Rigorous enquiries were made into each applicant’s family history, and only free men and boys of pure Greek descent were allowed to compete. The rule was waived only when Rome affirmed her supremacy Over the Greek world in the 2nd century BC; Roman citizen were then permitted to enter the Games. Women were not allowed to compete, with the exception of the chariot races, in which the owner of the winning team of horses, rather than the charioteer, was considered the victor. In this event, female owners could and did, win.
While the athletes trained, vast numbers of pilgrims took to the roads, heading for the secluded valley in which the games were held. The peace of Zeus guaranteed their safe conduct.
Many travelled on foot, sleeping under the stars. The wealthy came on horseback or the chariot. Boatloads of visitors disembarked at the mouth of the Alpheus and followed the course of the sacred river up to Olympia’s holy precincts. Acrobats, conjurers, and musicians swelled the throng. Barbarians, slaves, and young girls were admitted as spectators, but married women were excluded they were forbidden to cross the Alpheus for the duration of the Games, which lasted for five days.