Race in armour

P063The race in armour is first attested as an Olympic event in 520 BC. Though the race was added to the Olympic program rather late, it refers to the time that sports competition still served battle training.

The runners ran the distance of the diaulos with a helmet on their head, greaves on their legs and a shield in their hands. Except for the armour they were naked. The greaves were already abolished in the fifth century BC, the helmets after the fourth.

According to Pausanias, the 25 shields which were given to the participants during the games were kept in the temple of Zeus at Olympia.

In the course of time the race in armour seems to have lost its popularity. From inscriptions, we know barely any specialists of this event. Eventually the race was adapted to modern taste. Depictions from the second century AD onwards show that at that time the race in armour was combined with the torch-race into one event at the end of the games.


© KU Leuven, 2012