The spectators

P027The games attracted a mass of spectators, who came to enjoy the atmosphere of the feast, to applaud their favourite athletes or to support the underdogs. The stadion of Olympia could contain about 45,000 spectators and that in Nemea about 40,000. These were all men, for female spectators were not allowed. Most of the spectators came from the neighbouring areas, others had made a long journey to get there. Travelling was expensive, so the spcectators were mostly rich men from the upper class.

P017The accommodation for the public was very limited. Especially in the classical period, there was barely any infrastructure for them. The few hotels were reserved for the extremely rich and also the baths were not meant for the masses. Most slept in tents and bought food at little stalls. The circumstances were everything but comfortable. A decent supply of drinking water arrived at Olympia only in 153 AD, when Herodes Atticus built an aquaduct ending in a monumental fountain.

Despite all this, the spectators came in mass and many used the opportunity to their own advantage. Merchants, fortune-tellers, jugglers and many others did good business. Also philosophers and writers, like the historian Herodotus , sought out the large audience at the games, hoping to gain fame throughout the whole Greek world. Politicians used the occasion for political propaganda.

© KU Leuven, 2012