Reference address :

ELPENOR - Home of the Greek Word

Three Millennia of Greek Literature

William Davis, A Day in Old Athens


Plato Home Page

The Great Festivals of Athens













Page 11


[1] In Gulick ("Life of the Ancient Greeks," pp. 304-310) there is a valuable list of Attic festivals. The Athenians had over thirty important religious festivals, several of them, e.g., the Thesmorphoria (celebrated by the women in honor of Demeter), extending over a number of days.

[2] [Note from Brett: A "Scotch Sunday" refers to the practice of the Sabbath day in Scotland. During the Sabbath day (at the time of the author of this work) in Scotland no activity goes on except for Church. There is no travel, no telecommunication, no cooking, not allowed to read the newspaper, etc. A "Scotch Sunday" therefore, represents a day of religious austerity.]

[3] It is needless to point out that to the Greeks, as to many other ancient peoples,—for example, the Hebrews,—dancing often had a religious significance and might be a regular part of the worship of the gods.

[4] Not all Athenians were among the "initiated," but it does not seem to have been hard to be admitted to the oaths and examination which gave one participation in the mysteries. About all a candidate had to prove was blameless character. Women could be initiated as well as men.

[5] We do not possess the official chant of the Mystæ used on their march to Eleusia. Very possibly it was of a swift riotous nature like the Bacchinals' song in Euripides "Bacchinals" (well translated by Way or by Murray).

[6] This was about the only considerable town in Attica outside of Athens.

[7] Sophocles, "Frag." 719.

[8] Pindar ("Frag." 75) says thus of the joy and beauty of this fête: "[Lo!] this festival is due when the chamber of the red-robed Hours is opened and odorous plants wake to the fragrant spring. then we scatter on undying earth the violet, like lovely tresses, and twine roses in our hair; then sound the voice of song, the flute keeps time, and dancing choirs resound the praise of Semele."

[9] It seems probable (on our uncertain information) that Athenian ladies attended the moral and proper tragedies. It was impossible for them to attend the often very coarse comedies. Possibly at the tragedies they sat in a special and decently secluded part of the theater.

[10] These benches (before the stone theater was built in 340 B.C.) may be imagined as set up much like the "bleachers" at a modern baseball park. We know that ancient audiences wedged in very close.

[11] I think it is fairly certain that the classical Attic theater was without any stage, and that the actors appeared on the same level as the chorus. As to the extreme simplicity of all the scenery and properties there is not the least doubt.

[12] In the fourth century B.C. when the creation of original tragedies was in decline, a considerable part of the dionysia productions seem to have been devoted to the works of the earlier masters, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides.

[13] In the "Middle" and "Later" comedy, so called, the chorus entirely disappears. The actors do everything.

[14] Comedies, although given at this Dionysia, were more especially favored at the Lenæa, an earlier winter festival.

[15] Not that this robe was for the revered ancient and wooden image of Athena Polias, not for the far less venerable statue of Athena Parthenos.

[16] [Note from Brett: A bullock is a young, possibly castrated, bull.]

[17] [Note from Brett: kine is the archaic plural form of "cow."]


The Life of Plato, by W. Guthrie

Mark Twain: Approaching the Most Renowned of Cities

Pericles Giannopoulos: Divine Appearances

Ortega y Gassett: The Birth of the City

Ancient Greek History   A History of Ancient Greek Art

New Hellenism  More On-line Resources


Previous / First Page of this chapter

A Day in Old Athens : Start Page / Table of Contents

The Greek Word Library


Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Greek Literature - Ancient, Medieval, Modern

Learned Freeware

Reference address :