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This chapter looks at the elaborate games which entertained Athena and simultaneously allowed the human participants to show off their prowess. These contests made the penteteric festival into a very different occasion from the Little Panathenaia, and they provided an important reason for visitors to come to Athens. This chapter asks exactly how individuals competed in the games over their long history. The games included musical, athletic and hippic events open to all participants, but also individual hippic contests and team competitions which were limited to Athenian males, who represented their tribes. Participation in the restricted contests served to display the (Athenian) citizen status of the competitors, and it set them apart from other individuals from other cities. The games picked up on some of the festival’s stories and themes, especially the military theme, which set the occasion apart from the Panhellenic games. The pyrrhiche and the apobatic race tied directly into some of the celebration’s most important stories, and they emphasised the close connections between the goddess and the Athenians.
This chapter introduces the book and the questions which it asks: how individuals took part in the Panathenaia, why participating in these festivities called ‘all-Athenian’ was so important and how doing so created identities for the individuals and groups involved. It provides some basic information about the celebration and its history, as well as a discussion of previous scholarship. Then it introduces some key concepts and approaches used in the study: the importance of sacrifice, ritual and community and the ways in which social identities are created for individuals and groups. It discusses problems of the evidence for the Panathenaia, and it ends with a summary of the overall monograph.
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