, also λαμπαδηφορία
). A torch-race, such as were celebrated at
Torch used in the race. (Coin in Mionnet, pl. 49, fig. 6.)
Athens, Corinth, Ceos, Syros, Amphipolis, Byzantium, and other places, in honour of
different deities, and probably at any great funeral games. At Athens it took place on five
special occasions: at the Promethea, in honour of Prometheus; at the Panathenaea, in honour of
Athené; after the Apaturia, in honour of Hephaestus; and in honour of Bendis.
The race was run usually on foot, but sometimes on horses by ephebi.
The torches were of two kinds—one a sort of candlestick, shown in the above
illustration, and the other one of a more conventional kind, like that shown in the article
. There were two different methods of conducting the
race. The first or earlier system required lines of runners (λαμπαδισταί
), posted at
intervals, the first in each line who receives the torch, or takes it from the altar, running
at his best speed and handing it to the second in his own line, and the second to the third,
until the last in the line is reached, who runs with it up to the appointed spot. Of course,
if any torch went out, the line to which it belonged was out of the race. The victory
) fell to that line of runners whose torch
first reached the goal alight. Assuming that all the gymnasiarchs contended on each occasion,
there would be ten such lines (or, after B.C. 307, twelve), one for each tribe; but it is
possible that each gymnasiarch performed his service only once a year, and that only a certain
number were told off for each festival. All the runners in the winning line or chain
contributed to the victory, and this may possi bly be the explanation of the well-known
line of Aeschylus (
), “the last and the first (i. e. all alike in the
chain) are successful.” The beacons are all victorious, because all belong to the
successful chain of light, as in the torch-race each person in the line shares the victory.
A different kind of torch-race is described by Pausanias (i. 30.2), in which there was no
handing of the torch from one to another, but several torch-bearers started, possibly one for
each tribe; the first who reached the goal with his torch alight won; the competition was
individual, not one chain of runners against another; and it is no doubt to such a race that
inscriptions, which speak of a single victor with a single prize, refer. The race in honour of
Bendis was run on horseback.
The starting-point of the race at Athens was the altar of Prometheus in the Academy, and the
course was through the Ceramicus to the city, a little more than a mile. The archon basileus
presided and awarded the prize.
The origin of the custom is probably to be found in the honour paid to the giver of fire,
Prometheus, and after him to the deities associated with the arts in which fire is
used—Athené, Hephaestus, etc. See Preller, Griech. Mythol.
p. 80 (1872)