Ancient Theatres - Festivals Festivals – there were 2 major ones held in Athens – and many minor ones. Drama was NEVER presented outside a festival Festivals – there were 2 major ones held in Athens – and many minor ones. The festivals were sacred to Dionysus – the god of wine and theatre. The two major ones were the City Dionysia (held in spring each year) when winter storms were over, thus foreigners could come to visit for the festival, and yet before most of the spring military campaigns were underway) and the Lenaea (held in February – winter – each year).
Ancient Theatres – Festivals Attendance at the dramatic festivals was not compulspory, but they were very popular: most people attended for at least some of the time. FAQ Could slaves attend? Only with their masters. Could women attend? Possibly – there is conflicting evidence in the ancient sources. Did it cost anything? Probably not – if it did, the cost was very small. There were tickets to indicate what section to sit in.
Ancient Theatres – Festivals Preparations for the competition (and they were competition) began several months before the staging. Consider the preparations for the City Dionysia. The City Dionysia was held in MARCH…but before that • June: proposals from playwrights are submitted, from which are selected • 3 tragic "tetralogies" (collections of 3 tragedies and a satyr play), thus 3 tragic writers; • 5 comedies (later in the 5th century this was reduced to 3).
Ancient Theatres – Festivals • The presiding official (the eponymous archon) would then allow each writer: • a choregos, a wealthy sponsor who would pay 3000 drachmas or more (a huge sum!) for • costumes, • masks, • props, • 3 principal actors, • musicians, • chorus • rehearsal for 6 months (!), from September to March • Topics of the plays were secret until the first day of the festival, when they were announced by the playwright.
Ancient Theatres – Festivals Judging the contest Ancient Athens was a democracy, and it was the audience that judged the dramatic contest. • The process of judging the contest was deliberately complicated, to avoid corruption: • 10 tribes each proposed 3-4 judges, from which 1 was chosen by lot • each of the resulting 10 judges would rank the plays first-second-third • of these 10 votes, 5 would be discarded by lot, the rest then would determine the winner
Ancient Theatres – Festivals Programme of Events Day 0 (night before festival): evening procession of Dionysos in a ‘ship car’
Ancient Theatres – Festivals Programme of Events Day 0 (night before festival): evening procession: statue of Dionysus brought from outside the city to the temple of Dionysus: the statue of Dionysus then overlooks the performances
Ancient Theatres – Festivals Programme of Events Day 1: proagon: announcement of titles and topics for the plays; preparations for the grand procession Day 2: pompe: the grand procession women & children participated, also foreigners: revelry! wineskins, phalloi, bulls to sacrifice (in 333 BC 240 were sacrificed!),
Ancient Theatres – Festivals Programme of Events • Day 3: • theatre purified • by sacrifice of piglet; • display of tribute; • citizen honors; • manumission (freeing of slaves)
Ancient Theatres – Festivals Programme of Events Days 4-6: each day 3 tragedies + 1 satyr play by a given playwright (picture of satyrs, picture of Dionysus with satyrs) Day 7: 5 comedies (by 5 different playwrights; later in the fifth century only 3 comedies); voting and crowning of victors