The program of the Olympic games

P023The Olympic games were held in mid summer, late July or early August. By then, the athletes had already been present in nearby Elis for a month to prepare themselves. The ambassadors who announced the games and the sacred truce all over the Greek world, had already left in the spring. During the more than thousand years in which the games were held at Olympia, there were several changes in the program. In the first centuries, the games lasted only one or two days. Because more and more events were added, these days became always fuller. For this reason, a program of five days was fixed in 468 BC.

- day 1: Olympic oath of the athletes and of the hellanodikai before the statue of Zeus in the council house
- day 2: horse races and pentathlon
- day 3: rites for the hero Pelops, procession of all participants, the hellanodikai and the ambassadors of the different cities and a sacrifice of a hundred cows to Zeus
P099- day 4: running and combat sports
- day 5: banquet for the victors in the house of magistrates

Musical events, which figure in many other games, were never added to the games, except for the contests for heralds and trumpeters. In the Hellenistic period, the games for the boys were moved from day four to day three. In the Roman period, the games were spread over six days. The contests of day two were divided over two days: one for the pentathlon and one for the horse races.

© KU Leuven, 2012