The festival calendar of the ancient Hellenes was an ever-evolving entity. Local demoi had local customs and heroes they added to the base festival calendar of the nearest large city, and events like battles won were integrated into it when deemed special enough. In the city and surrounding area of Athens, we are currently aware of six festival calendars, the last of which is probably from around 330 BC, or possibly as late as 270 BC:
  • The Athenian State Calendar
  • The Marathonian Tetrapolis Calendar
  • The Deme Erkhia Calendar
  • The Deme Eleusis Calendar
  • The Deme Teithras Calendar
  • The Genos of the Salaminioi Calendar
These calendars were all preserved on stone slabs or columns, some more intact than others. From it, we know that they mixed and matched depending on location. All, however, had an intricate system of keeping track and listing the festivals. The form of the developed Athenian sacrificial calendar was price — deity — victim: these were its essential items, and the main body of the calendar consists of such entries.

The State Calendar was a part of a comprehensive new code of inscribing: the Calendar was laid out on one side of each of two walls, the surfaces of which had been prepared for the purpose. The list of annual festivals came first. Biennial festivals were in two separate lists on these same walls, then quadrennial, doubtless in four lists, also on these walls. Monthly totals of costs were given. The state paid for all, and the whole was elaborate and lengthy.

The Marathonian Tetrapolis Calendar listed the four Demes separately, dividing the year, uniquely, into quarters. The Tetrapolis paid for all. The calendar for the Deme Marathon itself is all but complete; the lists of the other three Demes are largely missing.

At Erkhia the Calendar was split vertically into five lots of offerings which were meaningless except that the costs of the five lots were kept equal, making sure those who were responsible for covering the costs of all sacrificial animals in their column all paid the same as the others. The calendar is all but complete.

The Eleusis Calendar was designed to provide flexibility in details concerning costs. Two fragments survive--a very small portion.

Teithras imitatede the State Code, except that authorities are not cited. About a month's worth of information has been salvaged.

The Salaminioi made the cost of victims very clear and so we know they were able to spend more in a year than, say, Erkhia. The calendar is complete.

The six calendars are sufficiently different in details so that a fragment of any one of them, or even a transcript of the text of a fragment with as few as a dozen lines, could easily be recognized and placed. Nevertheless the calendars have much in common. In the coming weeks, we will examine these calendars in much greater detail, with the goal of leaning more about the practices about the ancient Hellenes and their festivals--our festivals. The first one up: the Athenian State Calendar.