Panathenaea the most famous of all the Attican festivals celebrated in Athens in honor of Athene (Minerva) Polias, the guardian of the city. At first it was called Athenaea, being limited in its observance to the inhabitants of Athens, but when it was extended to all Attica, in the reign of Theseus, who combined the whole of the Attic tribes into one body, it received the name of Panathenaea; All writers who mention the Panathenaea distinguish a greater and a lesser one; the former was celebrated every fourth year, the latter annually. On the year in which the greater occurred, the lesser Panathenaea were wholly omitted. Both these festivals continued for twelve days, which was a longer time than any other ancient festival lasted. The greater was distinguished from the lesser festival by being more solemn and magnificent. The Panathenaea took place in the month Hecatombaeon (July), and were observed with solemnities of various kinds. Bulls were sacrificed to Athene, each town of Attica, as well as each colony of Athens, supplying a bull. Races on foot, on horses, and in chariots were indulged in; contests were held in wrestling, in music, and in recitation; amusements, in short, of every kind were practiced on this festive occasion. The prize of the victors in these contests consisted of a vase supplied with oil from the olive-tree sacred to Athene which was planted on the Acropolis; and numerous vases of this kind have been discovered in different parts of Greece and Italy. In the case of the victors in the musical contests, a chaplet of olive-branches was given in addition to a vase. Dancing was one of the amusements in which the peo, indulged at this festival, and particularly the pyrrhic dance in armor. Both philosophers and orators also displayed their skill in debate. Herodotus is even said to have read his history to the Athenians at the Panathenaea. Another entertainment on the occasion of this festival was the Lampadephoria, or torch festival. A representation of the solemnities of the great procession in the Panathenea is found on the sculptures of the Parthenon in the British Museum. This procession to the temple of Athene Polias was the great solemnity of the occasion. It seems to have been limited to the greater Panathenaea, and to have had as its object the carrying of the peplus of Athene to her temple. The peplus or sacred garment of the goddess was borne along in the procession suspended from the mast of a ship, which was so constructed as to be moved along on land by means of underground machinery. Nearly the whole population of Attica took part in the procession, either on foot, on horseback, or in chariots; the old men- carrying olive-branches, the young men clothed in armor, and maidens of noble families, called Canephori, carrying baskets which contained gifts for the goddess. At the great Panathenlea golden crowns were conferred on those individuals who had deserved well of their country; and prisoners were set at liberty during the festival.

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