Dionysos and Theatre in Sphettos


Despite recent and growing interest in the theatre festivals held by the demes of Attica —the Rural Dionysia— the evidence for these events, which is largely epigraphic and archaeological, is not always well known or understood. This article studies the case of one deme of which this is particularly true — Sphettos, situated at the southern foothills of the eastern side of Mt. Hymettos. Close analysis of the two relevant items —a dedicatory relief and a deme decree— points to the existence in Sphettos, by the middle of the fourth century, of performances of tragedy in a theatre which had prohedric seating; funded by choregoi; and possibly organised on a competitive basis. The key item of evidence is a fragmentary inscription published only in 1986 (SEG XXXVI 187), analysed here in detail for the first time. This is also the sole testimony to a deme priest of Dionysos in the entire corpus of evidence.