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From Hutton Webster's, Early European History (1917); edited for this on-line publication, by ELLOPOS
IX. CLASSICAL CIVILIZATION
» Contents of this ChapterPage 13
ATHENIAN RELIGIOUS FESTIVALS
The Athenians celebrated many religious festivals. One of the most important was the Great Panathenaea,  held every fourth year in the month of July. Athletic contests and poetical recitations, sacrifices, feasts, and processions honored the goddess Athena, who presided over the Athenian city. Even more interesting, perhaps, were the dramatic performances held in midwinter and in spring, at the festivals of Dionysus. The tragedies and comedies composed for these entertainments took their place among the masterpieces of Greek literature.
 Panathenaic means 'belonging to all the Athenians.'
FEATURES OF A GREEK PLAY
There is very little likeness between the ancient and the modern drama. Greek plays were performed out of doors in the bright sunlight. Until late Roman times it is unlikely that a raised stage existed. The three actors and the members of the chorus appeared together in the dancing ring, or orchestra. The performers were all men. Each actor might play several parts. There was no elaborate scenery; the spectator had to rely chiefly on his own imagination for the setting of the piece. The actors indulged in few lively movements or gestures. They must have looked from a distance like a group of majestic statues. All wore elaborate costumes, and tragic actors, in addition, were made to appear larger than human with masks, padding, and thick-soled boots, or buskins. The performances occupied the three days of the Dionysiac festivals, beginning early in the morning and lasting till night. All this time was necessary because they formed contests for a prize which the people awarded to the poet and chorus whose presentation was judged of highest excellence.
Cf. The Ancient Greece * The Ancient Rome
Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) * Western Medieval Europe * Renaissance in Italy