Rewards at the home town

P079When an athlete won at the games, his home town shared his glory. The city was proclaimed with the name of the athlete and upon his return the winner dedicated his victory crown in the temple of his home town. Athletes who had won at the games of the periodos or at other crown-games were also rewarded upon return in their home town. At these games, victors were usually not awarded a material prize by the organizing city, but the rewards of the hometown were at least as valuable.

The cities granted their successful athletes a financial reward. In Athens, for example, already in the sixth century BC Solon offered 500 drachmas for victors of the Olympic games and 100 drachmas for those of the Isthmian games. On top of that the athletes received free meals for the rest of their lives in the city hall. P148In many places, for example Egypt, the athletes also obtained exemption from taxes. From the second century AD onwards the once-only awards in money were converted into life-long pensions.

Not all rewards offered material benefits, though, some simply offered honour: e.g. special front seats at the theater, or a festive and ceremonial entrance in the city. Some extraordinary athletes were furthermore honoured with statues, poetry or inscriptions. Some used their popularity to start a career in politics.

The rewards made it possible for poorer athletes to make a career in sports. Until the third century AD, the rewards and the number of sacred games continuously increased. This meant a heavy financial burden for cities with many top athletes, which all enjoyed exemption from different kinds of taxes and in many cases were also entitled to pensions.

© KU Leuven, 2012