1700 years ago....
Phallephoria was a festive procession, part of the famous Dionysia, a great celebration in honor of god Dionysus.
The procession was preceded by the phallus, a symbol of fertility and germination. The followers were disguised as Silenus, Satyrs and Maenads, holding the thyrsus, phalluses or craters with new wine in their hands, while dancing and singing phallic songs. They also invited Phallis, the follower of Dionysus and the personification of the phallus, to come and celebrate with them. Also, some followers were dancing disguised as Nymphs and Hours, inferior Deities which are personified natural forces that protect the vegetation and flowering of spring and summer bloom.
Disguises of this kind were meant to activate the Renaissance forces of nature at the ending of the winter season, to prevent maleficent forces and to bring joy to people. The core of these festive events was a procession, «the troupe of the phallus”. The leader held a crater full of wine and vine twig, followed by a man who held the phallus on a pole. Plutarch speaks about this procession in his work “On the Love of One’s Offspring,”527d:
“… , όρα μη πομπήν επαινούντι και πανήγυριν μάλλον ή βίον έοικας. η πάτριος των Διονυσίων εορτή το παλαιόν επέμπετο δημοτικώς και ιλαρώς˙ αμφορεύς οίνου και κληματίς, είτα τράγον τις είλκεν, άλλος ισχάδων άρριχον ηκολούθει κομίζων, επί πάσι δ’ ο φαλλός. αλλά νυν ταύτα παρεώραται και ηφάνισται χρυσωμάτων παραφερομένων και ιματίων πολυτελών και ζευγών ελαυνομένων και προσωπείων ˙ ούτω τα αναγκαία του πλούτου και χρήσιμα τοις αχρήστοις κατακέχωσται και τοις περιττοίς.”
The Phallic procession aimed at transferring the fertilizing forces, and in activating the productive forces for a new year with good harvest. People found the chance to hide their faces and express themselves through dancing funny dances, drinking wine and singing joking songs.
These kind of fests were the ancestor of comedy.
Aristotle in his work “About poetry” refers to the birth of comedy from those who excitingly led the phallic processions; those who were singing phallic songs while the rest of the crowd repeated (Aristotle “About Poetry” 1449a, στίχοι 9-15):
“Γενομένης δ’ ουν απ’ αρχής αυτοσχεδιαστικής και αυτή και η κωμωδία, και η μεν από των εξαρχόντων τον διθύραμβον, η δε από των τα φαλλικά, α έτι και νυν εν πολλαίς των πόλεων διαμένει νομιζόμενα, κατά μικρόν ηυξήθη, προαγόντων όσον εγίγνετο φανερόν αυτής, και πολλάς μεταβολάς μεταβαλούσα η τραγωδία επαύσατο, επεί έσχε την αυτής φύσιν”.
Phallephoria is a distinct cultural folk interactive event, the result of thorough research and a careful performance that touches on experimental archeology. An event that since 2014 has overwhelmed the historic center of Athens and has conquered the hearts of the crowd with its joy and liveliness. Α troupe of Maenads, Satyrs, Silenus, revels, with a leading actor in the role of Dionysus. The procession is accompanied by Bacchic music with bagpipes, flutes and percussions.
With joy, satirical dances, mini theatrical plays and plenty of wine, the procession is involved with the crowds in the roads of the historical center, offering joy and an authentic touch and revival of the Hellenic culture. The procession ends up- like most of Dionysian rituals in Greece- in a “mourning”, a humble homage to all ancestors, with unveiling the masks. A moment so intense for all participants, in front of the Kerameikos archaeological site, connecting the soul of the past with the vision of the future.