Rulers as organizers of Greek games

There are many examples of rulers who acted as organizers of contests. When king Philip (359-336 BC) became the leader of the Delphic amphictyony (league), he was trusted with the organisation of the Pythian games, a great honor for a man who was denounced as a barbarian by Demosthenes.

His son Alexander the Great organised numerous Greek games for his troops during his military campaigns. The most grandiose were no doubt the funeral games for his friend Hephaistion in 323 BC, when over three thousand competed in musical and athletical competitions. A few months later, says Arrian, the same participants took part in the funeral games in honour of Alexander himself.

In 279 BC Ptolemy II organized the first Ptolemaia in Alexandria : these new games in honor of his deceased father were modeled after the Olympic games. The Ptolemaia would become a model for numerous is-olympic games all over the Greek East.

In the imperial period Roman emperors took over this role of the Greek monarchs. Augustus founded the Actian games, Nero the Neronia and Domitian the Capitolian games.

© KU Leuven, 2012