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So extensive were the preparations for this spectacle, that the intervening period of four entire years did not always suffice for the completion of the necessary arrangements. The choice, breaking in, and exercising of the horses for the different races, as well as the selection and embellishment of the cars, was a work of time; the candidates were obliged to enrol their names some months beforehand, to swear that they had been regularly exercised during ten months; and thirty days before the games it was their duty to assemble at Elis, where they were again compelled to exhibit their strength and skill every morning, under the inspection of proper officers, until the games cominenced. After this severe probation, first at home and then at Elis, they were dismissed on their departure for Olympia with the following exhortation : “If ye have exercised yourselves in a manner suitable to the dignity of the Olympic games, and are conscious of having done no action that betrays a slothful, cowardly, and illiberal disposition, proceed boldly. If not, depart, all ye that are so minded !"

The city of Olympia, known also by the name of Pisa, was situated on the right bank of the Alpheus, and at the foot of an eminence called the Mount of Saturn, at an easy distance from the Ionian Sea. Within the Altis, which was a sacred wood surrounded with walls, stood the temple of Jupiter, containing the celebrated colossal statue of that deity by Phidias, besides an infinite variety of columns, trophies, triumphal cars, and innumerable statues in brass or marble, dispersed throughout all the avenues of the sacred precinct. All of these bore inscriptions specifying the motives of their consecration, the statues being mostly those of victors in the games, whose exploits were thus recalled to the assembled citizens of Greece every four years, and handed down to the latest posterity, through successive generations of admiring spectators.

For some days previous to the festival, crowds were sern flocking to Olympia in all directions by sea and land, from every part of Greece, and even from the most distant countries, for there was no part of the earth to which the fame of the Olympic games had not penetrated, and few people who were not intensely anxious to become spectators of them. The ceremonies opened in the evening with sacrifices upon all the altars, which were adorned with festoons, the principal offerings being reserved for the grand altar of Jupiter. These were upon a scale commensurate with the general magnificence of the celebration, all the principal cities of Greece sending victims for the Olympian Jupiter ; while private individuals, especially those who had gained the honour of an Olympic victory, sometimes made very sumptuous sacrifices at their own expense. Alcibiades, after having gained three prizes in the chariot-race, feasted the whole concourse of Grecians that were gathered together to view the games with the victims offered to Jupiter, only a small part of which was consumed upon the altar. It is probable, indeed, that the vast multitudes collected upon these occasions were chiefly subsisted by the sacrifices provided by the different cities ; of one or other of which every private Grecian had a right to partake. The sacri ficial ceremonies, performed to the sound of instruments, and by the light of the moon, then near its full, were attended with every circumstance of magnificence and solemnity that could awaken admiration and inspire reverence At midnight, when they ended, most of the spectators, with an eagerness that never deserted them during the whole festival, ran instantly to secure places in the course, the better to enjoy the spectacle of the games, which were to commence at daybreak.

The Elean people, represented by judges termed Hellanodichs, had the entire direction of every thing appertaining to the festival, being invested for the occasion with plenary authority to keep in perfect order that vast assemblage, composed of men of all ranks, and of every region and colony of Greece. Clothed in purple robes, and bearing the usual ensigns of magistracy, these judges seem to have sometimes exercised a sort of papal power, not only claiming the right , to punish refractory or contumacious individuals, but to excommunicate whole nations, and cut them off from the right of participation in the festival. Lycurgus originally fixed the order of the athletic combats, which corresponded almost exactly with that described by Homer in the twentythird book of the Iliad, and eighth of the Odyssey ; but the judges had authority to modify and suspend any of them, or to add new games, according to circumstances. Never, however, did the Greeks, except for a short time at Corinth, adopt the cruel gladiatorial shows of the Romans never


did they regard them with any other feeling than that of disgust and horror ; never did the polished Athenians admit any spectacle of that sort within their walls, notwithstanding the example of their conquerors, and of some of their own degenerate countrymen; and when a citizen once thought proper to propose publicly the introduction of these games, in order, as he said, that Athens might not be inferior to Corinth, “ Let us first,” cried an Athenian, with vivacity, “ let us first overthrow the altar of Pity, which our ancestors set up more than a thousand years ago.”.


The Olympic Games.

“Sunt quos curriculo pulverem Olympicum

Collegisse juvat; metaque fervidis
Evitata rotis, palmaque nobilis
Terrarum dominos evehit ad Deos."

Horat. 1. 1.

The Olympic course was divided into two parts--the stadium, and the hippodromus; the former of which was an elevated open causeway, six hundred feet long, being appropriated to the foot-races and most of the combats; while the latter was reserved for the chariot and horse-races. Pausanias has transmitted to us an accurate description of both, particularly of the hippodromus ; but instead of a detail which would be little interesting to the general reader, we prefer copying the following animated picture of the scene exhibited at Olympia on the morning when the games were opened. “At the first dawn of day we repaired to the stadium, which was already filled with athletæ, exercising themselves in preparatory skirmishes, and surrounded by a multitude of spectators; while others in still greater numbers were stationing themselves confusedly on a hill, in form of an amphitheatre, above the

Chariots were flying over the plain; on all sides were heard the sound of trumpets and the neighing of


horses, mingled with the shouts of the multitude. But when we were able to divert our eyes for a moment from this spectacle, and to contrast with the tumultuous agitations of the public joy the repose and silence of nature, how delightful were the impressions we experienced from the serenity of the sky, the delightful coolness of the air from the Alpheus, which here forms a magnificent canal, and the fertile fields, illumed and embellished by the first rays of the sun !"*

The candidates, having undergone an examination, and proved to the satisfaction of the judges that they were freemen, that they were Grecians by birth, and that they were clear from all infamous and immoral stains, were led to the statue of Jupiter within the senate-house. This image, says Pausanias, was better calculated than any other to strike terror into wicked men, for he was represented with thunder in both hands; and, as if that were not a sufficient intimation of the wrath of the deity against those who should forswear themselves, at his feet there was a plate of brass containing terrible denunciations against the perjured. Before this statue the candidates, their relations, and instructers swore on the bleeding limbs of the victims that they were duly qualified to engage, solemnly vowing not to employ any unfair means, but to observe all the laws relating to the Olympic games. After this they returned to the stadium, and took their stations by lot, when the herald demanded"Can any one reproach these athlete with having been in bonds, or with leading an irregular life?” A profound silence generally followed this interrogatory, and the combatants became exalted in the estimation of the assembly, not only by this universal testimony to their moral character, but by the consideration that they were the free unsullied champions of the respective states to which they belonged ; not engaged in any vulgar struggle for interested or ordinary objects, but incited to competition by a noble love of fame, and a desire to uphold the renown of their native cities in the presence of assembled Greece. Such being the qualities required before they could enter the lists, it was some distinction

* Anacharsis, cap. 38.

even to have been an unsuccessful competitor, for each might truly exclaim in the words of Achelous, when defeated by Hercules,

Non tam Turpe fuit vinci quam contendisse decorum. Filled with anxiety, their friends gathered round them, stimulating their exertions, or affording them advice, until the moment arrived when the trumpet sounded. At this signal the runners started off amid the cries and clamour of the excited multitude, whose vociferations did not cease until the herald procured silence by his trumpet, and proclaimed the name and abode of the winner. The following is a translation of an epigram upon this subject in the Greek anthology, the hyperbole of which, when the poet describes the swiftness of the victor, may be compared with Virgil's upon Camilla. It must be borne in mind that Tarsus, the birthplace of the winner, was founded by Perseus, who in old fables is represented as having had wings

upon his feet.


The speed of Arias, victor in the race,
Recalls the founder of his rative place,
For, able in the course with him to vie,
Like him he seems on feather'd feet to fly.
The barrier when he quits, the dazzled sight
In vain essays to catch him in his flight.
Lost is the racer thro' the whole career,
Till victor at the goal he reappear.

The prize of the simple foot-race in the stadium, as it was the most ancient, was deemed the most honourable of any ; so much so, that the name of the victor was generally associated with the Olympiad, and quoted with it by writers and historians; a distinction which must have been more attractive than any other to a people so passionately fond of fame as the Greeks. To vary the diversions of the stadium, foot-races were afterward performed by children, by armed men, and by athletæ, who ran twelve times the length of the stadium. None of the victors were crowned till the last day of the festival, but at the end of the race they carried off a branch of palm, an emblem, says Plu.

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