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Describe the organisation and events of the Great Dionysia festival at Athens. To what extent do these reflect the religious importance the Athenians attached to this festival?

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Introduction

Describe the organisation and events of the Great Dionysia festival at Athens. To what extent do these reflect the religious importance the Athenians attached to this festival? The Great Dionysia was a festival in honour of Dionysus, as the name would suggest. He was a god of passion, joy and horror, rather than intellect and reason, thus making him ideally suited to the tragedy and comedy of Greek dramatic contests. The cult of Dionysus often involved the loss of self-restraint and identity through drunken ecstasy and dancing; similarly, the actors would put away their own real identity and pick up a new one for the duration of the play. In these ways, Dionysus lived up to his name of Dionysus Eleutherios, meaning 'Dionysus the Liberator'; clearly he 'liberated' people from their own duties (as seen later) and from their own beings and persons. The City Dionysia would be held during March, being well timed to fit in with important dates in the Athenian calendar; in the summer, trade, fighting, farming and travel kept the citizens engaged, but in the winter and spring, these stopped, so citizens had enough free time to do other duties. ...read more.

Middle

In the second half of the fifth century BC, this was held in the Odeion. Aeschines - Against Ktesiphon 66-67 "Demosthenes introduced a decree that the executive officers (prytaneis) hold an Assembly on the 8th Elaphebolion, when we sacrifice to Asclepius and hold the Proagon, on a holiday, a thing that no one can remember ever having been done before." Aeschines is saying how the Proagon was invented by Demosthenes, and was a brand-new idea. Pericle's Odeion in relation to the Theatre of Dionysus. (http://ccwf.cc.utexas.edu/~kallet/greece/Pic%20planodeiondiony99100003.gif) The chosen poets, with their entourage of choregoi, actors, musicians and chorus members, all splendidly dressed and wearing garlands would be there. There would have been a brief summary of the plays, but no one wore any masks or costumes, so that the identities of the actors could be publicly known. Pausanias 1.20.2 "The most ancient sanctuary of Dionysus is next to the theatre there are two shrines in the precinct, and two statues of Dionysus, the one of Dionysus of Eleutherae, and the ivory and gold one made by Alkamenes." The statue of Dionysus Eleutherios resided at the theatre in Athens, near the old and new temples. ...read more.

Conclusion

Five tablets were taken from the urn, and these decided the winters. This, as with the order of the plays, was meant to leave the choice to the gods, meaning that they could choose which plays they wanted to win. The victorious poet and choregos would be crowned in front of the entire theatre with ivy crowns. After a triumphant procession, the victorious choregos might have placed a stone tablet outside his house, and the actor deemed best might have dedicated his mask to the god. http://www.dkimages.com/discover/previews/820/20211905.JPG The Lysikrates monument, one of the more magnificent dedications. The final event underlined the importance of the whole community, as Athens was a democracy, at the Great Dionysia. A special Assembly of the citizens was held in the theatre to review the festival. The archon's management was discussed, as well as that of other officials, and they would have been complimented and honoured, although it wasn't unknown for them to be attacked. Complaints of violence or misconduct during the procession or contests were raised, and court action may have been taken. The festival, all-in-all, was in honour of Dionysus, because the Athenians wanted to make sure that their crops would grow the next year thanking the god. Acts such as the dithyrambs were to include more people in the appreciation of Dionysus. 1,234 Words. ...read more.

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