The priests who managed the oracle and its responses were
usually able to give good advice to their inquirers, because news of every sort
streamed into Delphi. When the priests were doubtful what answer to give, the
prophecy of the god was sometimes expressed in such ambiguous fashion that,
whatever the outcome, neither Apollo nor his servants could be charged with
deceit. For instance, when Croesus, the Lydian king, was about to attack Cyrus,
he learned from the oracle that "if he warred with the Persians he would
overthrow a mighty empire" --but the mighty empire proved to be his
Athletic games were held in different parts of Greece from
a remote period. The most famous games were those in honor of Zeus at Olympia
in Elis. They took place every fourth year, in midsummer.  A sacred truce
was proclaimed for an entire month, in order that the thousands of spectators
from every part of Greece might arrive and depart in safety. No one not of
Greek blood and no one convicted of crime or of the sin of impiety might
participate in the contests. The candidates had also to prove that they were
qualified for the severe tests by a long and hard training. Once accepted as
competitors, they could not withdraw. The man who shrank back when the hour of
trial arrived was considered a coward and was punished with a heavy fine.
 The first recorded celebration occurred in 776 B.C.
The four-year period between the games, called an Olympiad, became the Greek
unit for determining dates. Events were reckoned as taking place in the first,
second, third, or fourth year of a given Olympiad.