Sunday, 24 July 2011

Calendar Entry #31: Panathanaia

We continue our journey through the Cauldrons Calendar feast/festival/holidays.
Panathanaia or Panathanaea is the spiritual celebration of last week's Sunoika (Synoecia).  When the political side of Athens and Attica were united we saw the national holiday of Sunoika celebrated.  Prior to the unification of Athens, the Athenian festival of Athenaea, founded by Erechtheus, was celebrated annually in honour of Athena, the patron goddess of the city.  At the time that Theseus is said to have unified Athens, he also expanded the reach of the festival, from one based in the city, to one that was celebrated by the entire country.  Athenaea became Panathenaea. 
Panathenaea had Greater and Lesser festival observances.  The Lesser one occurred each year which was a shorter festival than its Greater counterpart.  This festival was based around ritual and sacrificial rites that would have been in the normal manner that the cult of Athena practiced.  Such rites included a parade of sorts where the state robe of Athena (peplus) was taken through the streets to adorn a carved figure of the Goddess.  This ceremony would have been duplicated in other centres, although to a lesser extent as the peplus was quite expensive. 
The Greater Panathanaea was celebrated every four years and had chariot races and gymnastic sports as well as other athletic type sports.  It is said that Peisistratus was hoping to make the festival an Ionian rival to the Dorian Olympia festival - where our modern Olympic games has its roots.  One major difference between the two 'games' were that Panathanaea was chrematites (monetary) whereas the Olympia was stefanites (wreath-bearing) because the winning athletes in the Panathanaea received expensive prizes.
Mosaic floor depicting various athletes wearing wreaths.
From the Museum of Olympia. - Tkoletsis
While many of the rites from the Lesser festival were carried out, although on a grander scale, during this Greater festival celebration the whole empire came together to join in a shared sacrifice, usually of bulls.  Each town/colony/state would send a representative and a sacrificial animal.  On the day of the feast there was a grand prossession of priests, assistants and representatives, as well as the calvary.  During the time of Pericles, a musical contest was added to the festival. 
Much like the festival of Skira, this was also one of the festivals where women were able to leave the house to take an active part in the public festivities .  This was also the only time that men were supposed to be allowed to carry their weapons in the streets. 

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