Other festivals

An ancient hymn to Apollo from the Treasury of the Athenians
© Ephorate of Antiquities of Phocis, Ministry of Culture and Sports

Apart from the Pythian Games, the inscriptions offer information on other games taking place in Delphi, such as the Soteria. As attested by their name (Soter=saviour in Greek), these were games established to celebrate the evasion of a threat, namely none other than the defeat of the Galatians by the Aetolian League.  The Soteria were initially celebrated annually, comprised musical, dancing and theatrical contests and the winners were offered money prizes. For several years it was the Amphictyony which was in charge of these Games, yet around 244 B.C. the Aetolians took a decisive step and reformed the Games. From then onwards the Games were taking place every five years, the participants contested in music, horse-racing and athletic games fought in nude, whereas the prize was a laurel wreath.  The Soteria probably stopped in the 1st century B.C, possibly due to the attack by Sulla in 86 B.C., which also brought the Pythian Games to a halt for a while.  

It seems that in the late 3rd century and definitely from the 2nd century onwards the Amphictyons were willing to accept the establishment of new games, provided that those who proposed it could also finance the games. Thus, we know that games were  taking place in honour of the Pergamene kings, namely the Attaleia and Eumeneia, which were however funded by the kings themselves. Even a rich citizen of Kalydon in Aetolia, Alkissipos, managed to get his own annual celebration established, namely the Alkessippeia, by donating a large sum of gold and silver around 182/1 B.C.; although this celebration did not include games, it seems that it comprised a ritual procession, a sacrifice and a public meal. 

Apart from the standard Games and celebrations, there were also extraordinary ones, which were organized on the occasion of special events. This was the case of the Athenian Pythaids, on which the inscriptions of the Treasury of the Athenians are so eloquent. We know of four Pythaids which took place in the period 138-98 B.C. All four of them included a ritual procession from Athens to Delphi, headed by prominent citizens; they also included sacrifices and rituals and, finally, horse races and musical contests. The inscriptions recording the hymns of Apollo which have been preserved on the southern wall of the Treasury of the Athenians were written exactly on the occasion of these Pythaids. 

Text - Translation: Dr. Aphrodite Kamara, Historian