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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Pompḗ (πομπή), usually translated as pomp or procession, the name of the first part of several Ancient Greek festivals, such as Dionysia and Lenaia. In common parlance it refers to a show of magnificence; parade; display; power.

Pompe and Proagon

The archon prepared for the City Dionysia as soon as he was elected, by choosing two paredroi and ten epimeletai to help organize the festival. On the first day of the festival the pompe was held, in which citizens, metics, and representatives from Athenian colonies marched to the Theatre of Dionysus on the southern slope of the Acropolis, carrying the wooden statue of Dionysus Eleutherus (the "leading" or the eisagoge). As with the Rural Dionysia, they also carried phalloi, made out of wood or bronze, and a cart pulled a much larger phallus. Basket-carriers and water- and wine-carriers participated in the pompe here as in the Rural Dionysia.

During the height of the Athenian Empire in the mid-5th century BC, various gifts and weapons showcasing Athens' strength were carried as well. Also included in the procession were bulls to be sacrificed in the theatre. The most conspicuous members of the procession were the choregoi, who were dressed in the most expensive and ornate clothing. After the pompe the choregoi - (χορηγοί) led their choruses in the dithyrambic competitions. These were extremely competitive, and the best flute players and poets (such as Simonides and Pindar) offered their musical and lyrical services. After these competitions, the bulls were sacrificed, and a feast was held for all the citizens of Athens. A second procession, the komos (κῶμος), occurred afterwards, which was most likely a drunken revelry through the streets.

The next day, the playwrights announced the titles of the plays to be performed, and judges were selected by lot (the proagon - προάγων). It is unknown where the proagon originally took place, but after the mid-5th century BC it was held in the Odeon of Pericles on the Acropolis. The proagon was also used to give praise to notable citizens, or often foreigners, who had served Athens in some beneficial way during the year. During the Peloponnesian War, orphaned children of those who had been killed in battle were also paraded in the Odeon, possibly to honour their fathers. The proagon could be used for other announcements as well; in 406 BC the death of the playwright Euripides was announced there.

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