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Panathenaea


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The great civic festival of Athens in honour of Athena, celebrated in Hekatombaion (roughly August). Its core was the procession, evoked in the Parthenon frieze, in which representatives of different sections of Athenian society and even metics marched or rode from the Ceramicus through the Agora to the Acropolis (see athens, topography). There followed large sacrifices, the meat from which was publicly distributed. The night before, choirs of boys and maidens had celebrated a ‘night festival’ (pannychis). Every four years, the Panathenaea was extended to become the ‘greater Panathenaea’. Only then, probably, did the procession bring to Athena the famous Panathenaic robe, embroidered with scenes from the battle of Gods and Giants. Her ancient wooden statue was housed in the Erechtheum. The greater Panathenaea also included major athletic and musical competitions (see agones), open to all Greece and lasting several days, winners in which received money prizes or olive oil contained in the distinctive Panathenaic prize amphoras. The games were added to the Panathenaea in the 6th cent. (in or near 566), doubtless to set it on a par with other recently founded panhellenic athletic festivals (see panhellenism; pythian and isthmian games). In the 5th cent. Athens' allies were required to participate in the procession, which thus became a symbol of imperial power; see delian league.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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