Ancient Greek Public Spectacles
Public spectacles in ancient Greece consisted especially of athletic competitions and theatrical performances which served to strengthen ancient Greek citizens’ sense of belonging in Greek culture and civic pride.
Athletic competitions were held regularly throughout the year, typically under the auspices of a religious festival, and varied in size. Some drew local crowds only, while others attracted a large crowd of participants and spectators from the entire Greek-speaking world. Two of the most popular athletic events, the Great Panathenaic Games and the Olympics were held every four years in Athens and Olympia respectively. Ancient Greek games were organized in honor of the gods and included competitions such as track races, boxing, wrestling, and chariot racing, among other events.
Theatrical performances were held in Greek open-air theaters featuring plays, storytelling, songs, and dancing performances, frequently in honor of Dionysus, the god of theater and wine. Greek performances reached a wide audience in a time where literacy was low and oral and musical traditions served as the most effective means to pass on Greek myths, religion, and culture.
The ubiquity and popularity of public spectacles in ancient Greek culture can be gleaned from a wide range of literary, archaeological, and material remains, such as ceramics or sporting equipment.
(B. Wu ’18)