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Ancient Olympics Prizes




Ancient Summer Games - Prizes Ancient Summer Games were a series of athletic competitions held among city-states of Olympia, Ancient Greece, from 776 BC to 393 AD. In ancient Summer Games, the participants were neither amateur nor professional. In fact, they were simply athletes, competing for prizes under two categories, "Stephanos" and "Thematikoi". The word "Athlete" can itself be understood from the root words, "Athlos" and "Athlon", which mean "Contest" and "Prize" respectively. The prizes in the ancient Summer Games can be divided into two categories, which include, material prizes, and symbolic prizes.

Material Prizes:

The 23rd Book of Homer's Iliad, an ancient Greek epic poem, provides glimpses of organized Greek athletics. It has been written that, Achilles, a Greek mythical hero, organized funeral games for his friend Patrklos, who was killed in the Trojan war. In all of the eight contested events, the winner were awarded with material Olympic game prizes such as, tripods, cauldrons, valuable metal, oxen, and women.

During the 8th, 7th, and 6th centuries BC, Athletes who won at any of the Pan-Hellenic games were assured of great wealth, as an Olympic game prize.

Roman author Plutarch wrote that, an Olympic victor who was a citizen of Athens could expect to receive a cash award of 500 drachmai as in the year 600 BC, which was literally a fortune. An Isthmian victor would receive 100 drachmai.

According to an Athenian inscription of the 5th century BC, Athenian Olympic victors were privileged to a free meal in the City Hall every day for the rest of their lives as Summer Games awards, which can be seen as a kind of early pension plan.

In the Hellenistic and Roman periods, pensions for athletes became more formalized, which could actually be bought and sold.

Symbolic Prizes:

In ancient Summer Games, the winners were awarded with wreaths made of sprigs taken from Olive, the sacred plant of the patron God. The senior Hellanodikos (judge) used to crown each of the Olympic victor in presence of the spectators. These wreaths were of immense value due to their so believed capability of bringing mystical powers to the bearer. The popular poets of the day were hired to write a victory ode, especially meant for the triumphant athlete. These poems were called " epinicians ", which through their lyrical verses, used to spread the victor's fame nationally and internationally. The poems and the athletes were remembered long after the day of victory.

Also, the Olympic victors were privileged to erect their statue in Olympia, at the holy sanctuary dedicated to the Gods. The statue would bear the name of the athlete, family member's names, and respective city. In this way, apart from winning various prizes, the champions of the Summer Games gained the stature of a hero.