Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Olympia The Site of the Grecian games Part.VIII

The last day of the festival was devoted to the proclamation of the winners and the distribution of the prizes. The immediate rewards were purely symbolic but the winners enjoyed immense glory. The crowd remained hushed while the name of a victor was read out, followed by the name of his father and city. He then received a crown of olive leaves, taken from a sacred olive tree which, according to tradition, had been planted by the hero Hercules himself.
 When the ceremony was over, the Olympic champions would walk in a majestic procession, accompanied by the hellanodikai and winning horses, into the Altis- a walled grove of sacred plane trees at the foot of Mount Kronos, said to have been consecrated by Hercules.
Special glory was reserved for periodonikai: competitors who were victorious not only in the Olympics but in the full cycle of Greek athletic festivals. The Pythian Games brought crowns of laurel, the Isthmian Games crowns of pine needles, and the Nemean Games crowns of parsley. These symbolic rewards brought unimaginable prestige.  Champions returning to their home state were given a thunderous reception. Some victors did not enter their native city through the gates; a breach was made in the walls to run their arrival into a glorious spectacle.
 Many victors returned year after year to the Games. Theogenes of Thasos, an unbeatable wrestler, participated in the games for 22 years in the 5th century BC, winning crown after crown.  His reputation survived his death, and he received the ultimate accolade: he was declared a descendant of Hercules. From the beginning of the 4th century BC Theogenes was worshiped as god.

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