City Dionysia

Dionysus and a Satyr
Dionysus and a Satyr.


The City Dionysia was a major state-sponsored festival, in ancient Athens, featuring dramatic competitions. In addition to the major City Dionysia, there was also a rural Dionysia.

The City Dionysia was held during the Athenian month of Elaphebolion (March-April) in honor of the god Dionysus Eleuthereus (god of freedom), in an area (temenos) sacred to Dionysus.

Theatrical Genres

Dramatic competitions were held in the genres of

The tragedy competition was for 4 plays per author: a trilogy or 3 unrelated plays, and a satyr play.


Before the start of the festival, there were 2 processions, the first, carrying the statue of Dionysus to and from, and the second where various groups proceeded through the city to the theater, arrayed in groups distinguishable by color or other articles of dress, according to Rabinowitz. The ceremonies started at dawn in the outdoor theater, with purification and lustrations, followed by a dithyramb, and then the plays.


The City Dionysia, which the tyrant Pisistratus is said to have started, was controlled by the eponymous archon of the year. The year before, he would choose 3 tragic poets to compete. He also chose the choregus (chorus leader) and 3 actors. The choregus not only trained the actors and chorus, but paid for the production.


  • Barbara F. McManus
  • Review: Greek Tragedy, by Nancy Sorkin Rabinowitz
  • Chapter XXI. The Greater Dionysia and the Drama

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Also Known As: Greater Dionysia