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Headword: *dionu/sia
Adler number: delta,1168
Translated headword: Dionysia
Vetting Status: high
A festival amongst Athenians.[1]
[There is] also a saying:[2] "from the same [date] just about that, plus the time since the Dionysia".[3] It was customary for Athenians to reckon the years and the excess number [sc. of months][4] starting from the Dionysia.[5] And elsewhere: "O Dionysia! These smell of ambrosia and nectar".[6] It is said of things deserving approbation. [Dicaeopolis] is looking forward to the celebration of the Dionysia, as there is a period of peace.[7] It means very pleasant, worthy of the Dionysia.[8] So the Dionysia [was] a festival of Dionysos, which Naupaktians used to celebrate.[9]
Greek Original:
*dionu/sia: e(orth\ par' *)aqhnai/ois. kai\ paroimi/a: e)c au)tou= sxedo\n tosou=ton, o(/son e)k *dionusi/wn. e)/qos h)=n *)attikoi=s le/gein ta\ e)/th kai\ to\n u(perpi/ptonta a)riqmo\n a)po\ tw=n *dionusi/wn. kai\ au)=qis: w)= *dionu/sia: au(=tai me\n o)/zous' a)mbrosi/as kai\ ne/ktaros. ei)/rhtai e)pi\ tw=n a)podoxh=s a)ci/wn. prosdokw=n ei)rh/nhs ou)/shs tw=n *dionusi/wn th\n panh/gurin e)/sesqai. a)nti\ tou= h(/distai, a)/ciai tw=n *dionusi/wn. *dionu/sia ou)=n e(orth\ *dionu/sou, h(\n h)=gon *naupa/ktioi.
[1] cf. the scholia to Plato, Republic 475D, where it is mentioned. Though Dionysiac festivals were widespread throughout the Greek world, the most renowned was the "City" Dionysia in Athens, important because of the theatrical performances and dramatic contests featured. This festival, held during the month of Elaphebolion (end of March), centered on the cult of Dionysos Eleuthereus (from Eleutherai, a village between NW Attica and SW Boeotia), founded during the Peisistratid tyranny of the C6 BC. Dionysos was there worshipped as Melanaigis, in commemoration of the legend of the god first appearing to the daughters of Eleutheros, the king of the village, dressed in a goat-skin. Rejected by them, Dionysos would have made them mad. The journey of Dionysus from Eleutherai to Athens was commemorated by processions of his statue, taken to a temple on the road to Eleutherai for a sacrificial offering and then to the theatre. Note also the Athenian "Rural" Dionysia (ta\ kat’ a)/grous *dionu/sia or ta\ mikra\ *dionu/sia), celebrated in the Attic demes during the month of Posideon (December-early January) and featuring a procession with jars of wine, baskets of raisins and a wooden phallus-pole, a symbol of fertility. A curious detail was the askoliasmos held on the second day, a contest which challenged the participants’ ability to balance on top of an inflated and greased wine-skin. Dramatic contests could also be included, since according to Aristotle (Poetics 1449a) the Rural Dionysia were the cradle of comedy. Other (lesser) festivals of Dionysos were: the Anthesteria, held on the eleventh day of the month Anthesterion (Thuc. 2.15); the Choes; the Agrionia, which included mimicking women’s madness; the Lenaea, the festival of the wine-press.
In AristophanesAcharnians, the play from which this entry draws one of its quotations [n.6 below], Dikaiopolis goes home to celebrate the festival and makes a "private" procession, with his own daughter as basket-bearer.
[2] Many quotations of Aristophanes in the Suda are introduced as 'proverbs' (paroimiai), even if they would be better described as “pithy sayings”: cf. e.g. delta 1282, epsilon 3234, nu 597. It is possible that some of these comic verses had become proverbial, since the Suda often stresses how an expression is "to be applied to" a certain situation (here, e)pi\ tw=n a)podoxh=s a)ci/wn, "to those deserving approbation").
[3] Aristophanes, Thesmophoriazusae 747 (web address 1; see also the corresponding scholion Ravennas; the original form of the verse is sxedo\n tosou=ton xw)/son e)k *dionusi/wn, "almost that plus as much [time] as since the Dionysia"). The context concerns a wineskin "playing" the role of an infant, and the speech of Mika, the woman on stage, contains many allusions and double-senses. A question has just been asked about the "child’s" age: po/s’ e)/th de\ ge/gone; trei=s *xoa=s h)\ te/ttaras; ("how many Choes [has she seen]? Three, or four?"). The words refer to the custom of describing a child’s age according to the number of annual festivals celebrated during its life (here the Choes). It is debated whether the Choes had a particular significance for children: Sommerstein (ad loc.) points to the third Choes being a major occasion in a child’s life, on the basis of Philostratus, Heroicus 35.9 and inscriptions. On the other hand, the Choes included a drinking contest with a wineskin as the prize, and thus the reference to this festival might well allude to the wineskin Mika is holding as her child. It is not clear which of the many Dionysiac festivals is referred to in the quoted verse; the term can be used generically (see Olson on Peace 530). Mika probably means that the "girl" had lived three Choes, but was born at the time of the Dionysia, stressing the link with wine. (The scholion Ravennas continues: "[Aristophanes says this] because wine is the subject of conversation").
[4] So Robert Enger, in his 1844 edition of Thesmophoriazusae and its scholia.
[5] On this custom see n.3 above, and Lucian, Dial. Meretr. 11.2 mh=nes e)pta\ sxedo\n a)po\ *dionusi/wn, "almost seven months after the Dionysia".
[6] Aristophanes, Acharnians 195 (web address 2), which contains a possible echo of Homer, Odyssey 9.359. Nectar and ambrosia are very frequently associated as an example of a good smell.
[7] Quotation from Scholion Ravennas on Acharnians 195. The remark "it is said of things deserving approbation" between the verse’s quotation and the scholion is in a way surprising, since it seems rather linked to the following statement of the meaning: "it means very pleasant, worthy of the Dionysia". Perhaps the words prosdokw=ne)/sesqai were copied in a wrong place, or ei)/rhtaia)ci/wn was originally an interlinear note.
[8] Plural feminine, perhaps in accordance with au(=tai in Aristophanes’ verse.
[9] This odd final sentence occurs in certain manuscripts only. If it is as much of a non sequitur as it looks, some intervening material must be missing. For Naupaktos see generally nu 66.
Austin, C.-Olson, S. D., Aristophanes: Thesmophoriazusae, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004
Pickard-Cambridge, A.W., et al. The Dramatic festivals of Athens, edn.2: London, Oxford University Press, 1968
Rutherford, W.G., Scholia Aristophanica, London, 1896-1905
Sommerstein, A. H. Aristophanes: Thesmophoriazusae, Warminster, Aris and Phillips, 1980
Whitehead, D., The Demes of Attica, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1986
Associated internet addresses:
Web address 1,
Web address 2
Keywords: children; comedy; daily life; definition; epic; food; geography; mythology; poetry; proverbs; religion; stagecraft; women
Translated by: Antonella Ippolito on 25 May 2005@19:13:07.
Vetted by:
Catharine Roth (betacode cosmetics, fixed links) on 25 May 2005@22:00:08.
David Whitehead (tweaked translation; augmented notes; cosmetics) on 26 May 2005@03:18:52.
Catharine Roth (betacode details) on 26 May 2005@12:35:46.
David Whitehead (more keywords; cosmetics) on 12 July 2012@05:35:16.
Catharine Roth (betacode typos) on 1 September 2016@13:21:29.
Catharine Roth on 2 September 2016@11:35:31.
Catharine Roth (sorted bibliography) on 5 September 2016@22:40:26.
Catharine Roth (cosmeticule) on 5 November 2022@23:11:19.
David Whitehead (expanded n.4) on 6 November 2022@07:40:20.


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