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2 - Giants and Heroes: The Mythologies of the Panathenaia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 April 2021

Julia L. Shear
Affiliation:
Center for Hellenic Studies, Washington
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Summary

This chapter examines the festival’s stories, which explained why it was being held, who its multiple founders were and why a new cult was added at the end of the sixth century. These stories focus on the gods’ victory over the Giants as the reason for the festivities and on the founders Erichthonios and Theseus. They also explain the importance of the pyrrhiche and the apobatic contest, while another important narrative concerns the cult of Harmodios and Aristogeiton, the two men identified by Athenians as the slayers of the tyrant and the bringers of democracy. Collectively, these narratives make the Panathenaia a unified occasion as a victory celebration commemorating the gods’ martial success against the Giants, and they also bring out the importance of autochthony, democracy and what being an Athenian entailed; what narrative was told at what moment depended in part on what aspect was being emphasised. Together, these stories mark the Panathenaia as the most important occasion for working out and displaying Athenian identities.

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Serving Athena
The Festival of the Panathenaia and the Construction of Athenian Identities
, pp. 39 - 82
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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