Heralds and trumpeters

The Greek contests attracted large numbers of visitors. Addressing this crowd was the task of professionals. A trumpeter asked for attention with the sound of his instrument, which was much longer than a modern trumpet. A herald with a loud voice would then speak to the public, for example to announce the start of the competitions. The most important task of the heralds was proclaiming the name, the father and the hometown of the victors during the crowning ceremony.

Originally, heralds and trumpeters had a purely organizational function, but gradually they also started competing among each other. At first these competitions were a strictly local matter, because all heralds and trumpeters were local men. When contests for heralds and trumpeters were introduced in the Olympics of 396 BC, both events were won by local men of Elis. By the end of the fourth century, however, also the other major games had added these contests to the programs and, just as in the athletic events, heralds and trumpeters from the whole Greek world traveled through Greece to participate in the different games.

It is not clear how the victor of these contests was chosen, but is was certainly not a contest about beauty. Not the herald with the most agreeable voice, but the man who could shout both louder and clearer than the others would win. Heralds and trumpeters could have a much longer career than athletes, because the sound of one’s voice was less dependent on age. One even became a tenfold periodos-victor.

© KU Leuven, 2012