The games occupied five days, beginning with the contests
in running. There was a short-distance dash through the length of the stadium,
a quarter-mile race, and also a longer race, probably for two or three miles.
Then followed a contest consisting of five events: the long jump, hurling the
discus, throwing the javelin, running, and wrestling. It is not known how
victory in these five events taken together was decided. In the long jump,
weights like dumb-bells were held in the hands, the swing of the weights being
used to assist the spring. The discus, which weighed about twelve pounds, was
sometimes hurled more than one hundred feet. The javelin was thrown either by
the hand alone or with the help of a thong wound about the shaft and held in
the fingers. In wrestling, three falls were necessary for a victory. The
contestants were free to get their grip as best they could. Other contests
included boxing, horse races, and chariot races. Women were apparently excluded
from the games, yet they were allowed to enter horses for the races and to set
up statues in honor of the victors.
THE VICTOR'S REWARD
The Olympian festival was profoundly religious, because
the display of manly strength was thought to be a spectacle most pleasing to
the gods. The winning athlete received only a wreath of wild olive at Olympia,
but at home he enjoyed the gifts and veneration of his fellow-citizens. Poets
celebrated his victories in noble odes. Sculptors reproduced his triumphs in
stone and bronze. To the end of his days he remained a distinguished man.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE GAMES
There were few Greeks who at least once in their lives did
not attend the festival. The crowds that gathered before and after the games
turned the camp into a great fair, at which merchants set up their shops and
money changers their tables. Poets recited their lines before admiring
audiences and artists exhibited their masterpieces to intending purchasers.
Heralds read treaties recently formed between Greek cities, in order to have
them widely known. Orators addressed the multitude on subjects of general
interest. The games thus helped to preserve a sense of fellowship among Greek