Panathenjea, the most splendid of the Athenian festivals, celebrated in honor of Athena (Minerva) Polias, protectress of the city. According to tradition, it was instituted by Erich-thonius under the title of Athenaea. It retained this name, and the celebration was confined to Athens, until the reign of Theseus, who united all the Attic tribes, and this, becoming -their common festival, was called Panathensea. The festival was divided into the lesser and the greater, the former taking place every year, the latter in the third year of each Olympiad. The difference between the two consisted in the greater splendor and solemnity of the latter. The exercises consisted of foot, horse, and chariot races, gymnastics, and musical and poetic contests. The sacrifices were very costly, for every town in Attica and every colony of Athens was obliged to send a bull for the celebration. The duration of the festival was gradually extended from two to twelve days. The great attraction of the Panathenasa was the procession, in which nearly all the inhabitants of Attica took part, to carry to the temple of Athena Polias the peplus of the goddess, a crocus-colored garment in which were woven representations of her victorious acts.
Phidias and his disciples represented this procession in the frieze of the Parthenon.