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Dionysia


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Many festivals of Dionysus had special names, e.g. Anthesteria, Lenaea, etc. This article concerns those Attic festivals known as (a) the Rural Dionysia, and (b) the City or Great Dionysia. Festivals of Dionysus were widespread throughout the Greek world, but we know most about the Attic ones, for which almost all surviving Greek drama was written.(a) The Rural Dionysia were celebrated, on various days by the different demes, in the month of Posideon (roughly December). They provided an opportunity for the locality to reproduce elements of the City Dionysia, and we hear of performances of tragedy, comedy, and dithyramb. There survive various inscriptions concerning the proceedings. In Aristophanes' Acharnians Dicaeopolis goes home to celebrate the festival: he draws up a little sacrificial procession in which his daughter is kanēphoros (‘basket‐bearer’), two slaves carry the phallus, Dicaeopolis himself sings an obscene song to Phales, and his wife watches from the roof. The song may be of the kind from which, acc. to Aristotle, comedy originated.(b) The City Dionysia belonged to Dionysus Eleuthereus, who was said to have been introduced into Athens from the village of Eleutherae, on the borders of Attica and Boeotia. The festival is generally regarded as having been founded, or at least amplified, during the tyranny of Pisistratus. But in fact the archaeological, epigraphic, and literary evidence is so uncertain as to be no less consistent with a date for its foundation right at the end of the 6th cent., just after the establishment of democracy, in which case the title ‘Eleuthereus’ would perhaps have been taken to connote political liberty.The festival was celebrated at the end of March, when the city was again full of visitors after the winter. On 10 Elaphebolion, a splendid procession followed an unknown route to the sacred precinct (next to the theatre), where animals were sacrificed and bloodless offerings made. In the procession were carried phalli, loaves, bowls, etc., and the metics were dressed in red. The theatrical performances took place from the 11th to the 14th. Their precise arrangement is unknown, but normal practice in the Classical period was as follows. Three tragedians competed, each with three tragedies and a satyr‐play (see satyric drama). There were five comic poets, each competing with a single play. And each of the ten tribes provided one dithyrambic chorus for the men's contest and one for the boys'. Before the performance of the tragedies the sons of citizens killed in battle were paraded in full armour in the theatre, and so was the tribute brought by Athens' allies. Various fragmentary inscriptions survive with the remains of lists of the annual performances (or victors). See also choregia; didaskalia; proagon; tragedy.

(a) The Rural Dionysia were celebrated, on various days by the different demes, in the month of Posideon (roughly December). They provided an opportunity for the locality to reproduce elements of the City Dionysia, and we hear of performances of tragedy, comedy, and dithyramb. There survive various inscriptions concerning the proceedings. In Aristophanes' Acharnians Dicaeopolis goes home to celebrate the festival: he draws up a little sacrificial procession in which his daughter is kanēphoros (‘basket‐bearer’), two slaves carry the phallus, Dicaeopolis himself sings an obscene song to Phales, and his wife watches from the roof. The song may be of the kind from which, acc. to Aristotle, comedy originated.

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Subjects: Theatre — Classical Studies.


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