P073The pentathlon was introduced at Olympia in 708 BC, in the same year as wrestling. It combined the following events: discus-throwing, the long jump, javelin-throwing, running (probably the stadion) and wrestling. The five events were held in the course of one afternoon. The Greeks admired the bodies of pentathletes, because they possessed the ideal combination of length, strength, speed and beauty. The public was, however, not very interested in this sport. In general, the prize-money for the entire pentathlon was less than for the stadion or wrestling.

Both the order of the events and the way in which the winner was decided are still debated. It is certain that the last event was wrestling. The three first events were probably discus-throwing, the long jump and javelin-throwing, which are only found in the pentathlon. Running then was the fourth event.

No text describes precisely how the winner was decided. Only one thing is certain: the ultimate victor had to win three events. Starting from this principle several solutions have been put forward, but none can be proved.

© KU Leuven, 2012