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PYTHIA
The Pythian games. Next to the Olympic games, the most important of the four Greek national festivals. From 586 B.C. they were held on the Crissaean plain below Delphi. They took place once in four years, in the third year of each Olympiad, in the Delphic month Bucatius (the middle of August). Before this time (586 B.C.) there used to take place at Delphi itself, once in eight years, a great festival in honour of Apollo, in which the minstrels vied with one another in singing, to the accompaniment of the cithara, a paean in praise of the god, under the direction of the Delphic priests. After the first Sacred War, when the Crissaean plain became the property of the priesthood, the Amphictyons introduced festivals once in four years, at which gymnastic contests and foot-races took place, as well as the customary musical contest. This contest also was further developed. Besides minstrels who sang with the cithara, players on the flute, and singers to accompaniment of the flute, took part in it (the last-named, however, for a short time only). The gymnastic and athletic contests, which were nearly the same as those held at Olympia, yielded in significance to the musical ceremonies, and of these the Pythian nomos was the most important. It was a composition for the flute, worked out on a prescribed scheme, and celebrating the battle of Apollo with the dragon Python, and his triumph. At first the prize for the victor was of some substantial value, but at the second festival it took the form of a wreath from the sacred bay tree in the Vale of Tempe. The victor also received, as in the other contests, a palm-branch. The judges were chosen by the Amphictyons. The Pythian, like the Olympic games, were probably not discontinued till about 394 A.D.
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