The games for Hera at Argos

In the middle of the region Argolis, in the north-eastern Peloponnesos, there was an important sanctuary of Hera. From about 460 BC, the city Argos had the supremacy in Argolis and ruled the sanctuary. From that time onwards inscriptions on bronze prize-vases and some victory odes of Pindar inform us that games for Hera were held here.

In the fourth and early third century, these games were called the Hekatomboia (‘celebration with a sacrifice of 100 cows’). The program consisted of athletic, musical and equestrian events. The games attracted participants from all over Greece.

In the middle of the third century BC, a stadion was built in Argos itself. The Nemean games and the games for Hera, now called Heraia, both moved from their respective rural sanctuaries to Argos. This had practical implications for the organization: both games had the same hellanodikai and the same ambassadors. The Heraia were held every four years, in mid-June - early July, shortly before the Nemean games of the year following the Olympic games.

In the first century AD, the games in honour of Hera again received a new name: ‘the shield of Argos’. A bronze shield was the usual prize at these games since the fourth century BC, because making shields was an Argive specialty. In the first or second century AD, the games for Hera and the Nemean games of the same year were moved to the winter, since the summer had become too busy a season for the athletes because of the many new games.

© KU Leuven, 2012