The Ancient Library

Scanned text contains errors.



during the existence of the truce, "but that by the original agreement with the other states of Pelo~ ponnesus their lands were made sacred for ever, and were never to be attacked by any hostile force (Strabo, viii. p. 358) ; and they further stated that the first violation of their territory was made by Pheidon of Argos. But the Eleans themselves did not abstain from arms, and it is not probable that such a privilege would have existed without im­posing on them the corresponding duty of refrain­ing from attacking the territory of their neighbours. The later Greeks do not appear to have admitted this claim of the Eleans, as we find many cases in which their country was made the scene of war. (Xen. Hell. iii. 2. § 23, &c., vii. 4, &c.)

The Olympic festival was probably confined at first to the Peloponnesians ; but as its celebrity extended, the other Greeks took part in it, till at length it became a festival for the whole nation. No one was allowed to contend in the games but persons of pure Hellenic blood : barbarians might be spectators, but slaves were entirely excluded. All persons who had been branded by their own 'states with Atimia, or had been guilty of any offence against the divine laws were not permitted to contend. (Compare Demosth. c. Aristocrat, pp. 631, 632.) When the Hellenic race had been ex­tended by colonies to Asia, Africa, and other parts of Europe, persons contended in the games from very distant places ; and in later times a greater number of conquerors came from the colonies than from the mother country. After the conquest of Greece by the Romans, the latter were allowed to take part in the games. The emperors Tiberius and Nero were both conquerors, and Pausanias (v. 20. § 4) speaks of a Roman senator who gained the victory. During the freedom of Greece, even Greeks were sometimes excluded, when they had been guilty of a crime which appeared to the Eleans to deserve this punishment. The horses of Hieron of Syracuse were excluded from the chariot-race through the influence of Themistocles, because he had not taken part with the other Greeks against the Persians. (Plut. Them. 25 ; Aelian, V. IT. ix. 5.) All the Lacedaemonians were excluded in the 90th Olympiad, because they had not paid the fine for violating the Elean territory, as mentioned above (Thuc. v. 49, 50 ; Paus. iii. 8. § 2) ; and similar cases of exclusion are mentioned by the ancient writers.

No women were allowed to be present or even to cross the Alpheus during the Celebration of the games under penalty of being hurled down from the Typaean rock. Only one instance is recorded of a woman having ventured to be present, and she, although detected, was pardoned in consideration of her father, brothers, and son having been victors in the games. (Paus. v. 6. § 5* • Ael. V. II. x. 1.) An exception was made to this law in favour of the priestess of Demeter Chamyne, who sat on an altar of white marble opposite to the Hellanodicae. (Paus. vi. 20. § 6 ; compare Suet. Ner. c. 12.)

* It would appear from another passage of sanias that virgins were allowed to be present, though married women were not (TrapQevovs Se ovk efyyoyori $6ct<racr0a£, vi. 20. § 6) ; but this statement is opposed to all others on the subject, and the reading of the passage seems to be doubt­ful. (See Valckenaer^ ad Theocr. Adon, pp. 196, 197.)


Women were, however, allowed to send chariots to the races ; and the first woman, whose horses won the prize, was Cynisca, the daughter of Archida-mus, and sister of Agesilaus. (Paus. iii. 8. § 1.) The number of spectators at the festival was very great ; and these were drawn together not merely by the desire of seeing the games, but partly through the opportunity it afforded them of carry­ing on commercial transactions with persons from distant places (Veil. i. 8 ; mercatus Olympiacus, Justin, xiii. 5), as is the case with the Mohammedan festivals at Mecca and Medina. Many of the per­sons present were also deputies (frewpoi) sent to represent the various states of Greece ; and we find that these embassies vied with one another in the number of their offerings, and the splendour of their general appearance, in order to support the honour of their native cities. The most illustrious citizens of a state were frequently sent as freoopoi. (Thuc. vi. 16 ; Andoc. c. Ale. pp. 126, ] 27. Reiske.)

The Olympic festival was a Pentaeteris (Trej/rcte-Ttjpls-), that is, according to the ancient mode of reckoning, a space of four years elapsed between each festival, in the same way as there was only a space of two j^ears between a rpieTypis. According to the Scholiast on Pindar (ad Ol. iii. 35, Bockh), the Olympic festival was celebrated at an interval sometimes of 49, sometimes of 50 months ; in the former case in the month of Apollonius, in the latter in that of Parthenius. This statement hag given rise to much difference of opinion from the time of J. Scaliger ; but the explanation of Bockli in his commentary on Pindar is the most satisfac­tory, that the festival was celebrated on the first full moon after the summer solstice, which some­times fell in the month of Apollonius, and some­times in Parthenius, both of which he considers to be the names of Elean or Olympian months: con­sequently the festival was usually celebrated in the Attic month of Hecatombaeon. It lasted, after all the contests had been introduced, five days, from the llth to the 15th days of the month inclusive. (Schol. ad Pind. Ol. v. 6.) The fourth day of the festival was the 14th of the month, which was the day of the full-moon and which divided the month into two equal parts (Sz^/^m jidjj/a, Pind. OL iii. 19 ; Schol. ad loc.}.

The festival was under the immediate superin­tendence of the Olympian .Zeus, whose temple at Olympia, adorned with the statue of the god made by Phidias, was one of the most splendid works of Grecian art. (Paus. v. 10, &c.) There were also temples and altars to most of the other gods. The festival itself may be divided into two parts, the games or contests (aykv 'OAu/x-ma/cos, ae'0Acoi> a^uAAar, icpicris aeflAa)?', red/ubs ae^Atyi', viKafyo-fncu), and the festive rites (eoprrj) connected with the sacrifices, with the processions and with the public banquets in honour of the conquerors. Thus Pausanias distinguishes between the two parts of the festival, when he speaks of t^p aycova eV 'OAVjiiTTia TravTryvpiv re 'OAu/xTnaK^ (v. 4. § 4). The conquerors in the games, and private indivi­duals, as well as the theori or deputies from the various states, offered sacrifices to the different gods ; but the chief sacrifices were offered by the Eleans in the name of the Elean state. The order in which the Eleans offered their sacrifices to the different gods is given in a passage of Pausanias (v. 14. § 5). There has been considerable dispute among modern writers, whether the sacrifices were

About | First | English Index | Classified Index | Latin Index | Greek Index



page #  
Search this site
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of