), one of
the four great national festivals of the Greeks. It was celebrated in the
neighbourhood of Delphi, anciently, and always by Herodotus, called Pytho,
in honour of Apollo, Artemis, and Leto. The place of this solemnity was the
Crissaean plain, which for this purpose contained a hippodromus or
race-course (Paus. 10.37.4
), a stadium of
1000 feet in length (Censorin de Die Nat.
and a theatre, in which the musical contests took place (Lucian, adv.
9). A gymnasium, prytaneum, and other buildings of this
kind, probably existed here, as at Olympia, although they are not mentioned.
Once the Pythian games were held at Athens, on the advice of Demetrius
Poliorcetes (Ol. 122. 3; see Plut. Demetr.
; Corsini, Fast. Att.
iv. p. 77), because the
Aetolians were in possession of the passes around Delphi.
The Pythian games were, according to most legends, instituted by Apollo
himself (Athen. 15.701
other traditions referred them to ancient heroes, such as Amphictyon,
Adrastus, Diomedes, and others. They were originally, perhaps, nothing more
than a religious panegyris, occasioned by the oracle of Delphi, and the
sacred games are said to have been at first only a musical contest, which
consisted in singing a hymn to the honour of the Pythian god with the
accompaniment of the cithara (Paus. 10.7.2
Strab. ix. p.421
). Some of the poets,
however, and mythographers represent even the gods and the early heroes as
engaged in gymnastic and equestrian contests at the Pythian games. But such
statements, numerous as they are, can prove nothing; they are anachronisms
in which late writers were fond of indulging. The description of the Pythian
games in which Sophocles, in the Electra,
Orestes take part, belongs to this class. The Pythian games must, on account
of the celebrity of the Delphic oracle, have become a national festival for
all the Greeks at a very early period; and when Solon fixed pecuniary
rewards for those Athenians who were victors in the great national
festivals, the Pythian agon was undoubtedly included in the number, though
it is not expressly mentioned (D. L. 1.55
Whether gymnastic contests had been performed at the Pythian games previous
to Ol. 47, is uncertain. Boeckh supposes that these two kinds of games had
been connected at the Pythia from early times, but that afterwards the
gymnastic games were neglected; but, however this may be, it is certain that
about Ol. 47 they did not exist at Delphi. Down to Ol. 48 the Delphians
themselves had been the agonothetae at the Pythian games; but in the third
year of this Olympiad, when after the Crissaean war the Amphictyons took the
management under their care, they naturally became the agonothetae (Strab. ix. p.421
; Paus. 10.7.3
). Some of the ancients date the institution of the
Pythian games from this time (Phot. Cod.
p. 533, ed. Bekker),
and others say that henceforth they were called Pythian
Owing to their being under the management of the Amphictyons,
they are sometimes called Ἀμφικτυονικὰ
4.1). From Ol. 48. 3, the
Pythiads were occasionally used as an era, and the first celebration under
the Amphictyons was the first Pythiad. Pausanias (l.c.
) expressly states that in this year the original musical contest
was extended by the addition
i. e. singing with the
accompaniment of the flute, and by that of flute-playing alone. Strabo (l.c.
) in speaking of these innovations does not
mention the αὐλῳδία,
but states that the
contest of cithara-players (κιθαρισταὶ
added, while Pausanias assigns the introduction of this contest to the
eighth Pythiad. One of the musical contests at the Pythian games in which
only flute and cithara-players took part, was the socalled νόμος Πυθικός,
which, at least in subsequent
times, consisted of five parts, viz. ἀνάκρουσις,
ἄμπειρα, κατακελευσμός, ἴαμβοι καὶ δάκτυλοι,
The whole of this νόμος
was a musical description of the fight of
Apollo with the dragon and of his victory over the monster (Strabo, l.c.
). A somewhat different account of the parts of
is given by the Scholiast on
Pindar (Argum. ad Pyth.
) and by Pollux (4.79, 81, 84).
Besides these innovations in the musical contests which were made in the
first Pythiad, such gymnastic and equestrian games as were then customary at
Olympia were either revived at Delphi or introduced for the first time. The
chariot-race with four horses was not introduced till the second Pythiad
). Some games on the other
hand were adopted which had not yet been practised at Olympia, viz. the
and the δίαυλος
for boys. In the first Pythiad the victors received
as their prize, but in the
second a chaplet was established as the reward for the victors (Paus. and
The Scholiasts on Pindar reckon the first Pythiad from this introduction of
the chaplet, and their system has been followed by most modern chronologers,
though Pausanias expressly assigns this institution to the second Pythiad.
(See Clinton, F. H.
p. 195; Krause, Die Pyth.
&c. p. 21, &c.) The αὐλῳδία,
which was introduced in the first Pythiad, was
omitted at the second and ever after, as only elegies and θρῆνοι
had been sung to the flute, which were
thought too melancholy for this solemnity. The τέθριππος,
or chariotrace with four horses, however, was
added in the same Pythiad. In the eighth Pythiad (Ol. 55. 3) the contest in
playing the cithara without singing was introduced; in Pythiad 23 the
footrace in arms was added; in Pythiad 48 the chariot-race with two
full-grown horses (συνωρίδος δρόμος
performed for the first time; in Pythiad 53 the chariot-race with four foals
was introduced. In Pythiad 61 the pancratium for boys, in Pythiad 63 the
horse-race with foals, and in Pythiad 69 the chariot-race with two foals
were introduced (Paus. l.c.
). Various musical
contests were also added in the course of time; and contests in tragedy as
well as in other kinds of poetry, and in recitations of historical
compositions, are expressly mentioned (Philostr. Vit. Soph.
2.27, 2; Plut. Sympos.
2.4). Works of art, as paintings and
sculptures, [p. 2.529]
were exhibited to the assembled
Greeks, and prizes were awarded to those who had produced the finest work
(Plin. Nat. 35.35
). The musical and
artistic contests were at all times the most prominent feature of the
Pythian games, and in this respect they even excelled the Olympic games.
Previous to Ol. 48 the Pythian games had been an ἐνναετηρίς,
that is, they had been celebrated at the end of
every eighth year; but in Ol. 48. 3, they became, like the Olympia, a
i. e. they were held at the
end of every fourth year, and a Pythiad therefore, ever since the time that
it was used as an era, comprehended a space of four years, commencing with
the third year of every Olympiad (Paus. l.c.;
; compare Clinton, F.
p. 195). Others have, in opposition to direct statements,
inferred from Thucydides (4.117
) that the Pythian games were held towards the
end of the second year of every Olympiad. Respecting this controversy, see
p. 29, &c. As for the season of
the Pythian games, they were in all probability held in the spring, and most
writers believe that it was in the month of Bysius, which is supposed to be
the same as the Attic Munychion. Boeckh (ad Corp. Inscript.
n. 1688), however, has shown that the games took place in the month of
Bucatius, which followed after the month of Bysius, and that this month must
be considered as the same as the Attic Munychion. The festival was probably
timed to coincide with the spring meetings of the Amphictyons at Delphi
(Aeschin. c. Ctes.
§ 254). The games lasted for
several days, as is expressly mentioned by Sophocles (Elect.
690, &c.), but we do not know how many. When ancient writers speak
of the day
of the Pythian agon, they are probably
thinking of the musical agon alone, which was the most important part of the
games, and probably took place on the 7th of Bucatius. It is quite
impossible to conceive that all the numerous games should have taken place
on one day.
The concourse of strangers at the season of this panegyris must have been
very great, as undoubtedly all the Greeks were allowed to attend. The states
belonging to the amphictyony of Delphi had to send their theori in the month
of Bysius, some time before the commencement of the festival itself (Boeckh,
l.c.). The theories sent by the Athenians
were always particularly brilliant (Schol. ad
Aristoph. Birds 1585
). [For the
meaning of the word Πυθαϊσταί,
Strab. ix. p.404
, see THEORI
] As regards sacrifices,
processions, and other solemnities, it may be presumed that they resembled
in a great measure those of Olympia. A splendid, though probably in some
degree fictitious, description of a theoria of Thessalians may be read in
As to the order in which the various games were performed, scarcely anything
is known, with the exception of some allusions in Pindar and a few remarks
of Plutarch. The latter (Symp.
2.4; comp. Philostr.
6.10) says that the musical contests
preceded the gymnastic contests, and from Sophocles it is clear that the
gymnastic contests preceded the horse and chariot races. Every game,
moreover, which was performed by men and by boys, was always, as at Olympia,
first performed by the latter (Plut. Symp.
We have stated above that, down to Ol. 48, the Delphians had the management
of the Pythian games; but of the manner in which they were conducted
previous to that time nothing is known. When they came under the care of the
Amphictyons, especial persons were appointed for the purpose of conducting
the games and of acting as judges. They were called Ἐπιμεληταί
2.4, 7.5), and
answered to the Olympian Hellanodicae. Their number is unknown. There must,
however, have been at least three: one for the musical, gymnastic, and
equestrian contests respectively (Krause, l.c.
44). In later times it was decreed by the Amphictyons that king Philip with
the Thessalians and Boeotians should undertake the management of the games
), but Krause thinks this was a
purely honorary office, the real work of presiding remaining in the hands of
the Amphictyons; and afterwards, even under the Roman emperors, the
Amphictyons again appear in the possession of this privilege (Philostr.
2.27). The ἐπιμεληταὶ
had to maintain peace and order, and were assisted
who executed any
punishment at their command, and thus answered to the Olympian ἀλύται
(Luc. adv. Indoct.
The prize given to the victors in the Pythian games was from the time of the
second Pythiad a laurel chaplet (τὸ φυτὸν τῆς
); so that they then became an ἀγὼν στεφανίτης,
while before they had been an ἀγὼν χρηματίτης.
The laurel sprays of which
the chaplet was composed were brought by boys whose parents were both alive
) from the Vale of
TempS, accompanied on the way by a fluteplayer (Plut. περὶ μους.
; Schol. in Argum. ad
) In addition to this chaplet, the victor here, as
at Olympia, received the symbolic palm-branch, and was allowed to have his
own statue erected in the Crissaean plain. (Plut. Symp.
; Just. 24.7
.) That sometimes apples were presented to victors in the
great Pythian games as prizes is clear from many passages in later writers.
(Cf. Luc. Anach.
9, 10, 13, 16; Liban. Eloqu.
t. 2.716 R.; Paus. 6.9
; Schol. Pind. Pyth.
Arg. p. 298
The time when the Pythian games ceased to be solemnised is not certain, but
they probably lasted as long as the Olympic games, i. e. down to A.D. 394.
In A.D. 191 a celebration of the Pythia is mentioned by Philostratus
2.27), and in the time of the Emperor Julian
they still continued to be held, as is manifest from his own words (Jul.
Epist. pro Argiv.
p. 35 a).
Pythian games of less importance were celebrated in a great many other places
where the worship of Apollo was introduced; and the games of Delphi are
sometimes distinguished from these lesser Pythia by the addition of the
words ἐν Δελφοῖς.
But as by far the
greater number of the lesser Pythia are not mentioned in the extant ancient
writers, and are only known from coins or inscriptions, we shall only give a
list of the places where they were held:--Ancyra in Galatia, Aphrodisias in
Caria, Antiochia, [p. 2.530]
Carthaea in the island of Ceos
(Athen. x. pp. 456, 467), Carthage (Tertull. Scorp.
Cibyra in Phrygia, Delos (Dionys. Perieg.
), Emisa in Syria, Hierapolis in Phrygia, Magnesia, Megara (Schol.
Pind. N. 5.84
Philostr. Vit. Soph.
1.3), Miletus, Neapolis in Italy, Nicaea
in Bithynia, Nicomedia, Pergamus in Mysia, Perge in Pamphylia, Perinthus on
the Propontis, Philippopolis in Thrace, Side in Pamphylia, Sicyon (Pind. O. 13.105
, with the Schol.; Nem.
9.51), Taba in Caria, Thessalonice in
Macedonia, in Thrace, Thyatira, and Tralles in Lydia, Tripolis on the
Maeander in Caria. (Krause, Die Pythien, Nemeen und Isthmien,