprooting trees and catching wild animals which they tore apart and ate raw. There were many other different traditions.

Question: do ancient Greek festivals play a major role in worshipping gods?

Answer: Yes. Festival days were holy days dedicated to some deity or other.

Question: what is amphidromia

Answer: From: www.perseus.tufts.edu "Amphidromia - took place on 5th or 7th day after birth. Involved a sacrifice. A naked father carried his child around the household hearth; women purified themselves; friends and relatives sent traditional gifts and did not attend unless they had been present at the birth. Family decorated the doorway of the house announcing the birth: Boy= wreath of olive, Girl= wool (because of their spinning). Girls and children of poorer families might be named at the same rite."

Question: Can you tell me anything about the Delian festivals called the Posideia and the Eleithuaia? References to further reading would be helpful.

Answer: I cannot even verify that these are names of festivals at Delos, but the festivals on Delos were usually to the god Apollo. Eileithyia (Cretan Eleuthia) is the Minoan goddess of Birth.

About Delos: Sacred destinations -- Delos

About Posideia:

Delian Festivals:

Question: What was the name of a festival held biennially during each Olympiad?

Answer: The Isthmian Games were held biennially in even-numbered years before Christ and in odd years after.

Question: How often were the Nemean Games held?

Answer: the Isthmian and Nemean Games were held every two years.

Question: I'm doing a project on Ancient Greece mythology specifically about the festivals, temples, myths, and Aesops Fables, and I can't find anything on it. Can u please help me!

Answer: For festivals read above. For temples see pages on architecture and religion by clicking on the Menu Directory below. Myths are the stories the Greeks told about their past. See a specific mythological figure in the Menu Directory. Demeter might be a good choice. For Aesop see: Click here

Question: What kind of celebrations/festivals did the Ancient Greeks celebrate?

Answer: Most of their festivals were religious. These involved parades, sacrifices, banquets, music, and dancing. Some also involved athletic contests. They also celebrated victories, births, weddings, and funerals.

Question: What can you tell me about the ancient Greek festivals of Thesmophoria and The Dionysiac Mysteries, and how they were considered "social outlets" for the women of ancient Greece?

Answer: The usual practice in ancient Greece was for the women to attend to the goddesses and the men the gods. In the case of Thesmophoria, a festival for Demeter, men were excluded entirely. The festival of Dionysus, (Dionysia) during which dramas were performed, was for men only and women were excluded. The mysteries of Dionysus are another matter. The rites to these mysteries were the original orgies. Adherents of this cult were called maenads and were mainly women. When they were inspired by Dionysus they surrendered to an ecstatic frenzy which was intended to give them a sense of freedom and well-being. This inspiration came mainly from large amounts of wine. The frenzy may have been the result of their usual confinement in the Greek culture. The Greek men of the classical period have been accused of repression against women. The Dionysiac orgy allowed the women to break their bonds of repression and terrorize the men who did it. It was fairly effective because the men were fairly frightened by this type of event.

Question: Name some festivals to do with Demeter.

Question: Do you know any festivals on Demeter or Dionysos?

Festivals to do with Dionysus:

Question: what is the institution or organization associated with this web sight?

Answer: FJKluth LLC is an Information Technology and Web-Site Development Company in Kent, Ohio, U.S.A.

Question: IPHIGINIA'S BROTHER

Answer: If Iphigenia is the daughter of Helen then she has no brother. But if she is the daughter of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon then her brother and sister are Orestes and Electra.

Question: why did they have festivals?

Answer: They wanted to honor the deities. They thought the gods and goddesses would enjoy the food, the singing, and the dancing. It is also pretty plain that they enjoyed the change of pace and break from work. They did not have a week routine with a weekend without work. The worked until there was a festival. The time from one festival to another varied and the length of the festival varied.

Question: Can you name all of the ancient Greek Festivals and when they took place?

Answer: No. Every different community had special festivals, some had different calendars, and many were not even recorded.

Question: what was the porpouse?

Answer: The purpose of a festival was to please the deities. A porpoise is a fishlike mammal that lives in the sea. The porpoise (or dolphin) was an important animal to the Minoans who may have included it in their festivals.

Question: Pictures of Greek food

Answer:

Question: can you please tell me what was done at the festival of Dionysus?

Answer: Back to back dramas from beginning to end.

Question: Any tips for writing an concluding paragraph on Festivals

Answer: Festivals were not only celebrations, they were often religious activities. Festivals served for holy days, holidays, and week-ends. They gave women an opportunity to get out of the house and they gave men a break from the daily grind.

Question: ancient Greek New year festival

Answer: This seems difficult since many calendars were in use and there was some confusion. Some versions of the ancient Greek calendar celebrated the new year on the summer solstice. "The Athenians and the other Ionian peoples began their year with the first new moon after the summer solstice, the Dorians with the autumnal equinox, the Boeotians and other Aeolians with the winter solstice." Hellenic calendars, calendarium

Question: Who participated in festivals and for what reasons?

Answer: Festivals provided days of rest so everyone participated. They had no weekends so Festivals provided community gatherings. Some festivals were attended by specific worshippers such as men or women, or those interested in a particular realm or goddess.

Question: How did festivals define both communities and religiou time for the Greeks?

Answer: Each community focused on the deities that met that communities needs. They built temples to the appropriate deities and held corresponding festivals.

Question: what were some the the festivals for?

Answer: Festivals are invariably religious. Usually a festival was dedicated to one or more deities.

Question: was there a major spring festival?

Answer: The Great Dionysia was the major spring festival.

Question: what were any of some of the traditions practiced by the greece in these festivals

Answer: Athletic competitions, feasting, processions, and dancing.

Question: can you give me any imformation about a typical ceremony

Answer: A typical ceremony might involve a procession from a special place to an altar in a temple. The procession would be lead by a priest or priestess. In the procession would be the worshippers with their gifts and their petitions. Some gifts would include animals for sacrifice, food for the festival meal, and wine to drink. Other gifts might include models of the object of their petition. If a worshipper had a sore ear they would present a gift of a model ear to the god or goddess. When the procession arrived at the altar libations were poured on the altar and invocations and prayers were said. Animals were sacrificed and their meat was roasted on a fire. Wine and oil was sprinkled on the meat as an offering to the divine and so the smoke rising to the heaven would small sweet. The participants would then eat this meat with the other food that was brought in a ceremonial banquet.

Question: when did relious festivals occur

Answer: Special holy days were marked off in the yearly calendar. They were fairly frequent and occurred every 6 to 8 days. Also a festival could be held at the time of a special need. A ruler or a government might call for a festival to be held.

Question: "Who was the God of festivals?

Answer: There was no god of festivals. In almost every case a festival was dedicated to one deity or other. A festival can be considered worship of some deity. The Greeks did not have week-ends or holidays. What they had were religious festival days. Instead of having a week that includes one religious day, one market day, and five work days, the ancient Greek worked until there was a festival day. Some festivals lasted one, two, and up to five days. Some were market days and some were religious days. When a festival did come, it was the deity of that festival that was celebrated.

Question: Weren't speeches an important part of festivals? Do you have any information on this?

Answer: A cursory review finds no evidence. Aristophanes includes speeches in his comedies.

Question: More about Lenaea

Answer: Lenaea was a festival of Dionysus held on the 12th day of the month Gamelion. This would make it an early winter festival. It may have lasted four days. It involved dramatic performances and a procession. After 440 BCE comedy seems to have been important at the competitions held during this festival.

Question: please give me about panathenae festivals

Answer: The Panathenea was celebrated at Athens for 5 or 6 days around the 28th of Hekatombaion. The festival honored the birth of Athena and centered on the presentation of a new peplos (robe) to the goddess. The robe was carried on a mast in a cart in the form of a ship. Every forth year an athletic competition was held also.

Question: what greek olympic sports did apollo play?

Answer: Apollo is an immortal god and did not participate in mortal sports. There was no point because he would have won everything.

Question: theogamia

Answer: Theogamia of Hera. Modern date : January 19th. Gamelion 27th hemera: Theogamia, a festival celebrating the sacred marriage, "hieros gamos", between Hera and Zeus, also called the Gamelia, takes place on this day. Also on this day there are sacrifices to Kourotrophos, Hera, Zeus Teleios, and Poseidon by the Attikos deme Erkhia. This is connected with the Theogamia festival.

Question: Were the Pythian games, Isthmian games and Permean games athletic competitions ?

Answer: The most important competitive festivals formed a circuit, the periodos: The Olympic Games, the Pythian Games, The Isthmian games, The Nemean Games. The competitions included athletics and other events as well.

Question: what is one of the rituals for athene

Answer: There are many rituals for Athena including a procession or bathing her statue, but studying hard at school makes the most sense.

Question: I came across the following: "The tradition of using a baby to signify the new year was begun in Greece around 600 BC. It was their tradition at that time to celebrate their god of wine, Dionysus, by parading a baby in a basket, representing the annual rebirth of that god as the spirit of fertility. Early Egyptians also used a baby as a symbol of rebirth." Do you know of a specific reference to support the above?

Answer: This is commonly stated but not referenced. There was no standard calendar so the new year was celebrated at different times. There is a festival Anthesteria which bears some resemblance: The Anthesteria.

Question: what did the ancient Greek hunt for food

Answer: Mainly they hunted fish. But they also hunted rabbits, boar, and deer.

Question: Why were plays so important at the festivals? Was it just for entertainment or was it more for political and educational purposes?

Answer: Actually plays were only important at one festival, The Greater Dionysia, a festival for men only. One must distinguish between drama and dramatization. There were many festivals with dramatization, both for men and women, where a priest or priestess played the role of a god or goddess. This allowed the deity to be present at the festival. In the case of a drama a story was played out with actors and actresses. Dramas were very educational. They told the stories of the gods and goddesses and how they related to humanity. Once they became entertainment they were no longer confined to religious festivals.

Question: photos of Greek woman in a festival dress

Answer:

Question: Why are there festivals in every month but now there is one every couple of months?

Answer: There were months, but no weeks and no weekends. Festival days were market days and social days, as well as religious days. There were usually many festivals in one month

Question: Where did festivals originate from what Greeks celebrate? today and how do they link?

Answer: Festivals were originally ceremonies done for the purpose of influencing a particular deity. Originally the ceremony was defined by a place rather than a time. The place was selected because of its spiritual associations. It might have a spring, a tree, or a mineral deposit that was considered important or meaningful. The object was usually bounded by a grove, a wall or fence to indicate the extent of the deities influence. Later realms took on more spiritual boundaries, altars were built in temples, and festivals took on temporal dates. Obviously the relation of the place to seasonal events was important quite early.

Answer: They wore their best clothes along with items to honor the god or goddess.

Question: do you have any pictures of people dancing, playing inturments, or doign anything at a festival ?

Answer: See under Pictures above.

Question: What kind of food did the Ancient Greeks have at a festival?

Answer: Mainly roast meat, but there were also different kinds of cakes.

Question: amphidromia

Answer: This festival took place on 5th or 7th day after birth and signified acceptance of the child by the head of the household. If the child was rejected it was exposed and allowed to die. It involved a sacrifice. A naked father carried his child around the household hearth; women purified themselves; friends and relatives sent traditional gifts and did not attend unless they had been present at the birth. The family decorated the doorway of the house announcing the birth: for a boy wreath of olive was hung. For a girl wool was used (because of their spinning). Girls and children of poorer families might be named at the same rite.

Question: I was wondering if you cold give me any information about Gymnopedies. All that I know is that they were 'ceremonial coral mdances performed at ancient greek festivals, and if you have any other info. could you please send it to me?

Answer: First a reference to the composer Eric Satie (1866-1925): "When Satie was introduced to the famous 'Chat Noir' cabaret in 1887, he did not want to be classified as a musician, so he declared himself to be a Gymnopediste, though nobody was sure what it meant. It is thought he got the name from a poem by Latour, which mentions 'gymnopedia' - describing them as naked Spartan dancing girls. He relished the confusion that his title caused, and used it as the title for three piano pieces for this reason."

But gymno-paidia is a yearly festival in honour of those who fell at Thyrea, at which naked boys danced and went through gymnastic exercises. In Roman times this festival was celebrated by Sparta July 6-10.

"Gymnopaidia, a war like dance was performed by two groups of youths and children, quite nude, singing hymns by Thaletas, a poet who is said to have introduced into Sparta a more vehement style both of music and dance, with the Kretic and Paeonic rhythm. Other hymns were sung, those of Alkman dating from 627 B.C.; and the pæans of Dionysodotos. These Gymnopaidia, mentioned by Pausanias as a favourite sport and dance, go back to the LIX Olympiad. They were as much processions as dances. The leaders were called Thyreatics, in memory of the victory of Thyrea, and they carried wreaths of palms. Sometimes the pageant was held in honour of those who fell at Thyrea or Thermopylæ. The Laconian, composed of three choruses representing the past, present, and future, was a military dance, calculated to give the Lacedæmonians strength and agility in using their weapons. Verses also accompanied this dance." Reference

Question: In the festivals, when were the sporting events held? and what sports did they actually play?

Answer: Athletic events were mainly held during the warm summer months. Some festivals were entirely athletic, lasted several days, and included only an introduction and concluding ceremonies. At others the athletics were just one of many activities. The sports that they played were only individual competitions. The Olympics indicate the variety.

Question: I have to do a research paper on 6 of the 12 Olympian deities, I was wondering if you knew any special holidays that were associated with Aphrodite, Ares, Artemis, Athena, Hephaestus, and Hermes?

Answer: Hera, Hestia, and Persephone are all more important that the gods you picked. Review each festival listed for the deities honored.

Question: Was theatre involved in the greek festivals?

Answer: Drama was involved only in the festival of Dionysus. But other festivals probably involved dramatizations.

Question: was ther a spring festival??????

Answer: At Athens the Great Dionysia was the major spring festival. But at Eleusis festivals were held for the return of Persephone every spring. The Eleusinian Mysteries, held annually in honor of Demeter and Persephone, were the most sacred and revered of all the ritual celebrations of ancient Greece. They were instituted in the city of Eleusis, some twenty-two kilometers west of Athens, possibly as far back as the early Mycenaean period, and continued for almost two thousand years." Reference

Question: can you tell me about the spring festival which honoured Dionysus

Answer: Originally plays were written for a yearly festival, in honor of the god Dionysus, and were either Comedies or Tragedies. The festival consisted of back to back comedies and tragedies from beginning to end. It was a festival for men only and the plays were performed by men for an all-male audience. Some women seemed to be in the audience but they were probably slaves and hetaerae.

Question: Was there ever a festival for Nike, the greek goddess of victory?

Answer: I cannot find any, but it is likely since a temple was erected for her. Athena and Nike were often confounded so each festival of Athena could be studied to see if any related to Nike.

Question: about how long do each festival last?

Answer: Festival length varies from one to many days depending upon the festival.

Question: what were the socio-cutural, religious and political reasons why drama festivals were held in ancient greece?

Answer: Politically they were part of the Greek identity. They did seem to provide an educational function. They educated the Greek men about Greek myth and morality. They seemed to have originated as an imitation of the behavior of the Greek deities. The deities were known to change their shape and appear in human form. When there was an important decision to be made a deity would appear in the guise of a likely participant and influence the decision. By dramatizing the events surrounding an important event the] Greeks dramatized the actions of the gods and goddesses.

Question: Sophocles-Oedipus the King was he a ritual of sacrifice

Answer: No. He was a victim, perhaps because he failed to sacrifice. But he more likely was a victim of circumstance.

Question: Origin of the Three Graces

Answer: The three graces probably originated as the three goddesses who were judged for their beauty, Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite.

Question: 1) What do people see at the theatre?

Answer: First realize that theater began as a religious ceremony much like the ceremonies in churches today. There were processions to the altar, dramatizations of presentations to the deity and reception by the deity of offerings. Then there were communal meals. Many different cults did this for many different deities with much variation. But at the festival of Dionysus the dramatization turned to drama by having more characters and having the characters interact in a life-like way. But the origin of the Drama was a religious festival and it was attended in a respectful way. We would consider it worship rather than entertainment.

Question:2) Upon What Were The Plays Based?

Answer: Because the plays were religious in nature they were based on known religious facts. In some cases they portrayed these facts and in others they clarified them. Because of this the playwrights would not admit to having made up any facts.

Question:3) What Are Some Of Those Plays Called?

Answer: The plays were named after important people of the past who had been involved in religious experiences. Most of them were Greeks who lived at the time of the Trojan war. Even though all the plays that have been preserved came from Athens and the festival for men there the people described are not all from Athens nor are they mostly men. Some of these people include Oedipus, Agamemnon, Electra, and Antigone. Note that the masks used in the theater related more to the bringing alive the spirits of the ancestors than to decoration. This use is consistent with the use of masks in more primitive cultures.

Question:4) What Exacally is a banquet according to the ancient greeks

Answer: Some people would call the communal meal associated with the religious festival a banquet. Women participated in dramatization and communal meals of this sort at festivals for both sexes and festivals for just women. But the men did the drama and they also had special banquets called symposia. It is not clear that the symposia had anything to do with religion but it probably did. Each of the aristocratic houses of Greece had a special room called a megron where the symposium was held. Around that room the walls were lined with special beds called kline on which the male guests lounged. These beds were about 6' by 2.5' by 40" high. They were rope beds covered with pillows. On each bed one or two people lounged. If two people then we assume sexual involvement. In front of the beds lower tables were placed with trays of food within reach. Wine was there too. Below the tables were dogs to eat the scraps. The guests were entertained in a number ways. They were given food and wine. Music was played for them. Games were played. They listened to lectures and speeches. And they engaged in conversation. The guests were always men but women were there. They could be serving slaves, musicians, dancers, acrobats, prostitutes, lecturers, social arrangers, and advisors. They could have be dressed in fine clothes, costumes or nude. We understand how a woman could use her body, clothed or naked, as entertainment for men. But what was different about the Greek symposium is that the women often used their mind too. They were expected to be able to converse on current topics and give opinions on politics. Some of the women also gave lectures or discussed social arrangements for the men. It is the intellectual nature of the symposium that has been passed to our recent times. Now we consider a symposium a meeting where speeches are given and ideas discussed.

Question:5) How did they eat?

Answer: Most of what they ate was finger food. They did have flat bread on which some of the things were placed before being eaten with the bread.

Question:6) What sort of music was played?

Answer: The music that was played was similar to mid-eastern belly-dance music.

Question:7) How Did They Prepare To Go To The Theatre?

Answer: They dressed up just like we would to go to church.

Question:8) Has it effected today and how?

Answer: The whole ideas of our movies and theater can be traced to ancient Greece. Our whole educational system can be thought of as based on the symposium. The effect has been profound.

Question: What was the Festival of Dionysus like in the 5th century B.C. and what would it have been like for the average Athenian to attend the Festival when "Oedipus the King" was performed?

Answer: It was an exciting event comparable to opening night at a Broadway play. It was a religious event so it would have been more reserved than a rock concert or a sports event but it was a lot more exciting than just going to a play. During the festival new dramas were often performed in a competitive setting. The audiences would be emotionally involved in the choice even if they did not make the decision. Oedipus the King was probably enthusiastically received at its first showing but it probably took several performances for its full impact to be felt. So for that play the response probably built. So on the night of the first performance the audience probably filed to theri seats noisily in anticipation. There was a hush as the drama began. Then as the drama progressed ooh's and aah's filled the air more frequently. At the end of the play the audience went wild with applause and rushed the stage to congratulate the writer and the performers. The celebration spilled out into the street and continued in the private rooms and taverns of Athens. The play had such a strong effect that many lost sleep that night. The next morning there was the sense they had actually witnessed a great event.

Aristotle used the drama "Oedipus Rex" frequently in his works on drama and could be consulted for a sense of contemporary reaction.

Question: I'm doing a research essay on some greek gods and goddesses effected ancient Greek. You have listed many fetivals, and celebrations including Dionysus, but I would like to know if there're any festivals based around wine. Also, could you tell me about all the different festivals that involved Dionysus?

Answer: Since Dionysus is the god of wine his festivals are more about wine than the others. But most festivals involved wine because wine was used as a libation. Also most festivals involved a feast and wine was the beverage of choice at festivals.

Festivals of Dionysus:

Question: Is the month Poseideon (December) named after the greek god, Posiedon?

Answer: From Wikipidia: "The Athenian months were named after gods and festivals." and "At Athens month six, Poseideon, took its name directly from the god Poseidon." From Liddel & Scott 9th edition: Ποσειδῶν - the god, Ποσῐδεῖα - the festival, Ποσῐδηϊών - the Attic month.

Question: what was the purpose of the dionysia festival?

Answer: The Dionysia festivals celebrated the god Dionysus of the ancient Greek religion. Originally the festival was probably a harvest festival clebrating the importance of the vine culture for the making of grapes from wine. Also celebrated was the goat. Both these helped the ancient Greeks to benefit from their climate and soil types. The goat was thought to be a tragic figure perhaps because it was a frolicing creature that was often sacrificed. At any rate tragedies developed as a result of songs that celebrated goats. The presentation of tragedies and comedies was an important part of the festivities at these festivals.

Question: What transport did the greeks use to get to a celebration? (sparta - athens?)

Answer: The majority of transportation was done in ships at sea. The majority of roads were simply from a town to the sea. There are intercity roads documented but they are very primitive. They might best be described as paths. On the paths there might be chariots, ox carts, horseback riders, and runners, and walkers. Donkeys, mules, and goats might also have been used for transportation. The runners were messengers.

An interesting mode of transportation would be a φορεῖον or σκιμπόδιον. This would be a litter, sedan chair, or hammock. Mostly these were used by women or invalids. The advantage of this conveyance was that rider exerted no effort and the bearers could easily negotiate pot holes and broken pavement. This type of conveyance would be especially relevant to festivals related to Aesclepius, the god of healing. The custom was for the patient to at least spend the night in the Temple. The god did not seem to visit the patient at home.

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