LAMPADEDRO´MIA (λαμπαδηδρομία), often also simply λαμπα;ς, λαμπαδοῦχος ἀγών or δρόμος, ἑορτὴ λαμπάδος, and less frequently, as in Hdt. 8.98, λαμπαδηφορία, a torch-race, celebrated not only at Athens, but also at many places in Greece and Greek colonies: at Corinth, in honour of Athena Hellotia (Schol. Pind. O. 13.56; Ath. 15.678); at Byzantium (λαμπὰς ἀνήβων, C. I. G. 2034); at Ceos (id. 2360); at Syros, in honour of Demeter; to Artemis, at Amphipolis (Diod. 18.4; Liv. 44.44); and other places (see Boeckh, Staatshaush., ed. Fränkel, 1.550). Alexander celebrated a torch-race at Susa (Arrian. 3.16). The torchrace was held also at Epitaphia; at the Theseia (C. I. A. 2.444), and in later times at the Germaniceia (C. I. A. 3.1096; Fränkel on Boeckh, 2.113*; A. Mommsen, Heortologie, 170); and possibly at any great funeral games, where sufficient funds were provided.
At Athens we know of five celebrations of this game: one to Prometheus at the Promethea (Schol. ad Arist. Ran. 131; Harpoc. s.v. Paus. 1.30); a second to Athena (Phot. s. v. λαμπάδος) at the Panathenaea (whether the greater only is uncertain, but see Boeckh, l.c.); a third to Hephaestus on the evening of the day after the Apaturia (cf. Hdt. 8.9); a fourth to Pan (Hdt. 6.105; Phot. s. v. λαμπα;ς: cf. Paus. 8.54.6); a fifth to the Thracian Artemis or Bendis (Plat. Rep. i. p. 328 A). The three former are of unknown antiquity; the fourth was introduced soon after the battle of Marathon; the last in the time of Socrates.
The race was run, usually on foot, by ephebi, horses being first used in the time of Socrates (Plato, l.c.); and at night. The administration of it was undoubtedly under the gymnasiarch in the time of Xenophon (de rep. Ath. 13), and it was a liturgy involving emulation and cost; the tribe being honoured as in the choregia, by a victory of its contingent. Thus an inscription runs, Ἀκαμαντὶς ἐνίκα λαμπάδι Παναθήναια τὰ μεγάλα ἐπ᾽ Ἀρχίου ἄρχοντος: Ξενοκλῆς ἑγυμνασιάρχει (C. I. A. 2.1229): but we hear later of a λαμπαδαρχία, as in Aristotle (Aristot. Pol. 5.8), who speaks of the λαμπαδαρχία as a costly and rather useless liturgy, which he would like to prohibit; and the words λαμπαδάρχης, λαμπαδαρχεῖν occur in inscriptions (see Krause, ap. Pauly, Real. Encycl. s. v.); but Isaeus, like earlier writers, uses the expression γυμνασιαρχεῖν λαμπάδι, and so in inscriptions (one as late as 166 A.D.: Boeckh, 1.554, and Fränkel's note). It is no doubt possible that in Aristotle's time a custom had arisen of making a special liturgy called λαμπαδαρχία for the festival itself, akin to but separate from the gymnasiarchy; more probably, however, there was not
Torch used in the race. (From a coin.)
a distinct office, and it was merely usual to speak of the gymnasiarch under this title at the time of the torch-race, which was regarded as the most important branch of his office and its most public manifestation. The gymnasiarch had to provide the λαμπάς, which was a candlestick with a kind of shield set at the bottom of the socket, as is seen [p. 2.5]in the preceding woodcut, taken from a coin in Mionnet (pl. 49, 6). In the two cuts given below the torches are somewhat different: in one they are formed of thin strips of wood, no
Torch used in the race. (Krause.)
doubt smeared with resin or pitch, and held together by the disc through which they are passed, and which served as a guard to the hand from the dripping of the pitch (some representations show also a crossed string binding the strips of wood): in the other cut the runners carry shields (as in the ὁπλιτοδρομία, but without helmets); while the torches have a flame, apparently from a wick steeped in oil or liquid pitch, in the hollow at the top, somewhat like the modern torch. The gymnasiarch had also to
Torch used in the race. (Krause.)
provide for the training of the runners, which was of no slight consequence, for the race was evidently a severe one (compare Aristoph. Wasps 1203; Ran. 1087), with other expenses, which on the whole were very heavy, so that Isaeus (Or. 6 [Philoct.], § 60) classes this office with the χορητία and τριηραρχία, and reckons that it had cost him 12 minae. The discharge of this office was called γυμνασιαρχεῖν λαμπάδι (Isaeus, l.c.), or ἐν ταῖς λαμπάσι γυμνασιαρχεῖσθαι (Xen. de Vectig. 4.5. 2). The victorious gymnasiarch presented his λαμπὰς as a votive offering (ἀνάθημα, Boeckh, Inscr. Nos. 243, 250); and we find the victorious runner, when there were single competitors, receiving a ὑδρία (see A. Mommsen, Heortologie, p. 169).
As to the arrangement of the lampadedromia, it seems necessary to understand two different methods, whether we regard them as co-existent or as belonging to different periods. (1) Herodotus (8.98) speaks of this game to illustrate the Persian system ἀγγαρηΐον; Plato (Legg. 6.776 B) of “handing on the torch of life from one generation to another;” and the same metaphor is used by Lucretius, 2.77; Varro, de Re Rust. 3.16, 9; Pers. 6.61: so also Aristot. Phys. 5.4, 10, οἷον ἡ λαμπὰς ἐκ διαδοχῆς φορὰ ἐχομένη, with which compare διαδοχαῖς πληρούμενοι, Aesch. Ag. 313; and Auct. ad Herenn. 4.46, “qui taedas ardentes accipit celerior est quam ille qui tradit quod defatigatus cursu integro facem tradit.” Here we are clearly to understand lines of runners (λαμπαδισταὶ or λαμπαδηφόροι), posted at intervals, the first in each line who receives the torch, or takes it from the altar, running at his best speed and handing it to the second in his own line, and the second to the third until the last in the line is reached, who runs with it up to the appointed spot. Of course, if any torch went out, the line to which it belonged was out of the race. The victory (νικᾶν λαμπάδι) fell to that line of runners whose torch first reached the goal alight. Assuming that all the gymnasiarchs contended on each occasion, there would be ten such lines (or, after B.C. 307, twelve), one for each tribe; but it is possible that each gymnasiarch performed his service only once a year, and that only a certain number were told off for each festival. All the runners in the winning line or chain contributed to the victory, and this may possibly be the explanation of the well-known line of Aeschylus (Aesch. Ag. 314), νικᾷ δ᾽ὁ πρῶτος καὶ τελευταῖος δραμών,--“the last and the first (i. e. all alike in the chain) are successful.” The beacons are all victorious because all belong to the successful chain of light, as in the torch-race each person in the line shares the victory.
But, if this is the right rendering, there is certainly an obscurity of diction in putting καὶ τελευταῖος for χὠ τελευταῖος, which the strict idiom would require, and that, too, without any metrical reason, such as exists in the passage (line 324) cited by Mr. Sidgwick. It may therefore be better to explain it with reference to the fact that the first or winning torch was handed in (to the archon basileus) by the last recipient of it, and therefore, “he who is both first to arrive and last in the chain wins in the race.”
That Pausanias, however, saw a different kind of torch-race, there can be no doubt. He says (1.30.2): ἐν Ἀκαδημίᾳ δέ ἐστι Προμηθέως βωμός, καὶ θέουσιν ἀπ᾽ αὐτοῦ πρὸς τὴν πόλιν ἔχοντες καιομένας λαμπάδας. τὸ δὲ ἀγώνισμα ὁμοῦ τῷ δρόμῳ φυλάξαι τὴν δᾷδα ἔτι καιομένην ἐστίν: ἀποσβεσθείδης δὲ οὐδὲν ἔτι τῆς νίκης τῷ πρώτῳ, δευτέρῳ δὲ ἀντ᾽ αὐτοῦ μέτεστιν. εἰ δὲ μηδὲ τούτῳ καίοιτο, ὁ τρίτος ἐστὶν ὁ κρατῶν, εἰ δὲ πᾶσιν ἀποσβεσθείη, οὐδεὶς ἐστὶν ὅτῳ καταλείπεται ἡ νίκη. Here there is evidently no handing of the torch from one to another--several torch-bearers are started, possibly one for each tribe; the first who reaches the goal with his torch alight wins: the competition is individual, not one chain of runners against another. And it is no doubt to such a race that inscriptions which speak of a single victor with a single prize, refer. Whether this was a new method, or one which had existed alongside of the other, it is impossible to say with certainty; but it is probable that the [p. 2.6]different kinds of torch-race were in vogue at different times; for it is fair to assume from the language of Pausanias, that he had not witnessed the kind of race described by the earlier writers who have been quoted above.
The starting-point at Athens was the altar of Prometheus in the Academy, and the course passed through the Ceramicus to the city (πρὸς τὴν πόλιν), perhaps, as Mommsen (Heortologie, p. 312) thinks, to the Prytaneum under the north side of the Acropolis, a distance of a little over a mile. The archon basileus presided (προέστηκε τῶν ἀγώνων τῶν ἐπὶ λαμπάδι, Poll. 8.90), and gave the prize to the victor. Both starting-point and goal may have varied somewhat at different times, or in different festivals. Plutarch (Plut. Sol. 1） says that the torches were lighted at the altar of Eros, which was not far from the altar of Prometheus (πρὸ τὴς ἐσόδου τῆς ἐς Ἀκαδημίαν, Paus. 1.30.74); the mounted race in honour of Bendis was run in the Peiraeus (Plato, l.c.).
As regards the origin of these games, it may safely be said generally that it is to be sought in the worship of Hephaestus, Prometheus, and Athena, who are all connected with fire and light, and with those arts and manufactures in which fire is an agent. But it may further be conjectured that this form was first used in honour of Prometheus, to represent the myth of his giving fire to men. The torch is kindled at his altar and carried, if the theory above mentioned is correct, to the Prytaneum, where the national fire was preserved, as carefully as though it were still, what it had been in primitive times, hard to rekindle if once it died out: then this gift of the πυρφόρος θεός, representing the κοῖλος νάρθηξ (Hesiod. Theog. 566), is handed to the king archon, who represents in religious matters the original guardian of the national hearth. The same idea can be traced in a custom which Maury cites (from Philostratus), as existing in the games at Olympia: the runners are placed a stade from the altar where wood is to be lighted; near the altar stands the priest, who awards a crown to the first who touches the altar with his torch. (Maury, Religion de la Grèce antique, 3.491.)
But with the giver of fire Were soon associated in this worship the Olympian deities who presided over its use: Hephaestus, who taught men to apply it to melting and moulding of metal; and Athena, who carried it through the whole circle of useful and ornamental arts. On the close connexion of Hephaestus with Prometheus, and of both with Athena, see Preller, Griech. Mythol. p. 80 (ed. 1872). Both indeed are connected by myths with the birth of Athena as well as with her presidency over arts and manufactures, under her name Ἐργάνη (Paus. 1.24.36). It is suggested by Welcker (Aeschyl. Tril. p. 21) that the community of potters instituted the torch-race. It is true that the course was mainly in the outer and inner Ceramicus, and that Athena was the patroness of the (δεῦρ᾽ ἄγ᾽ Ἀθηναίη καὶ ὑπείρεχε χεῖρα καμίνου is the address in the Κεραμίς); but the original connexion of the torch-race with Prometheus is more natural, and moreover the starting-point is in fact not actually in the outer Ceramicus, but beyond it. In later times the same honour was paid to all gods who were in any way connected with fire, as to Pan, to whom a perpetual fire was kept up in his grotto under the Acropolis (cf. also Paus. 8.37.677); so also to Artemis, as a moon-goddess, whom Sophocles (Track. 214) calls ἀμφίπυρος (cf. πυρφόροι Ἀρτεμίδος αῖγλαι, Oed. Tyr. 207, and ὁ πυρφόρος Θεὸς Τιτὰν Προμηθεύς, Oed. Col. 56). The mounted race in honour of Bendis, the Thracian Artemis, was no doubt introduced by the numerous Thracian metoeci who lived for trading purposes at the Peiraeus. In the still later extensions of the rites mentioned at the beginning of this article all symbolism was probably lost, and for these it was merely adopted from the older festivals as a striking spectacle.
Medieval Greece / Byzantine Empire