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Festivals project- Write about each of the festivals mentioned, explaining in detail the reasons for the festivals.

The Athenians of the 5th century bc regularly took part in religious festivals. They had these for a number of reasons

* To honour the gods

* To relax

* To feast

* To enjoy themselves

* To experience a sense of community

* To enjoy drama and athletics

* To give all classes the chance to participate

* To recognise various stages in life and to show other states their wealth and power.

The Skira

This festival was held to honour Demeter at the threshing time and was restricted to women. Women threw into holes in the ground various offerings, especially piglets, which were symbols and sacred to Demeter. They also threw in snakes and male genital organs made from dough. (This had no correlation with the actual ploughing of the peasants.

The Thesmorphia

This was also exclusively for women at the sowing time; usually 3 months after the Skira. This time the women “Bakers” retrieved the decayed remains of the Skira and placed them on altars. In order that the women remained pure for 3 days before the festival, they ate garlic to discourage their husbands’ advances. The “remains” were supposed to promote fertility in the fields as well as the women. Only rich men might be involved as they had to pay for the festival.(They basically had this festival because they believed that it promoted fertility in women and in the field).

The Haloa

Held at Eleusis. This was a women’s festival to Demeter, Persephone and Dionysus which took place in mid-winter at the time of the pruning of the vines and wine tasting. Magistrates prepared a feast for the women before leaving them to the festivities which included eating phallus-shaped pastries and drinking to much wine. The result seems to have been obscene language, strange behaviour (women carried around models of male and female genitalia) and promiscuity. The reasons for this festival seem to be basically for women to feast and enjoy themselves.

Rural Dionysia/The city Dionysia

This was a procession where a huge phallus was carried and a hymn was sung to Phales, the personification of phallus. This festival was held to promote fertility. It as a chance for women to break away from their everyday routine and it was a licensed and controllable outlet for the pent-up hostilities and frustrations of suppressed classes of the population. The city Dionysia was a competition of dramatic and lyric poetry performed in the theatre of the Dionysus on the south slope of the acropolis. This festival provided a showcase for the artistic talents of Athens and it demonstrated her public supremacy: at this time the allies had to hand over their tribute and it was displayed in the theatre. There was also a parade off the sons of those who were killed in the war and orphans of the state.


A flower festival in early spring when jars of newly fermented wine were opened and dedicated to Dionysus. A three-day festival, it ended with a day of evil omen when pots of porridge were offered to the dead. On that day ghosts were supposed to wander from their graves and so, to keep them at bay, people chewed buckthorn, a laxative, and smeared their doors with pitch. Perhaps two festivals had merged to produce this somewhat strange combination. This festival honoured the dead


This festival was held to honour the god Apollo, to whom the first fruits were dedicated in the form of a pot of boiled vegetables while a human scrapegoat was beaten and driven out of the city.


This festival took its name from the “oschoi” or branches laden with grapes carried by two noble youths. This festival gave all classes the chance to participate and to experience a sense of community.


Originally this was celebrated on the birthday of a deceased individual but it became a national day of remembrance for the dead.


This was the annual ceremony for the war dead.


In mythology, Hyacinthia was a favourite of Apollo and also Zephyrus who directed the wind so that Apollo’s discus struck Hyacinthus’ head, killing him. The festival lasted three days. On day one there were sacrifices to the dead and to hyacinthus. On days two and three joyful processions and contests in honour of Apollo were held.(This was held to make sacrifices to the dead and to honour Apollo).


This was celebrated by the phratries . On the third and final day, new born infants, youths of 16 and newly married wives were officially registered in the phratries. Also included was a day of hair shearing. This festival was intended to celebrate stages in peoples life, for people to relax and for people to enjoy themselves.



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