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GYMNOPAE´DIA

GYMNOPAE´DIA or--AE (γυμνοπαιδία or--αι: always plural in the best writers, Hdt. 6.67; Thuc. 5.83; Xen. Hell. 6.4, § 16; Plat. Legg. 1.633 C), a festival celebrated at Sparta every year with gymnastic contests in honour of Apollo Πυθαεὺς (Pausan.) or Καρνεῖος (Lex. Rhet. s. v.); Artemis and Leto. The statues of these deities stood in a part of the Agora called χορός, and it was around these statutes that, at the gymnopaedia, Spartan youths performed their choruses and dances in honour of Apollo. (Paus. 3.11.7.) 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 or χοροποιός) 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. M., 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 ἐμμέλεια (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. 100.9.) The whole season of the gymnopaediae, during which Sparta was visited by great numbers of strangers, was one of great merriment and rejoicings (Xen. Memor. 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.; Schömann, Antiq. 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, p. 12, &c.; Creuzer, Commentat. Herod. i. p. 230; Müller, Dor. vol. ii. p. 350, &c.)

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