Festival of Dionusia ta Astika (Greator or City Dionysia)
(Greek) Ancient: 9–13 Elaphebolion (first quarter to full moon).
A principal characteristic of the City Dionysia, as opposed perhaps to the Rural Dionysia (c. Jan. 7), is the presence of dramatic contests. On the first day, costumed choruses of men and boys sing dithyrambs (odes to Dionysos), on the second day there are comedies (such as Aristophanes’), and on the third to fifth days there are trilogies of tragedies (such as Aeschylus’s). Crowns and other prizes are awarded. The priest of Dionysos presides over the contests, and the image the God attends them; the officials in charge of administrative details are called choregoi. Other honors may also be announced and awarded.
The sacred image of the God is a wooden stulos, or column, on which is affixed a terracotta mask of the bearded Dionysos. A procession called “Bringing in from the Sacrificial Hearth,” which may include mounted Epheboi (youths), brings the image to His sanctuary and mimics the arrival of the God in the city. (The image is removed from the sanctuary and taken outside the city for this purpose.)
On the following day is the main procession, the central feature of which is the Sacred Phallus, made of wood and carried on a tray (indeed, there may be several such phalli in the procession). A maiden of good birth is chosen as Kanephoros (Basket Carrier), and she bears the Kaneon, a golden basket filled with first-fruit offerings. Next come the Askophoroi (Bottle Carriers), citizens of the city bearing on their shoulders askoi (leather bottles) of wine to be offered as first fruits to the God; they may wear whatever they like. Others carry obeliai (spit-like things), phallus-shaped loaves of bread, on their shoulders. Likewise purple-robed Skaphephoroi (Tray Carriers) bear skaphia (trays) of offerings. In ancient times bulls were brought for sacrifice. The day ends with a Komos (Revel), a feast on beef and wine. At night, accompanied by flute and harp music, the people sing and dance through the streets.