The Heraia

P023Besides the Olympic Games in honour of Zeus, Olympia also organized every four years Heraia in honour of Hera. Sixteen married women took care of the organization. Like the Olympic games in their initial phase, these games had only one event: running the stadion. Only unmarried girls participated. They were divided into three age-categories. Unlike the men, the girls did not run naked. They wore a tunic of knee-length, that left their right shoulder and brest bear. They ran only 5/6 of the stadion for men. The winner received an olive crown as a prize and was allowed to put up a portrait of herself in the temple of Hera. None of these paintings is preserved, however.

P181All information about the Heraia is based on a single passage in the work of Pausanias. Because of the absence of other sources many questions remain unanswered. It is not clear whether female athletes came to the Heraia from all over the Greek world or only from the neighbourhood, although the latter is more likely. Nor it is certain when the games were held for the first time, but most historians accept an early date between the eighth and the sixth century BC.

© KU Leuven, 2012