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104. In the same winter the Athenians, by command of an oracle, purified the island of Delos.1 Pisistratus the tyrant had already purified it, but imperfectly, for the purification only extended to that part which was within sight of the temple. [2] The whole island was now purified in the following manner:—The Athenians took away all the coffins of the dead which were in Delos2, and passed a decree that henceforward no one should die or give birth to a child there, but that the inhabitants when they were near the time of either should be carried across to Rhenea. Now Rhenea is near to Delos, so near indeed that Polycrates the tyrant of Samos, who for a time had a powerful navy, attached this island, which he conquered with the rest of the islands and dedicated to the Delian Apollo, by a chain to Delos. [3] After the purification, the Athenians for the first time celebrated the Delian games, which were held every four years. There had been in ancient days a great gathering of the Ionians and the neighboring islanders at Delos; whither they brought their wives and children to be present at the Delian games, as the Ionians now frequent the games at Ephesus. [4] Musical and gymnastic contests were held there, and the cities celebrated choral dances. [5] The3 character of the festival is attested by Homer in the following verses, which are taken from the hymn to Apollo:—At other times, Phoebus, Delos is dearest to thy heart,
Where are gathered together the Ionians in flowing robes,
With their wives and children in thy street:
There do they delight thee with boxing and dancing and song,
Making mention of thy name when they gather at the assembly.
And that there were musical contests which attracted competitors is implied in the following words of the same hymn. After commemorating the Delian dance of women, Homer ends their praises with these lines, in which he alludes to himself:—
And now may Apollo and Artemis be gracious,
And to all of you, maidens, I say farewell.
Yet remember me when I am gone;
And if some other toiling pilgrim among the sons of men
Comes and asks: O maidens,
Who is the sweetest minstrel of all who wander hither,
And in whom do you delight most?
Make answer with one voice, in gentle words,
The blind old man of Chios' rocky isle.
[6] Thus far Homer, who clearly indicates that even in days of old there was a great gathering and festival at Delos. In after ages the islanders and the Athenians led choruses in procession, and sacrificed. But the games and the greater part of the ceremonies naturally fell into disuse, owing to the misfortunes of Ionia. The Athenians now restored the games and for the first time introduced horse-races.

1 The Athenians renew the purification of Delos and restore the Delian games.

2 Cp. 1.8 init.; v. I.

3 The old festival of Delos is celebrated by Homer.

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