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The Olympic Games:
A Historical Record Book of Champions
(c. 160)

In this document, compiled by Pausanius (fl. c. A.D. 160) in the second century A.D., the evolution of the Olympic Games of ancient Greece is briefly described. Many scholars have concluded that the Games were an institution that provided a much needed space and time for the scattered and independent city-states of Greece to send their champions and in some fashion reaffirm their ties as Greeks. Pausanius, often referred to as the Baedeker of ancient Greece for his fabulous travel guides, here details various events in which the Greek athletes competed, ranging from running, to wrestling, to pentathlon, as well as some of the past champions.

Questions to Consider
  • What can we infer about Greek society from the types of competitions that took place during the Games?

  • Based upon this document, how widespread was the support for, and thus competition in, the Olympic Games?

From the time the Olympian games were revived continuously, prizes were first instituted for running, and CorÏbus of Elis was the victor. His statue is at Olympia and his grave is on the borders of Elis. And in the 14th Olympiad afterwards the double course was introduced, when Hypenus, a native of Pisa, won the wild olive crown, and Acanthus the second. And in the 18th Olympiad they remembered the pentathlon and the wrestling. And in the 23rd Olympiad they ordained prizes for boxing. And in the 25th Olympiad they had a race of full-grown horses. And in the 8th Olympiad late they introduced the pancratium and the riding race. The horse of Crannonian Crauxidas got in first, and the competitors for the pancratium were beaten by the Syracusan Lygdamus, who has his sepulchre at the stone quarries of Syracuse. And I don't know whether Lygdamus was really as big as the Theban Hercules, but that is the tradition at Syracuse. And the contest of the boys was not a revival of ancient usage, but the people of Elis instituted it because the idea pleased them. So prizes were instituted for running and wrestling among boys in the 37th Olympiad. And in the 41st Olympiad afterwards they invited boxing boys. And the race in heavy armor was tried in the 65th Olympiad as an exercise for war, I think; and of those who ran with their shields Damaretus of Herĉum was the victor.

The order of the games in our day is to sacrifice victims to the gods and then to contend in the pentathlon and horse-race, according to the programme established in the 77th Olympiad, for before this horses and men contended on the same day. And at that period the pancrataists did not appear till night, for they could not compete sooner, so much time being taken up by the horse-races and pentathlon.But in the 25th Olympiad afterwards nine general umpires were appointed, three for the horses, three to watch the pentathlon, and three to preside over the remaining games. And in the 2d Olympiad after this a tenth umpire was appointed. And in the 103d Olympiad, as the people of Elis had twelve tribes, a general umpire was appointed by each.

He won they say the horse-race at Olympia, when Hercules the Theban established the Olympian games. Why a crown of wild olive was given to the victor at Olympia I have shown in my account of Elis, and why of laurel at Delphi I shall show hereafter. And at the Isthmian games pine, at the Nemean games parsley, were wont to be the prize, as we know from the cases of Palĉmon and Archemorus. But most games have a crown of palm as the prize, and everywhere the palm is put into the right hand of the victor.


Source: Pausanius, 1:316, 318, in Fred Morrow Fling, ed. A Source Book of Greek History (Boston: D. C. Heath and Company, 1907), 47-48.