Dionysia: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Dionysia was a large religious festival in ancient Athens in honor of the god Dionysus, the central event of which was the performance of tragedies and, since 487 BC, comedies. It was the second-most important festival after the Panathenaia. The Dionysia actually comprised two related festivals, the Rural Dionysia and the City Dionysia, which took place in different parts of the year. They were also an essential part of the Dionysian Mysteries.


Rural Dionysia

The Dionysia was originally a rural festival in Eleutherae, Attica (Greek: Dionysia ta kat' agrous - Διονύσια τὰ κατ' ἀγρούς), probably celebrating the cultivation of vines. It was probably a very ancient festival perhaps not originally associated with Dionysus. This "rural Dionysia" was held during the winter in the month of Poseideon (roughly corresponding to December). The central event was the pompe - πομπή, the procession, in which phalloi - φαλλοί were carried by phallophoroi - φαλλοφόροι. Also participating in the pompe were kanephoroi - κανηφόροι (young girls carrying baskets), obeliaphoroi - ὀβελιαφόροι (who carried long loaves of bread), skaphephoroi - σκαφηφόροι (who carried other offerings), hydriaphoroi - ὑδριαφόροι (who carried jars of water), and askophoroi - ἀσκοφόροι (who carried jars of wine).

After the pompe, there were contests of dancing and singing, and choruses (led by a choregos) would perform dithyrambs. Some festivals may have included dramatic performances, possibly of the tragedies and comedies that had been produced at the City Dionysia the previous year. This was more common in the larger towns such as Piraeus and Eleusis.

Because the various towns in Attica held their festivals on different days, it was possible for spectators to visit more than one festival per season. It was also an opportunity for Athenian citizens to travel outside the city if they did not have the opportunity to do so during the rest of the year. This also allowed travelling companies of actors to perform in more than one town during the period of the festival.

The comic playwright Aristophanes parodied the Rural Dionysia in his play The Acharnians.

City Dionysia



The City Dionysia (Dionysia ta en Astei - Διονύσια τὰ ἐν Ἄστει, also known as the Great Dionysia, Dionysia ta Megala - Διονύσια τὰ Μεγάλα) was the urban part of the festival, possibly established during the tyranny of Pisistratus in the 6th century BC. This festival was held about three months after the rural Dionysia, during the month of Elaphebolion (corresponding to the end of March and the beginning of April), probably to celebrate the end of winter and the harvesting of the year's crops. According to tradition the festival was established after Eleutherae, a town on the border between Attica and Boeotia, chose to become part of Attica. The Eleuthereans brought a statue of Dionysus to Athens, which was initially rejected by the Athenians. Dionysus then punished the Athenians with a plague affecting the male genitalia that was cured when the Athenians accepted the cult of Dionysus. This was recalled each year by a procession of citizens carrying phalloi.

The urban festival was a relatively recent invention, and fell under the auspices of the eponymous archon rather than the basileus, to whom religious festivals were given when the office of archon was created in the 7th century BC.

Pompe and Proagon

The archon prepared for the City Dionysia as soon as he was elected, by choosing two paredroi - πάρεδροι and ten epimeletai - ἐπιμεληταί to help organize the festival. On the first day of the festival the pompe was held, in which citizens, metics, and representatives from Athenian colonies marched to the Theatre of Dionysus on the southern slope of the Acropolis, carrying the wooden statue of Dionysus Eleutherus (the "leading" or the eisagoge - εἰσαγωγή). As with the Rural Dionysia, they also carried phalloi, made out of wood or bronze, and a cart pulled a much larger phallus. Basket-carriers and water- and wine-carriers participated in the pompe here as in the Rural Dionysia.

During the height of the Athenian Empire in the mid-5th century BC, various gifts and weapons showcasing Athens' strength were carried as well. Also included in the procession were bulls to be sacrificed in the theatre. The most conspicuous members of the procession were the choregoi, who were dressed in the most expensive and ornate clothing. After the pompe - πομπή the choregoi - χορηγοί) led their choruses in the dithyrambic competitions. These were extremely competitive, and the best flute players and poets (such as Simonides and Pindar) offered their musical and lyrical services. After these competitions, the bulls were sacrificed, and a feast was held for all the citizens of Athens. A second procession, the komos - κῶμος, occurred afterwards, which was most likely a drunken revelry through the streets.

The next day, the playwrights announced the titles of the plays to be performed, and judges were selected by lot (the proagon - προάγων). It is unknown where the proagon originally took place, but after the mid-5th century BC it was held in the Odeon of Pericles on the Acropolis. The proagon was also used to give praise to notable citizens, or often foreigners, who had served Athens in some beneficial way during the year. During the Peloponnesian War, orphaned children of those who had been killed in battle were also paraded in the Odeon, possibly to honour their fathers. The proagon could be used for other announcements as well; in 406 BC the death of the playwright Euripides was announced there.

Dramatic performances

During the pompe, the Theatre of Dionysus was purified by the sacrifice of a young goat. According to tradition, the first performance of tragedy at the Dionysia was by the playwright and actor Thespis (from whom we have the word "thespian") in 534 BC. His prize was a goat, a common symbol of Dionysus, and possibly the origin of the word "tragedy" (which perhaps means "goat-song").

The next three days of the festival were devoted to the tragic plays. Three playwrights performed three tragedies and one satyr play each, one set of plays per day. Most of the extant Greek tragedies, including those of Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles, were performed at the Theatre of Dionysus. The archons, epimeletai, and judges (agonothetai - ἀγωνοθἐται) watched from the front row.

Comic poets were officially allowed at the contests (agons) held during the City Dionysia, only since 487/86 BCE.[1] On the sixth day of the festival, five comedies (such as those of Aristophanes) were performed. Comedies were of secondary importance at the Dionysia, and were instead more important to the Lenaia festival earlier in the year. Nevertheless, it was considered a greater honour to win the comedic prize at the Dionysia.

After the classical period in the 5th century BC, older plays could be performed again. It seems that audiences may have preferred this to the production of new plays of inferior quality. The number of plays performed also fluctuated; during the Peloponnesian War, there were usually only three comedies, and comedies were omitted altogether by the 2nd century BC. There do not seem to have been any new tragedies after the 2nd century AD, older plays being exclusively performed by that point.

Another procession and celebration was held on the final day, when the judges chose the winners of the tragedy and comedy performances. The winning playwrights won a wreath of ivy, although, when old plays were performed, the producer was awarded the prize rather than the long-dead playwright.


Dionysus was often seen as the god of everything uncivilized, of the innate wildness of humanity that the Athenians had tried to control. The Dionysia was probably a time to let out their inhibitions through highly emotional tragedies or irreverent comedies. During the pompe there was also an element of role-reversal - lower-class citizens could mock and jeer the upper classes, or women could insult their male relatives. This was known as aischrologia - αἰσχρολογία or tothasmos - τωθασμός, a concept also found in the Eleusinian Mysteries, on the second day of the Thesmophoria, and perhaps during the chariot procession on the first day of the Anthesteria, another festival of Dionysus.

The plays themselves could highlight ideas that would not normally be spoken or shared in everyday life. Aeschylus' The Persians, for example, while patriotic to Athens, showed sympathy towards the Persians, which may have been politically unwise under normal circumstances. The parodies of Aristophanes mocked the politicians and other celebrities of Athens, even going so far as producing an anti-war play (Lysistrata) at the height of the Peloponnesian War. The circumstances of the Dionysia allowed him to get away with criticisms he would not normally be allowed to voice.

Notable winners of the City Dionysia



See also


  1. ^ Mastromarco, Giuseppe: (1994) Introduzione a Aristofane (Sesta edizione: Roma-Bari 2004). ISBN 8842044482 p.3


  • Aristophanes, The Acharnians.
  • Simon Goldhill, The Great Dionysia and Civic Ideology, in Nothing to Do with Dionysos? Athenian Drama in Its Social Context, eds. John J. Winkler and Froma I. Zeitlin. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990. ISBN 0-691-06814-3
  • Susan Guettel Cole, Procession and Celebration at the Dionysia, in Theater and Society in the Classical World, ed. Ruth Scodel. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993. ISBN 0-472-10281-8
  • Jeffrey M. Hurwit. The Athenian Acropolis: History, Mythology, and Archaeology From the Neolithic Era to the Present. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. ISBN 0521428343
  • Sir Arthur Pickard-Cambridge. The Dramatic Festivals of Athens. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1953 (2nd ed. 1968). ISBN 0-19-814258-7
  • Robert Parker. Athenian religion: A History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. ISBN 0-19-814979-4
  • Carl A. P. Ruck. IG II 2323: The List of the Victors in Comedies at the Dionysia. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1967.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

'DIONYSIA, festivals in honour of the god Dionysus generally, but in particular the festivals celebrated in Attica and by the branches of the Attic-Ionic race in the islands and in Asia Minor. In Attica there were two festivals annually. (I) The lesser Dionysia, or T a /car e ypous, was held in the country places for four days (about the 19th to the 22nd of December) at the first tasting of the new wine. It was accompanied by songs, dance, phallic processions and the impromptu performances of itinerant players, who with others from the city thronged to take part in the excitement of the rustic sports. A favourite amusement was the Ascoliasmus, or dancing on one leg upon a leathern bag (60v6), which had been smeared with oil. (2) The greater Dionysia, or ra Ev Cicrra, was held in the city of Athens for six days (about the 28th of March to the 2nd of April). This was a festival of joy at the departure of winter and the promise of summer, Dionysus being regarded as having delivered the people from the wants and troubles of winter. The religious act of the festival was the conveying of the ancient image of the god, which had been brought from Eleutherae to Athens, from the ancient sanctuary of the Lenaeum to a small temple near the Acropolis and back again, with a chorus of boys and a procession carrying masks and singing the dithyrambus. The festival culminated in the production of tragedies, comedies and satyric dramas in the great theatre of Dionysus. Other festivals in honour of Dionysus were the Dionysius Areopagiticus Anthesteria; the Lenaea (about the 28th to the 31st of January), or festival of vats, at which, after a great public banquet, the citizens went through the city in procession to attend the dramatic representations; the Oschophoria (October - November), a vintage festival, so called from the branches of vine with grapes carried by twenty youths from the ephebi, two from each tribe, in a race from the temple of Dionysus in Athens to the temple of Athena Sciras in Phalerum.

See A. Mommsen, Feste der Stadt Aiken (1898); L. Preller, Griechische Mythologie; L. C. Purser in Smith's Dictionary of Antiquities (3rd ed., 1890); article DION y sos in W. H. Roscher's Lexikon der Mythologie; and the exhaustive account with bibliography by J. Girard in Daremberg and Saglio's Dictionnaire des antiquites.

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Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies


Classification System: APG II (down to family level)

Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiospermae
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: core eudicots
Cladus: Asterids
Ordo: Unassigned Asterids
Ordo: Ericales
Familia: Primulaceae
Tribus: Primuleae
Genus: Dionysia
Species: D. archibaldii - D. aretoides - D. bryoides - D. curviflora - D. denticulata - D. diapensifolia - D. freitagii - D. involucrata - D. lamingtonii - D. michauxii - D. odora - D. paradoxa - D. revoluta - D. tapetodes - D. teucrioides - D. viscidula


Dionysia Fenzl, Flora 26: 389. 28 Jun 1843.

Type species: D. odora - Fenzl


  • Farr, E. R. & Zijlstra, G. eds. (1996-) Index Nominum Genericorum (Plantarum). 2009 Aug 24 [1].
  • Grey-Wilson, C.: Dionysias The Genus in the Wild and in Cultivation, Alpine Garden Society Puplication, 1970, London.

Vernacular names

Deutsch: Dionysie
English: Dionysia


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