I greatly enjoy watching the Olympics. I enjoy watching sport in general, but this is a competition which started in Greece, by the people who worshipped the same Gods as I do, people whose lives I'm trying to reconstruct. Watching the Olympics is religious for me. Did you know all of this about the Olympics?

An artist's impression of Altis, the sanctuary in Olympia
  1. The Olympic Games were held every four years, like they are now, from 776 B.C. to A.D. 394. They were, however, part of a cycle of sports events, known as the Panhellenic Games. The Olympic Games were dedicated to Zeus, were held in Olympia, Elis, and were held every four years. The Pythian Games were dedicated to Apollon, were held in Delphi and were held every four years, starting three years after the Olympic Games. The Nemean Games were dedicated to Zeus also, were held in Nemea, Corinthia, and were held every two years. Lastly, the Isthmian Games were dedicated to Poseidon, were held in Corinth, and were also held every two years.
  2. The most important events at the Olympic Games weren't the sport events; they were the sacrifices, offerings and other dedicatory practices which were continually performed during the five day event. There were also artistic happenings; writers, sculptures and painters showed what they could do in their given trade. Palmistry was practiced, wine flowed freely and there were a lot of prostitutes, who made more money in these five days than in the whole of a year without the sporting event. The Olympics were a festival unlike any other and every four years Hellas went nuts for it.
  3. The opening ceremony was as spectacular as it is today, but in an entirely different manner; athletes filed into the arena and were presented to the audience. Then, they were presented to a towering statue of Zeus, who carried a thunderbolt and a heft scowl. They swore on a bloody slice of boar's meat that they would obey the rules of the competition and not cheat to gain victory.
  4. The torch relay I take great joy in, was not practiced in Ancient Greece. In fact, it was introduced in 1936 by Hitler in response to an idea by Carl Diem to further the reign of the Nazi's and, in their eyes, glorify the Aryan super race, the Spartans. 
  5. Not everyone was allowed to participate in the games; non-Hellenics and women were unable to compete. There were exceptions made for non-Hellenics, like Roman Emperor Nero, when the situation called for it, but women were never allowed to compete. Married women weren't even allowed to enter the arena. There was, however, a secondary series of sporting events held in honor of Hera where women competed.
  6. The Olympic sport events back then were: chariot racing, wrestling, boxing, pankration, foot races, and the pentathlon which consisted of wrestling, stadion, long jump, javelin throw, and discus throw. Pankration was a fighting sport in which everything went. It was a kind of mixed martial-arts event in which broken bones were the norm, choke holds were encouraged and the only thing that you really couldn't do was gauge someone's eyes out. Everything else went. You won when the other guy went K.O.
  7. Except the chariot races, all Olympic sports were performed naked. This included the Pankration, so you can imagine where most of the pain was inflicted. The woman weren't completely naked, but participated with one breast exposed, in honor of the Amazonian women who were said to be so incredible at sports and warfare alike. 
  8. Over 40.000 people came to watch the Games. Olympia was in the middle of nowhere. If you came from Athens, it meant a 340 kilometer (210 mile) long walk just to get to Altis. Because of the festival and the presence of the Gods, all these people traveled the distance anyway.
  9. The end of the Olympic Games is guestimated to 394 A.D. after a decree to cease all pagan festivals by Christian emperor Theodosius I.
  10. Winners of the Olympic Games got rather minor rewards; Olympic winners received a garland of olives, Pythian winners received a laurel wreath, Nemean winners received a wild celery garland and the Isthmian winner received a pine garland. There was no runner-up; you won or you lost. All athletes were bathed in fame and glory until they lost, but the winner was brought home to his polis a king. He would never have to work again, was covered in riches and women, and his name and family name would be forever remembered and honored.
New archaeological finds unearthed from the excavations for the Thessaloniki Metro include a headless statue of Aphrodite and floor mosaics from the 4th century AD.


The Aphrodite statue was found on the site of Hagia Sophia station, near a fountain complex discovered only a few weeks ago. Chairman of Attiko Metro SA, Yiannis Mylopoulos, posted the picture of the headless statue on Facebook. As he pointed out, this is the latest find among the 300,000 antiquities that came to light during the archaeological excavations in Thessaloniki.
Earlier, well-preserved mosaic floors from the 4th century were brought to light. The mosaics, which are of great aesthetic value, were also found at the southern entrance of the Hagia Sophia station, according to Voria.gr website.


Archaeologists believe the multicolored mosaics belong to either a large public building complex or urban villas of the 4th century AD. The mosaics are in good condition and they are typical geometric decorations, believed to have adorned the floor of the west portico gallery. From the saved floor, a medal with a woman’s figure stands out. She is in a seated position but her face is destroyed; the face of a small child can be seen too, the Voria.gr report says.

Apart from the floors, wall ruins and part of a bath that was in the complex have been saved. From the excavations that are still in progress, it turns out there was also a tank that supplied the bath with water. Glass fragments at the site likely belong to bottles with aromatic oils used by the bathers.
It is estimated that the complex was built in the 4th century and was used until the 5th century. Then it was wrecked and the marble-lined square was built on top.

The Attiko Metro chairman told Voria.gr the finds do not change the timetable of the project. “The findings will be evaluated by a special committee of the Ministry of Culture, in which we also participate to find the best way to exhibit them,” he said. Mylopoulos reiterated that for the Attiko Metro administration, the antiquities are not treated like obstacles that hinder the project but as part of this great work.
One of Hellenismos' most important festivals is the Anthesteria. It is held in honour of Dionysos Limnaios; of wine, and the dead. Elaion will hold a PAT ritual for the festival on 27 February, 28 February and 1 March at 10 am EST. Will you join us?


The Anthesteria was held annually for three days, the eleventh to thirteenth of the month of Anthesterion. It is an ancestral festival, the oldest of the festivals for Dionysos in Athens, a time of reflection and trust in the new growing season to come, a time to celebrate with the spirits of the departed the indefatigable resurgence of life. The festival centered around the celebration of the maturing of the wine stored at the previous vintage, whose pithoi were now ceremoniously opened, and the beginning of spring. The three days of the feast were called Pithoigia (after πίθοι 'storage jars'), Khoes (χοαί 'libations') and Khytroi (χύτροι 'pots').

On the first day, the pithoi were brought to the city of Athens and opened in the temple of Dionysos. Everyone from age three and up wore garlands of new flowers, and many were present when the pithoi of new wine were opened, and a libations was offered to Dionysos before drinking of it. It was a truly celebratory day.

On the second day, all temples were closed, except the temple of Dionysos. Social order broke down on this day--as slaves were permitted to celebrate alongside everyone else--and there was a drinking contest in the afternoon where three liters of wine were drunk in complete silence, from khoes. Whomever finished first, won. At the end of the day, the garlands that had been worn were wound around their khoes which they then took to the priestess in charge of the sanctuary at the Limnaios (the marsh) to be dedicated. The wife of the Archōn Basileus--the Archon in charge of religious and artistic festivals--the Basilinna might have taken part in a sacred marriage with Dionysos, either with her husband acting as a conduit for Dionysos, or one of His priests. Geriai, priestesses or followers of Dionysos, might have assisted in this ritual, or would have held their own cult rituals on this day. Young women swung in trees and decorated them to commemorate the death of Erigone, as chronicled below.

On day three, everyone joined in a procession to the temple of Dionysos. It was a somber day consisting of the preparation of a mixture of a panspermia, grains and beans boiled together (a good recipe can be found here), along with honey which was offered to Hermes Khthonios on behalf of the spirits of the dead, especially those who died in Deukalion’s flood. The slaves, as well as the dead, were then told to go home, as 'the Anthesteria had ended'.

The origins of the Anthesteria are based in myth. After the battle of Troy, King Agamemnon returns home to his wife Klytaemnestra (Κλυταιμνήστρα). When Agamemnon returns, playwright Aeschylus in his Oresteia, writes Klytaemnestra as not having been faithful to her husband. She has taken as her new lover and husband Aegisthos (Αἴγισθος), cousin of Agamemnon, and when Agamemnon and his young slave come home, Klytaemnestra kills them both. Orestes (Ὀρέστης), son of Agamemnon and Klytaemnestra ends up killing Aegisthos, as well as his mother for her crime, under orders of Apollon. Yet, the matricide is a terrible offense in the eyes of the Theoi, and the Erinyes--Khthonic deities of vengeance--are sent to kill Orestes. They chased him relentlessly and upon reaching Delphi he is told by Apollon that he should go to Athens to seek Athena's aid.

Phanodemus (Athenaeus 10.437c-d) describes what happens to Orestes next, as it is this practice that was reenacted again and again, during the second day of the Anthesteria:

“When Orestes arrived at Athens after killing his mother, Demophon [king of Athens] wanted to receive him, but was not willing to let him approach the sacred rites [to Dionysos] nor share the libations, since he had not yet been put on trial [and had not yet been cleansed of miasma]. So he ordered the sacred things to be locked up and a separate pitcher of wine to be set beside each person [instead of sharing a drinking vessel as usual], saying that a flat cake would be given as a prize to the one who drained his first. He also ordered them, when they had stopped drinking, not to put the wreathes with which they were crowned on the sacred objects, because they had been under the same roof with Orestes. Rather each one was to twine them around his own pitcher and take the wreathes to the priestess at the precinct in Limnai, and then to perform the rest of the sacrifices in the sanctuary.”

As mentioned, Orestes arrives at Athens during an existing festival to Dionysos. It is posed that this festival was the Aiora, a festival instituted to commemorate the death of Erigone, her father, and their dog Maera. The story goes that Ikários (Ἰκάριος) was such a fine winemaker that he could produce wine so strong, those who drank it appeared to be poisoned. His skill turned out to be his undoing; Íkaros was killed by those who drank his wine, thinking the wine maker was out to kill them. His daughter Erigone was taken to his body by the family hound, Maera, whereupon both she and the dog committed suicide by hanging. It may have been that Dionysos was so angry over the murder and the following suicides, He punished Athens by making all of the city's maidens (or only the daughters of those who had killed Ikários) commit suicide in the same way. The citizens of Athens turned to the oracle of Delphi to stop these suicides, and the oracle told them to burry the three with honors, and appease their spirits. The Athenians buried the bodies with full honors, and a festival was founded where young Athenian women swung in swings, and hung ribbons, cups, and dolls in trees.

The Anthesteria might sound like a confusing festival, and it was, in a way. The three days were almost completely separate events, but have a few things in common. It's a fertility festival, but birth is linked to death. All life is linked to death, after all, and both birth and death were miasmic events. After the rough winter, everything was dead: the soil, the remaining food stores, people... miasma tainted everything. So, as new life began from the ashes of the old, Dionysos was invoked and sacrificed to, to cleanse the old, to remove the miasma resting upon the earth and the people. It is not odd to find mythology connected to this festival which is so strongly linked to miasma, birth and death.

How does a modern Hellenist celebrate the Anthesteria? The first day should focus upon the fertility aspects of the festival: the coming abundance of flowers, wine, and fruit now the spring is almost upon us. Day two began at night, and was filled with... well... sex. People were intoxicated, enthusiastic about the upcoming spring and the end of winter, and they tended to find each other in the dark of night. I would suggest starting there for day two, if you have the option.

On this second day, I cover all other shrines I have in the house but the one on which I will honor Dionysos, to prevent them from becoming tainted with miasma. This is optional, of course. Do think about Orestes, and what he was forced to do--fail either his father by not punishing his killer, or fail his mother by killing her, and dooming himself, regardless--and think about hard decisions you have had to make, and ask forgiveness for them. If you are of legal age and have the opportunity to do so, empty a glass of wine, and feel it swirl in your stomach, as restless as the spirits of the mythic dead who will come up from the Underworld tomorrow. Swing on a swing, as high as you can, and revel in the feeling. Decorate trees with knick-knacks. If you made yourself a garland, take it outside, preferably somewhere wet, and beg that Dionysos accept it and cleanse you of the pollution you carry within you. Again, this night is perfect for making love, especially in honor of Dionysos.
Keep your shrines covered for the third day if you chose to do this, as miasma has not yet been lifted, and the dead roam the earth freely. Give honors to family members and others who were close to you, who have died. Speak with them and try to find closure. Make them a meal; a panspermia is best, but eggs, leeks and garlic also work well. There are different stories surrounding the eating of the panspermia yourself. Some say no one was to eat from it, but Walter Burkert in 'Greek Religion' notes:

"On the 13th Anthesterion, the day of the Pots, grains of all kinds are boiled together in a pot along with honey. This is the most primitive cereal dish of the early farmers, older than the discovery of flour-milling and bread-baking; in funeral customs it has survived down to the present day. But the idea of food for the dead, conjoined to an abridged version of an ancient source, has lead to the mistaken view that the living were actually prohibited from eating from the Pots. According to the full text, it is only the priests who are barred from eating this food, in accordance with the fact that all sanctuaries are closed on the Choes day. The meal of pottage is linked to the myth of the flood: once the water had subsided, the survivors threw everything they could find into a pot and cooked it as their first meal after the cataclysm, an occasion for summoning up new courage and yet in memory of the dead. One sacrifices to the chthonic Hermes for the sake of the dead and eats from the Pots in the certainty of life regained. The day of defilement is over, the masks and the dead lose their rights: 'Out you Keres, the Anthesteria are over' became a proverbial saying."

Yet, Harrison in 'Themis: A Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion' has the following to say:
"The panspermia has not, I think, been rightly understood. In commenting on it before, misled by the gift-theory of sacrifice, I took it to be merely a 'supper for the souls.' No doubt as such it was in later days regarded when primitive magical rites had to be explained on Olympian principles. But it was, to begin with, much more. The ghosts had other work to do than to eat their supper and go. They took that 'supper', that panspermia, with them down to the world below and brought it back in the autumn a pankarpia. The dead are Chthonioi, 'earth people', Demetreioi, 'Demeter's people,' and they do Demeter's work, her work and that of Kore the Maiden, with her Kathodos and Anodos."

Where you stand, you must decide for yourself. Personally, I will not taste of the panspermia. Like with the Deipnon, however, setting outside the meal will lift the miasma from your person and the house, so afterwards, you can uncover your shrines again if you covered them in the first place.

The Anthesteria is a festival of deep, emotional, involvement, and it is best celebrated by emerging yourself as completely as you can. As with any rites to Dionysos, transformation within yourself is almost always a consequence. The Anthesteria is a heavy festival, but filled with joy, regardless, because you are working towards spring. Burdens will be lifted from you. Rejoice with us and you will get through these festivals just fine. You can find the rituals here and join the community here. Enjoy!

It can't have escaped your notice that we have more children to mourn. I won't go into the politics of it, or put up another rant about gun control (but dear Gods, do I want to!). There is a group of high schoolers doing a very good and loud job at that. I am also not going to put up prayers and wishes. The time for prayers and wishes has long past. Did you know that in the US, six times as many children have died from gunshots since 9/11 than we lost adults on that day? Let that sink in.

I am going to leave you with this powerful quote that shows that children were victims long before the US even existed as a nation, but only to illustrate that we have left many practices in the past and this should definitely be one of them.

“And there in Mycalessus was a great disturbance and every kind of ruin took root. [The Thracians] even attacked a school for children which was the largest in the region, when the children had just entered, and they cut down all of them. No greater suffering affected the whole state than this; it was terrible and unexpected more than any other.” [Thucydides 7.29-30]

My book came out yesterday (yay!) and I am tied up with everything around that event. As such, I'll leave you with a video today that I think you might find interesting. It's a video taken at "A Futuristic Look Through Ancient Lenses: A Symposium on Ancient Greece." It includes over 30 lectures and discussions over various topics of the ancient Greek culture. It's about how the ancient Hellenic language shaped today, and how illiteracy influenced the ancient Hellenic world. More from me tomorrow!

I'm sorry, anything about the Parthenon Marbles is clickbait for me. I thrive on it! So, when I read that five women from Rhodes decided to join the fight for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece, well, I had to click on the article.


The women were photographed in front of the Greek exhibits at the British Museum wearing T-shirts that read “Bring them back”. They posted the photos on social media using hashtags such as #itsnotyours #bringthemback #bringthemhome #kariatides #reunitedthem #respectourhistory and managed to bring to the spotlight an issue dating decades.

Mrs. Iliana Katsanakou, Mary Philippaki, Anna Strati, Stella Hantzikonstantinou and Pigi-Sofia Moroyianni support the “Bring them back” campaign, hoping to gather more than 1.000.001 signatures to get the issue of the return of the Parthenon Marbles at the European Parliament. So far, the campaign has amassed 469.495 signatures, and the number is growing daily. Mrs. Iliana Katsanakou said during an interview at 'imokratiki":

"We have the power to mobilize the global community, by uniting our voices and spreading the message. We got emotional when we looked upon one of the most representing samples of the Greek civilization. We felt anger and indignation at the same time, because we had to ask for permission to see the Caryatid. Why, as Greeks must we find pieces from our own history abroad and have to ask for permission to see them up close? The Parthenon Marbles, along with all other Greek artifacts, speak directly to the soul of every Greek. For the rest of the visitors of the British Museum there are just artifacts. Out history belongs to us. It is high time the Parthenon Marbles returned to their home. They belong to Greece."

Mrs. Mary Pilippaki stated that this move was the least they could have done, she and her friends, in order to boost the 'Bring them back' campaign and stir the public opinion on the issue of the repatriation of the Parthenon Marbles. She also added:

"The Greek civilization dominates the British Museum. The Greek exhibits are the most impressive. You feel awe before the grandeur of our ancient Greek civilization. However, you also feel anger and indignation for the fact that they are away from home. So we wanted to support the campaign fighting for the return of the Marbles. We wore T-shirts that read 'Bring them back' and took a photo inside the Museum. I must say that the curator respected our wish to see the Caryatid and allowed us to enter the special wing, where we took our picture. We were really moved. It was the least we could do for this great cause. By uniting our powers, we can hope to gather the international attention and return the artifacts where they belong."

To participate, go online to www.bringthemback.org, sign up and leave your comment.
One thing is certain: the ancient Hellenes would have trouble recognizing the Olympics in its current carnation, not in the least because they practiced very different sports. Especially towards the end of the Games, there was great variety in sporting events, although not as much as the modern Olympics give us. Today, I want to discuss these various sports.


Harmatodromia (ἁρματοδρομία) - Harmatodromia, or chariot racing, was one of the most popular ancient Hellenic sports. In the ancient Olympic Games, as well as the other Panhellenic Games, there were both four-horse (tethrippon, τέθριππον) and two-horse (synoris, συνωρὶς) chariot races. Distances varied according to the event. The chariot racing event was first added to the Olympics in 680 BC with the games expanding from a one-day to a two-day event. We don't know when they were added to the other Panhellenic games, but probably around the same time or a little later.

Hómēros in his Iliad describes a chariot race in vivid detail:

"As one, they raised their whips, shook the reins, and urged their teams on. Swiftly the horses galloped over the plain, leaving the ships behind. A whirlwind cloud of dust rose to their chests, and their manes streamed in the wind. Now the chariots ran freely over the solid ground, now they leapt in the air, while the hearts of the charioteers beat fast as they strove for victory, and they shouted to their horses, flying along in the storm of dust. 
It was not till the galloping horses were heading back towards the grey sea that each team showed its mettle, and the charioteers forced the pace. Eumelus’ swift-footed mares shot to the front, chased by Diomedes’ stallions, hot on their heels, as if they might  mount  Eumelus’ chariot, and their heads were at his back as they flew, blowing hot breath on his neck and shoulders. Diomedes would have passed him now, or at least drawn level, if Phoebus Apollo in resentment had not struck the gleaming whip from his hand. Diomedes saw the mares run on, while his own horses slowed without the effect of the whip, and tears of anger filled his eyes. But Athene saw that Apollo had interfered, and speeding after, returned the whip and inspired the team. Then in her anger she chased down Eumelus, and shattered the yoke of his chariot, so the mares swerved from side to side and the broken pole struck the ground, while Eumelus himself was hurled to the earth beside the wheel. The skin was stripped from his elbows, nose and cheeks, his forehead bruised, while his eyes filled with tears and he was robbed of speech. 
Meanwhile Diomedes passed the wreck and drove his powerful horses on, far in the lead. Athene had strengthened his team and given him the glory. And red-haired Menelaus, the son of Atreus, ran second. But Antilochus called to his father’s team: ‘On now, show me how you can run. You’ll not catch Diomedes’ pair, for Athene grants them strength and him the glory. But chase down Menelaus’ team, don’t let them beat you, or Aethe the mare will put you to shame. Why so slow, my beauties? I’ll tell you this, if we win a lesser prize, there’ll be no sweet fodder at Nestor’s hands, he’ll slit your throats with his keen blade. So on, as fast as you can, and I’ll contrive to pass them where the course narrows: that’s my chance.’
With this the horses, responding to his threat, speeded up for a while, and soon the steadfast Antilochus saw a narrow place in the sunken road ahead, where a stream swollen by winter rain had eroded the track and hollowed out the course. Menelaus drove on assuming no one could overtake, but Antilochus veered alongside, almost off the track. Then Menelaus called to him, in alarm: ‘Rein in Antilochus, that’s recklessness! The track’s wider further on. Pass there if you can, mind my chariot, don’t wreck us both!’
He shouted loud enough, but Antilochus, pretending not to hear, plied his whip and drove the more wildly. They ran side by side a discus length, as far as a young athlete testing his strength can hurl it from the shoulder, then Menelaus held back, and his pair gave way, fearing the teams might collide and overturn the light chariots, hurling their masters in the dust, for all their eagerness to win. Red-haired Menelaus stormed at Antilochus: ‘You’re a pest Antilochus, we Achaeans credited you with more sense. All the same, you’ll not win a prize, when I force you to answer on oath to this.’ 
With that he addressed his team: ‘Don’t flag, and don’t lose heart. Their legs will weaken sooner than yours, they’re carrying more years.’ And his pair, responding to his call, increased their speed and closed on the pair in front.
[...] Diomedes soon arrived, whipping the high-stepping horses hard, as they sped towards the goal. Showers of dust clung to him, and the wheel rims hardly left a trace on the powdery ground, as the swift-footed pair flew onwards pulling the chariot, decorated with gold and tin. He drew to a halt in the centre of the ring, sweat pouring to the ground from his horses’ chests and necks. He himself leapt to the ground from his gleaming chariot, and leant the long whip against the shaft. Nor did his squire Sthenelus lose a moment in claiming the prize, but eagerly his joyful friends led away the women and carried off the eared tripod, while he un-harnessed the horses." [Bk XXIII:362]

Pále (πάλη) - This event was similar to the modern wrestling sport--with three successful throws necessary to win a match. It was the most popular organized sport in Ancient Hellas and was the first competition to be added to the Olympic Games that was not a footrace. It was added in 700 BC. An athlete needed to throw his opponent on the ground, landing on a hip, shoulder, or back for a fair fall. Biting and genital holds were illegal.

Pankration (παγκράτιον) - This rough contact sport was a combination of boxing and wrestling. Biting and gouging an opponent's eyes, nose, or mouth with fingernails was not allowed, but everything else was allowed. Deaths happened. Unlike at the boxing competitions, the fighters did not wrap their hands, so it was a bare knuckle fight.Like the other combat sports, a fighter could surrender or fight until knock out. Pankration was not a free-for-all, though; fighters were in excellent form, and there were a large variety of fighting stances and techniques. In fact, many of these are still known, or have been reconstructed and especially in modern Greece, pankration is a sport you can take part in today.

Pentathlon (πένταθλον) - A pentathlon incruded a combination of five separate disciplines: discus, javelin, jump, running, and wrestling. The event was first held at the 18th Ancient Olympiad, around 708 BC. The discus throw was similar to the modern event, with the implement made from stone, iron, bronze, or lead. The javelin event was also similar to the modern event, although the javelin was made of wood and had a thong for attaching the thrower's fingers. Unlike in the modern jumping events, the participants held onto lead or stone jump weights (called halteres (ἁλτῆρες)) which were thrown backwards during the jump to propel them forward and increase the length of their jump. Halteres were made of stone or metal, and weighed between 12 and 35 kg (26 and 77 lb).

The running event was called the 'stadion' (στάδιον), and was a a 200-yard (about 180-metre) sprint. From the years 776 to 724 BC, the stadion was the only event that took place at the Olympic Games and the victor gave his name to the entire four-year Olympiad. This allows scholars to know the names of nearly every ancient Olympic stadion winner. For a description of the wrestling matches, see 'Pále' above.

Pygmachia (Πυγμαχία, 'fist fighting') - Pygmachia, or boxing, was a brutal sport, and had few rules. There were no rounds, and if an opponent was down, he was fair game. Also, the fighters were chosen by lot, and there were no weight categories: if luck was not at your side, you could end up facing a much heavier opponent. Winners were declared by K.O. of the other fighter, or if the other fighter surrendered. Instead of gloves, ancient boxers wrapped leather thongs called 'himantes' around their hands and wrists which left their fingers free. These were thongs of ox hide approximately 3 to 3.7 meters long that were wrapped around the hands and knuckles for protection and extra punch. Somewhere prior to 400 BC, 'oxys' were introduced to boxing. They consisted of several thick leather bands encircling the hand, wrist, and forearm. A sweatband wrapped around the arm was also added. Around 400 BC 'sphairai' were introduced, which were essentially himantes, but they contained a padded interior and the exterior of the thong was more rigid and hard. The Boxer of Quirinal (depicted left) dated to about 300–200 BC shows these straps.

We actually have a very good description about how these boxing matches would have gone: Hómēros in his Iliad describes the boxing match between Epeius and Euryalus:

"Godlike Euryalus alone stood up to fight him, the son of King Mecisteus, Talaus’ son, who at the funeral games for Oedipus, in Thebes, defeated every Cadmeian opponent. Diomedes, the spearman, eager to see him win, helped Euryalus to prepare, and gave him encouragement. He buckled on his belt, and bound the ox-hide thongs carefully on his hands. When the two contestants were ready, they stepped to the centre of the arena, and raising their mighty arms, set to. Each landed heavy blows with their fists, and they ground their teeth, as the sweat poured over their limbs. Euryalus sought an opening, but noble Epeius swung and struck his jaw, and he went straight down, his legs collapsing under him. Like a fish that leaps in the weed-strewn shallows, under a ripple stirred by the North Wind, then falls back into the dark wave, so Euryalus leapt when he was struck, but the big-hearted Epeius, lifted him and set him on his feet, and all his friends crowded round, and supported him from the ring his feet trailing, his head lolling, as he spat out clots of blood. He was still confused when they sat him down in his corner, and had to fetch the cup, his [second] prize, themselves." [Bk XXIII:651]

Riding - Riding--like the chariot races--were for the wealthy. The winners were not the riders themselves, but the owners of the horse. As such, there were actually women who won equestrian events. In the Olympic riding events, held over 6 laps around the track (about 4.5 miles), the jockeys rode bareback. There were separate races for adult horses and foals.

Running - The Olympic Games originally contained one event: the stadion (or "stade") race, a short sprint the length of the stadium. Runners had to pass five stakes that divided the lanes: one stake at the start, another at the finish, and three stakes in between.

The Diaulos (Δίαυλος), or two-stade race, was introduced in 724 BC, during the 14th Olympic games. The race was a single lap of the stadium, approximately 400 metres (1,300 ft), a turn around a post (either an individual one, or a single one) and then the return journey.

A third foot race, the Dolichos (Δόλιχος), was introduced in 720 BC. The length of the race was somewhere between 18–24 laps, or about three miles (5 km). At Olymia, the race started and ended at the stadium, but then wound its way throughout the grounds, passing by important shrines and statues, including the Nike statue by the temple of Zeus. This race was closest to our modern marathon.

The last running event added to the Olympic program was the Hoplitodromos (Ὁπλιτόδρομος), or 'Hoplite race', introduced in 520 BC and traditionally run as the last race of the Olympic Games. The runners would run either a single or double diaulos (see above) in full or partial armour, carrying a shield and additionally equipped either with greaves or a helmet. The armor was a huge hindrance for the otherwise bare runners, as an armor avaraged out between 50 and 60 lb (27 kg). Although many events on the Games were throwbacks to war, the hoplitodromos emulated the speed and stamina needed for warfare. As depicted to the side, runners sometimes dropped their shields because of the weight, and runners would have to jump over it to keep from falling.

From Hómēros, we again have a description:

"Swift Ajax the Lesser, and Odysseus, the cunning, stepped forward, with the fastest of the young men, Antilochus, Nestor’s son. They took their places at the start, and Achilles pointed out the turning post. Off they ran, and  Ajax, son of Oïleus, hit the front, with noble Odysseus at his heels, as close as a woman weaving holds the shuttle to her chest, as she draws it along skilfully passing its spool through the warp. He trod in Ajax’s footsteps before the dust had settled, and his breath beat on Ajax’s neck as they ran swiftly on. The Greeks shouted for Odysseus as he strained for victory, urging him on to the utmost. As they were nearing the finish, Odysseus prayed urgently in his heart to bright-eyed Athene: ‘Goddess, hear me, help me if you will and quicken my legs.’ He prayed and Athene heard, making his limbs seem lighter, and just as they reached the line, Pallas Athene made Ajax slip on a patch of offal from the sacrifice of bellowing bulls that fleet-footed Achilles had made in honour of Patroclus. He fell and his mouth and nostrils were filled with offal, while Odysseus came in first, and claimed the silver bowl, leaving the ox for noble Ajax. He stood there, spitting out the offal, grasping the ox’s horn, and complained to the Argives: ‘There, did you see how the goddess made me slip, she who’s always at Odysseus side, helping him!'" [Bk XXIII:740]