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p369 Delia

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh
on p369 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

DE′LIA (δήλια), the name of festivals and games celebrated at the great panegyris in the island of Delos,a the centre of an amphictyony, to which the Cyclades and the neighbouring Ionians on the coasts belonged (Hom. Hymn. in Apoll. 147, &c.). This amphictyony seems originally to have been instituted simply for the purpose of religious worship in the common sanctuary of Apollo, the θεὸς πατρῷος of the Ionians, who was believed to have been born at Delos. The Delia, as appears from the Hymn on Apollo (compare Thucyd. III.104; Pollux, IX.61), had existed from very early times, and were celebrated every fifth year (Pollux, VIII.104), and as Böckh supposes, with great probability, on the sixth and seventh days of Thargelion, the birthdays of Apollo and Artemis. The members of the amphictyony assembled on these occasions (ἐθεώρουν) in Delos, in long garments, with their wives and children, to worship the god with gymnastic and musical contests, choruses, and dances. That the Athenians took part in these solemnities at a very early period, is evident from the Deliastae (afterwards called θεωροί) mentioned in the laws of Solon (Athen. VI p234); the sacred vessel (θεωρίς), moreover, which they sent to Delos every year, was said to be the same which Theseus had sent after his return from Crete (see the commentators on Plato, Crito, p43C). The Delians, during the celebration of these solemnities, performed the office of cooks for those who visited their island, when they were called Ἐλεοδύται (Athen. IV p173).

In the course of time the celebration of this ancient panegyris in Delos had ceased, and it was not revived until Ol. 88.3, when the Athenians, after having purified the island in the winter of that year, restored the ancient solemnities, and added horse-races which had never before taken place at the Delia (Thucyd. l.c.). After this restoration, Athens being at the head of the Ionian confederacy took the most prominent part in the celebration of the Delia; and though the islanders, in common with Athens, provided the choruses and victims, the leader (ἀρχιθέωρος), who conducted the whole solemnity, was an Athenian (Plut. Nic. 3; Wolf, Introd. ad Demosth. Lept. p. xc), and the Athenians had the superintendence of the summon sanctuary [Amphictyons].

From these solemnities, belonging to the great Delian panegyris, we must distinguish the lesser Delia, which were celebrated every year, probably on the 6th of Thargelion. The Athenians on this occasion sent the sacred vessel (θεωρίς), which the priest of Apollo adorned with laurel branches, to Delos. The embassy was called θεωρία; and those who sailed to the island, θεωροί; and before they set sail a solemn sacrifice was offered in the Delion, at Marathon, in order to obtain a happy voyage (Müller, Dor. II.2 § 14). During the absence of the vessel, which on one occasion lasted 40 days (Plat. Phaedon, p58; Xen. Memorab. IV.8 § 2), the city of Athens was purified, and no criminal was allowed to be executed. The lesser Delia were said to have been instituted by Theseus, though in some legends they are mentioned at a much earlier period, and Plutarch (Thes. 23) relates that the ancient vessel used by the founder himself, though often repaired, was preserved and used by the Athenians down to the time of Demetrius Phalereus (Böckh, Publ. Econ. of Ath. p214, &c. 2d edit.; Thirlwall, Hist. of Greece, vol. III p217).


Thayer's Note:

a There was another, unrelated, festival called the Delia, instituted by the Thebans after the battle at Delion, a small coastal town of Boeotia, in 424 B.C. (Diodorus, XII.70.5).


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