Panathenaea Festival - Athens

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The Panathenaea was Athens’ most important festival. It was held each year on the 28th day of the month called Hekatombaion. This day was considered to be the goddess Athena’s birthday, who was the patron goddess of the city. The Great Panathenaea was held every four years. It consisted of three main elements: contests, a grand procession and sacrifices. Except for slaves, all inhabitants of the city and suburbs were permitted to take part in the festival. It was one of the few occasions when women could get out of the house and take an active role in a public function. Even metics (residents who were not citizens) and freed slaves could participate in parts of the festival. Athletic contests such as Pyrrhic dancing, physical fitness, the torch relay race, and boat races were restricted to Athenian citizens; however, non-Athenians were allowed to take part in the track and field and equestrian events. Allowing all citizens to participate in this particular festival meant that the Panathenaea became extremely important to Athenian society as it was a time when all sectors of the community united together in honouring their patron goddess, Athena. Athena supposedly protected the city; therefore Athenians would have considered her birthday an important and appropriate time to honour her. Each year a new peplos* was sewn for the life-size statue of Athena Polias by young girls chosen from noble Athenian families. It was rare for women to play a prominent role in festivals, however in the Panathenaea the peplos and the women who made it formed part of the procession; these women were respected and considered important on this day. Every fourth year an enormous peplos was sewn for the thirty nine foot high statue of Athena in the Parthenon. This garment was so large that it was carried on a ship’s mast on wheels. The Panathenaea would have been extremely important

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