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This chapter focuses on the Little Panathenaia, the version held in three years out of four, and an occasion neglected by the existing scholarship. It asks what we know about the so-called ‘annual’ celebration and how it created identities. The limited evidence shows that it was a much less complex occasion than the Great Panathenaia and it was focused on the procession and sacrifices to Athena in her sanctuary on the Akropolis. It also included a pannychis or all-night revel. The Little Panathenaia received additional elaboration in the late second century BC, when a peplos began to be offered to the goddess, while, in at least the later fifth and fourth centuries BC, a very limited set of competitions open only to Athenians was included. The identities created at the Little Panathenaia focused on Athenians and sub-groups of the city, rather than on displaying the city to external, non-Athenian visitors.
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 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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