Abstract–“Οὐ τὸ νικᾶν ἀλλὰ τὸ εὖ ἀγωνίζεσθαι" Playing to Win or to Show Off? Itinerant Artists Performing in Unconventional ἀγῶνες in Some Decrees from Delphi (Third to First Century BC)

The epigraphic documentation of Hellenistic Delphi testifies to an extremely active involvement of the poeti vaganti in a dynamic and prolific cultural life. Aside the ἀγῶνες, the inscriptions attest to various kinds of individual performances, helping us to reconstruct at different levels the activity of performers of music and literature in the city.

A group of decrees, which has interested scholars because of their numerous distinctive features, suggests the activity of professionals who performed in occasions that are indicated with the verb ἀγωνίζομαι but do not seem to correspond to formal ἀγῶνες. After an in-depth analysis of the testimonies and their comparison with the terminology adopted for the various typologies of artistic exhibitions in Delphi, I propose to interpret the situations suggested by the decrees here considered as performative kermesses for high leveled artists which only imply the idea of and not the actual engagement in the competition. These occasions in between exhibitions and competitions, which do not seem to be standardized and can probably be traced also beyond Delphi, appear as conventions of specialists performing with spirit of competition for the appreciation of the audience. In a mutual exchange, the town benefits from the professionalism and art while these experts are able to confirm their artistic profile both in front of the appreciative public and their colleagues.