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The Panathenaic Games were held every four years in Athens in Ancient Greece since 566 BC. They continued into the 3rd century AD. These Games incorporated religious festival, ceremony (including prize-giving), athletic competitions, and cultural events hosted within a stadium.
The competitions for which this festival came to be known were only part of a much larger religious occasion; the Great Panathenaea itself. These ritual observances consisted of numerous sacrifices to Athena (the name-sake of the event and patron deity to the hosts of the event - Athens) as well as Poseidon and others. A sister-event to the Great Panathenaea was held every year - the Lesser Panathenaea, which was 3–4 days shorter in celebration. They were the most prestigious games for the citizens of Athens, but they were not as important as the Olympic Games or the other Panhellenic Games.
The first Great Panathenaea was held during the rule of Peisistratos in 566 BC, and was modelled on the Olympic Games. Peisistratos also added music and poetry competitions, which were part of the Pythian Games but not the Olympics. The games were divided into games for Athenians only, and games for Athenians and any other Greeks who wanted to participate. The games for all Greeks were essentially the same as the Olympics, with boxing, wrestling, pankration, pentathlon, and chariot racing, but chariot racing was the most prestigious of these, unlike the Olympics where the stadion (foot race) was more important.
These games in which only the Athenians were allowed to participate were somewhat different. These included a torch race from the Piraeus to the Acropolis, mock infantry and cavalry battles, a javelin throw on horseback, the apobatai (a chariot race in which the driver had to jump out of the chariot, run alongside, and jump back in), the pyrriche (apparently military exercises accompanied by music), and the euandrion (essentially a contest of manliness and strength between young Athenian men). The prestigious event was a four-horse chariot race and the winner received a prize larger than for any of the athletic contests. In later years there was also a rowing competition.
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