plural in the best writers, Hdt. 6.67
; Thuc. 5.83
; Xen. Hell.
, § 16; Plat. Legg.
1.633 C), a
festival celebrated at Sparta every year with gymnastic contests in honour
of Apollo Πυθαεὺς
(Pausan.) or Καρνεῖος
Artemis and Leto. The statues of these deities stood in a part of the Agora
and it was around these
statutes that, at the gymnopaedia, Spartan youths performed their choruses
and dances in honour of Apollo. (Paus.
.) The festival was held in the middle of summer, in the Attic
month Hecatombaeon (July), and lasted for several, perhaps for ten, days; on
the last day grown men also performed choruses and dances in the theatre,
and during these gymnastic exhibitions they sang the songs of Thaletas and
Aleman, and the paeans of Dionysodotus. The leader of the chorus (προστάτης
) wore a kind of chaplet, called στέφανοι θυρεατικοί,
in commemoration of the victory of the
Spartans at Thyrea. This event seems to have been closely connected with the
gymnopaediae, for those Spartans who had fallen on that occasion were always
praised in songs at this festival. (Ath. xv. p. 678 b, c; Plut. Ages. 29
; Hesych., Suid., Etym.
and Timaeus, Glossar.
s. v. Γυμνοπαιδία.
) The boys in their dances
performed such rhythmical movements as resembled the exercises of the
palaestra and the pancration, and also imitated the dance of tragedy called
(Hippagoras ap. Ath. xiv. p.
631 e). Müller (Gr. Lit.
1.289) supposes, with great
probability, that the dances of the gymnopaediae partly consisted of mimic
representations, as the establishment of the dances and musical
entertainments at this festival was ascribed to the musicians, at the head
of whom was Thaletas. (Plut. de Mus.
The whole season of the gymnopaediae, during which Sparta was visited by
great numbers of strangers, was one of great merriment and rejoicings (Xen.
1.2.61; Plut. Ages. 29
; Pollux, 4.14, 104), and old bachelors alone seem
to have been excluded from the festivities. (Osann, de Coelibum apud
Veteres Populos Conditione Commentat.
p. 7 ff.;
1.264, E. T.; Plut. Lyc. 15
.) The introduction of the
gymnopaediae, which subsequently became of such importance as an institution
for gymnastic and orchestic performances, and for the cultivation of the
poetic and musical arts at Sparta, is generally assigned to the year 665
B.C. (Comp. Meursius, Orchestra,
&c.; Creuzer, Commentat. Herod.
i. p. 230;
vol. ii. p. 350,