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The foot- race
It is the oldest contest that took place in Olympia. Until the 13th Olympiad (728 B.C.) when the games lasted for only one day, it was the only event at the sanctuary. The athletes were running nude, in an area whose length was determined at 600 feet (192.27m), that is one Stade . It was this distance that gave its name to the area used for the performance of the event. These areas, the stadiums, were situated on hillsides or in small valleys, thus enabling the spectators to follow the events. Later and as the crowd of spectators grew, artificial slopes were built and the spectators sat on the ground.
The stadium at Olympia had a capacity of 45,000 spectators. Only men were allowed to watch the games with the exception of the high priestess of Demeter Chamyne. The start and duration of the stadium race were specified by clear rules and there were set penalties for athletes who broke them. The rules were clear for all the events and for the duration of the games there were specific bodies, the Alytai, who kept the order in all the areas of performance. The judges and those in charge of the games were the Hellondikai, who at first were life members but then appointed by lot from the Elean citizens.
There are no records of the achievements of the athletes during Archaic times as there were no means of the keeping of time. What was important was to be the first amongst the other athletes of the event, and receive the honour and the glory that followed such a distinction.
Also taking place in Olympia were the Heraia, athletic games for women in which young girls from Elis partook. These games were held every four years independently of the Olympic games. The women ran wearing their hair loose, dressed in short tunics.
The pentathlon was a combination of heavy and light events. It included jumping, running, javelin, discus and wrestling. The pentathlon was considered to be a very important event because the athlete had to combine many qualities and skills of the body. In the Olympic Games running and wrestling were conducted separately, while the other three events were independent. Jason was, according to mythology, the inventor of the pentathlon.
It is similar to the long jump. The athlete jumped into a pit holding halters in his hands. It was accompanied by flute music.
An event known from Homeric poems and one that the Greeks loved most. It was part of the pentathlon. A fleeting moment of discus throwing is captured in the famous statue of the Discus-thrower by Myron, a copy of which can be seen in Athens, opposite the Panathinaic Stadium.
One of the favorite events of many mythical heroes. Seperated into “ekebolon” javelin throwing which was judged by the distance the javelin was thrown, and the “stochastikon” javelin throwing where the javelin was thrown at a specific target.
It is refered to for the first time in Homer’s Labours for Patroclos. It was one of the pentathlon events but also independent in the Panhellenic games.
One of the oldest events, as shown by the representation of two children boxing on the mural from Acrotiri in Thera, and the early reference to the event by Homer.
A combination of wrestling and boxing, it is praised by Philostratos as the best and the most worthy event for men in the Olympic games.
The horse races
The hippodrome, a space used for the horse races differed in size from place to place. An aristocratic event, the horse races comprised of various events and were conducted with horses, chariots and quadriga. The most spectacular event was the quadriga race, an event in which the most prominent historic personalities had competed. The hippodrome was the main place for exhibiting wealth and political strength during antiquity.