A joyous spring festival was
held in honour of Dionysus, in the month of March, and lasted several days.
This festival, which was called
the Greater Dionysia, was celebrated with particular splendour at Athens, when
strangers flocked from all parts of the world to take part in the ceremonies.
The city was gaily decorated, the houses were garlanded with ivy-leaves, crowds
perambulated the streets, everything wore its holiday garb, and wine was freely
In the processions which took
place during these festivities, the statue of Dionysus was carried, and men and
women, crowned with ivy and bearing the thyrsus, were dressed in every
description of grotesque costume, and played on drums, pipes, flutes, cymbals,
&c. Some representing Silenus rode on asses, others wearing fawn-skins
appeared as Pan or the Satyrs, and the whole multitude sang paeans in honour of
the wine-god. Public shows, games, and sports took place, and the entire city
was full of revelry.
What lent additional interest
to these festivals was the custom of introducing new comedies and tragedies to
the public, representations of which were given, and prizes awarded to those
which elicited the greatest admiration.