Specimen sources

There are unpleasant and difficult things in life. But don't they happen at Olympia? Don't you suffer from the heat? Aren't you cramped for space? Don't you bathe badly? Don't you get soaked whenever it rains? Don't you get your fill of noise and shouting and other annoyances? But I suspect that you compare all this to the value of the show and endure it.

(Epictetus 1.6.23-28, tr. by S.G. Miller)

Those citizens who have won the athletic competitions at Olympia or Delphi or Isthmia or Nemea shall have a free meal everyday for the rest of their lives in the prytaneion and other honours as well.

(IG I2 77, ca. 440-432 BC)

Kyniska, who won in the horse race [...] set up her statue (396 BC). I stand witness that she is the only woman in Greece who won this crown.

(IvO 160, from inscription found in Olympia)

Publius Cornelius Ariston, son of Eirenaios, of Ephesos, victor in the boy's pankration at the 207th Olympiad (AD 49), to Olympian Zeus [...] Eirenaios is my father, stranger, and my name is Ariston; both sides of my family come from Ionic Ephesos. I was crowned anephedros at Olympia in the boy's pankration, having dusted off three opponents.

(IvO 225, from inscription on a statue base of an Olympic victor found in Olympia)

[...] and he [my father] sent me to Troy and straitly charged me ever to be bravest and pre-eminent above all, and not bring shame upon the race of my fathers [...]

(Homer, The Iliad 6.207-211, Perseus Digital Library)

Anacharsis: What are these prizes for which you compete? Solon: A crown of olive at Olympia, acrown of pine at Isthmia, a crown of wild celery at Nemea, the laurel-berries sacred to Apollo at Delphi, and the oil of the olive at the Panathenaia.

(Lucian, Anacharsis 9-14, tr. by S.G. Miller)

They say that no woman has ever been caught except Kallipateira [...] She had been widowed and, disguished like a male trainer, she took her son to Olympia to compete. When her son Peisidoros won, Kallipateira jumped over the fence with which the trainers were restrained and inadvertently exposed herself. She was thus discovered to be a woman, but they released her unpunished out of respect for her father, her brothers, and her son, all of whom had been victors at Olympia.

(Pausanias, Description of Greece V.6.7-8, tr. by S.G. Miller)

Heracles, being the eldest, matched his brothers, as a game, in a running-race, and crowned the winner with a branch of wild olive [...]. Heracles of Ida, therefore, has the reputation of being the first to have held, on the occasion I mentioned, the games, and to have called them Olympic. So he established the custom of holding them every fifth year, because he and his brothers were five in number.

(Pausanias, Description of Greece V.7.7-9, tr. by S.G. Miller)

Water is best, and gold, like a blazing fire in the night, stands out supreme of all lordly wealth. But if, my heart, you wish to sing of contests, [5] look no further for any star warmer than the sun, shining by day through the lonely sky, and let us not proclaim any contest greater than Olympia.

(Pindar, Olympian Ode 1. 1, for Hieron of Syracuse, Single Horse Race, 476 BC, Perseus Digital Library)

As when someone takes a goblet, all golden, the most prized of his possessions, foaming with the dew of the vine from a generous hand, and makes a gift of it to his young son-in-law, welcoming him with a toast from one home to another, honoring the grace of the symposium and the new marriage-bond, and thereby, in the presence of his friends, makes him enviable for his harmonious marriage-bed;
I too, sending to victorious men poured nectar, the gift of the Muses, the sweet fruit of my mind, I try to win the gods' favor [10] for those men who were victors at Olympia and at Pythia. That man is prosperous, who is encompassed by good reports.

(Pindar, Olympian Ode 7.1-11, for the boxer Diagoras of Rhodes, 464 BC, Perseus Digital Library)

When the Olympic festival is approaching, the Eleans train the athletes for thirty days in Elis itself [...] the Eleans say to the athletes: "If you have worked so as to be worthy of going to Olympia, if you have done nothing indolent nor ignoble, then take heart and march on; but those who have not so trained may leave and go wherever they like."

(Philostratos, Life of Apollonius 5.43, tr. by S.G. Miller)

Now you have come to the Olympic Games and to the best of the contests at Olympia. This is the pankration for men. Arrhachion is being crown although he dies at the moment of his victory [...] They [the audience] are jumping up from their seats and shouting, some waving their hands, some leaping from the ground, and others are slapping one another on the back.

(Philostratos, Pictures in a Gallery 2.6, tr. by S.G. Miller)


Short description of the monuments at ancient Olympia

3D reconstructions:
Some of the most important buildings in ancient Olympia rendered in three-dimensions.

3D reconstruction of the Temple of Zeus in ancient Olympia.

Other games:
Short reference on other famous contests in ancient Greece

In the first person:
Young Ariston shares his experience in the Olympic Games

Olympic victors:
Database of the ancient Olympic victors based on each athletic event and each Olympiad

Specimen sources