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Pythia

τὰ Πύθια). The Pythian Games. Next to the Olympic Games, the most important of the four Greek national festivals. From B.C. 586 they were held on the Crissaean Plain below Delphi (originally called Pytho). They took place once in four years, in the third year of each Olympiad, in the Delphic month Bucatius, corresponding to a part of our middle of Before this time (B.C. 586) there used to take place at Delphi itself, once in eight years, a great festival in honour of Apollo, the traditional founder (Athen. xv. p. 701), in which the minstrels vied with one another in singing, to the accompaniment of the cithara, a paean in praise of the god, under the direction of the Delphic priests. After the first Sacred War, when the Crissaean Plain became the property of the priesthood, the Amphictyones introduced festivals once in four years, at which gymnastic contests and foot-races took place, as well as the customary musical contest. This contest also was further developed. Besides minstrels who sang to the cithara, players on the flute, and singers to accompaniment of the flute, took part in it, the lastnamed, however, for a short time only. The gymnastic and athletic contests, which were nearly the same as those held at Olympia, yielded in significance to the musical ceremonies, and of those the Pythian νόμος was the most important. It was a composition for the flute, worked out on a prescribed scheme, and celebrating the battle of Apollo with the dragon Python , and his triumph. (See Delphi.) At first the prize for the victor was of some substantial value, but at the second festival it took the form of a wreath from the sacred bay tree in the Vale of Tempé. The victor also received, as in the other contests, a palm-branch. The judges were chosen by the Amphictyones. The Pythian, like the Olympic, Games were probably not discontinued till about A.D. 394. Minor Pythian Games were celebrated in other parts of the Greek world—e. g. at Ancyra in Galatia, at Aphrodisias in Caria, at Carthage, Delos, Miletus, Perinthus, Sicyon, etc. See Krause, Die Pythien, Nemeen und Isthmien, pp. 1-106.

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