name of festivals and games celebrated at the great panegyris in the island
of Delos, the centre of an amphictyony, to which the Cyclades and the
neighbouring Ionians on the coasts belonged. (Hom. Hymn. in
147, &c.) This amphictyony seems originally to have
been instituted simply for the purpose of religious worship in the common
sanctuary of Apollo, the θεὸς πατρῷος
the Ionians, who was believed to have been born at Delos. The Delia, as
appears from the Hymn on Apollo (compare Thuc.
; Pollux, ix. [p. 1.611]
61), had existed from
very early times, and were celebrated every fifth year (Pollux, 8.104), and
as Boeckh supposes, with great probability, on the sixth and seventh days of
Thargelion, the birthdays of Apollo and Artemis. The members of the
amphictyony assembled on these occasions (ἐθεώρουν
) in Delos, in long garments, with their wives and
children, to worship the god with gymnastic and musical contests, choruses,
and dances. That the Athenians took part in these solemnities at a very
early period, is evident from the Deliastae (afterwards called θεωροί
) mentioned in the laws of Solon (Athen. 6.234
); the sacred vessel
), moreover, which they sent to
Delos every year, was said to be the same which Theseus had sent after his
return from Crete. (See the commentators on Plato, Crito,
p. 43 C.) The Delians, during the celebration of these
solemnities, performed the office of cooks for those who visited their
island, whence they were called Ἐλεοδύται
In the course of time the celebration of this ancient panegyris in Delos had
ceased, and it was not revived until Ol. 88, 3, when the Athenians, after
having purified the island in the winter of that year, restored the ancient
solemnities, and added horse-races which had never before taken place at the
Delia. (Thuc. l.c.
) After this restoration, Athens
being at the head of the Ionian confederacy took the most prominent part in
the celebration of the Delia; and though the islanders, in common with
Athens, provided the choruses and victims, the leader (ἀρχιθέωρος
), who conducted the whole solemnity, was an
Athenian (Plut. Nic. 3
; Wolf, Introd.
p. xc.), and the Athenians had
the superintendence of the common sanctuary. [AMPHICTYONES
From these solemnities, belonging to the great Delian panegyris, we must
distinguish the lesser Delia,
which were celebrated every
year, probably on the 6th of Thargelion. The Athenians on this occasion sent
the sacred vessel (θεωρίς
), which the
priest of Apollo adorned with laurel branches, to Delos. The embassy was
and those who sailed to the
: and before they set sail a
solemn sacrifice was offered in the Delion, at Marathon, in order to obtain
a happy voyage. (Müller, Dor.
During the absence of the vessel, which on one occasion lasted thirty days
p. 58 B; Xen. Mem.
, § 2), the city of Athens was purified, and no criminal
was allowed to be executed. The lesser Delia were said to have been
instituted by Theseus, though in some legends they are mentioned at a much
earlier period, and Plutarch (Plut. Thes.
) relates that the ancient vessel used by the founder himself,
though often repaired, was preserved and used by the Athenians down to the
time of Demetrius Phalereus. (Boeckh, P. E.
&100.2nd edit.; Thirlwall, Hist. of Greece,
p. 217; A. Mommsen, Heortol.
pp. 84 and 402 ff.)