Pythian games

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Delphi Theater
Delphi Stadium

The Pythian Games ( Greek  Πύθια Pythia ) or Pythia , also Delphic Games were competitions, which in ancient Greece in Delphi and the nearby plain of Krissa in honor of Pythian Apollo were celebrated. They belonged to the Panhellenic Games . According to the myth, Apollon is said to have used them himself after killing the dragon Python . Minor Pythias were celebrated in many other cities in Asia Minor and Greece .


The historical period of the Pythian Games began in 582 BC. When the leadership of the games after the end of the First Holy War passed to the Delphic Amphictyony , a council of the twelve Greek tribal groups. Since then, they have not taken place every eight years as before, but every four years, two years before the Olympic Games, probably at the end of August.

At first there were only musical competitions in the Pythian Games, initially singing to the kithara , later expanded to include singing to the flute and solo flute playing. These retained greater importance here than at the other large festivals, although with the redesign of the Pythias the gymnastic competitions and the chariot and horse races had also found their way into them.

During the Delphic Games, the holy Delphic Peace was in effect and lasted for three months. The ceasefire guaranteed people - participants and spectators alike - a safe journey to the games and back to their homeland. The enthusiasm of the audience is also passed down. It poured in in large numbers from all over Greece and brought the city considerable income. The Agora, an art market that took place during the Games, was an important trading center for art goods.

In 394 AD Theodosius I , Emperor of Rome and Byzantium, banned the Delphic Games as a pagan event.


Unfortunately, testimonies and documents about the ancient Delphic Games were largely destroyed by human violence and natural disasters. However, all the preserved sources emphasize the magnificence and splendor of the games. Aristotle's notes give an overview of the festivities: the games lasted six to eight days and began with a sacred game depicting Apollo's victory over Python. In a solemn and glittering procession, a great sacrifice was made in the Temple of Apollo. After a feast, the games began on the fourth day.

The music and drama competitions were held in the theater and the athletic competitions in the Delphi stadium. The chariot races were held due to the mountainous location of Delphi in the nearby plain of Krissa.

The musical disciplines included:

  • A hymn to the god Apollo
  • Flute and kithara playing (ancient Greek string instrument) with and without singing
  • Drama and dance competitions
  • Painting competitions

The Delphic Games were games of honor. The winners did not receive any cash prizes, but a laurel wreath as an award, just as the olive branch was Olympia's award. Even apples sometimes seem to have been offered as a competitive prize and the symbolic palm branch was given to the winner at the Pythias as well as at the Olympics. In the case of special honors, the competitor was also given a monument in the form of a statue. However, the prestige that was bestowed on the winner and his hometown was priceless. The cities therefore supported their representatives with all means to do as well as possible at the games.

See also


(in chronological order)

  • Johann Heinrich Krause : The Pythien, Nemeen and Isthmien from the written and pictorial works of antiquity represented. Barth, Leipzig 1841 ( digitized version ).
  • Adolf Kirchhoff : About the time of the Pythian celebration. In: Monthly reports of the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin. Berlin 1864, pp. 129-135 ( digitized version ).
  • August Mommsen : Delphika. Teubner, Leipzig 1878 ( digitized version ).
  • Hanns-Peter Mederer: "Let the booming harp wake us up". The venues of the competitions and victory celebrations in Pindars Epinikien. In: Ancient World . Volume 34, No. 8. Verlag Philipp von Zabern, Mainz 2003, ISSN  0003-570X , pp. 433-440.

Individual evidence

  1. Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 222 .