The production of the tragic contests
Tragedies were being presented to honor god Dionysus. In the major Athens area four festivals were being organized in god's honor: The Rural Dionyssia, the Lenea, the Anthesteria (or Small Dionyssia) and the Great Dionyssia.
Tragic contests were being organized during the Lenea and the Great Dionyssia (sometimes also during the Anthesteria). During the Rural Dionyssia some old plays were re-presented. New tragedies were presented during the Great Dionyssia,the biggest celebration after Panathenea. This celebration was lasting for six days. The first day was the day when the sacred parade was taking place (foreigners were allowed to participate). The next two days were the days, when dithyrambic dancing contests were being held. During the last three days drama contests were being organized.
Only three poets it were allowed to participate. The Honorable Archon had the right to make the choice of the three final participants. If a poet wished to participate, he had to submit to the Honorable Archon three tragedies and one satiric drama, in other words, a tetralogy. The Archon was choosing the three poets, who were paid from the State, as also the hypocrites, three for every poet. The expenses for the chorus were covered by Sponsors (choregoi), wealthy Athenians. They were also paying for the costumes and the chorus teacher (if the poet needed one). The Sponsors were deeply respected in Athenian society. Some times the sponsorship was being considered as an income task. Still some wealthy Athenians volunteered for this task.
A few days before the contest the list of the judges was being formed ( 500 Athenians - 50 from each line ). Their names were written in little spheres and kept closed in ten urns in Parthenon.
The presentation was beginning with the sunrise. Every poet participated each of the three last days with his tetralogy. The Athenians who were attending the presentation did not pay any ticket, because this was paid to the producer by the State (Theorica), so that even the poor could participate to the celebration.
At the end of the presentation ten judges were being elected, one out of every urn, five of which, chosen by lottery, were deciding for the winner, after taking under consideration and the opinion of the audience (based on their reactions). The herald was announcing the name of the winner and the Honorable Archon was putting on the winner's head a crown of ivy, the holy plant of Dionysus. The State was keeping official records of the contests, on boards made of marble with the names of the poets, the sponsors and the hypocrites.