Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Stadium of Delphi

The Stadium of Delphi hosted the athletic contests of the Pythian religious festival. Initially in the 5th century B.C. a racing track was formed by levelling the ground. The spectators would sit on the ground. In the 2nd century A.D., under the Roman emperor Hadrian, the Stadium was ameliorated with funds of the wealthy Athenian Herodes Atticus. The marble seats and the three arched entrance, visible to this day, were added at that time. It is estimated that 17 or 18 runners could compete in a race. The distance between start and finish was one Pythian stade, equivalent to 178.35 m. 

The monumental arched entrance at the east side of the Stadium, in front of the starting point of the racetrack, is unique in Greece. The three arches were supported by four pillars; the two central pillars had niches for statues. 

The Pythian athletic contests were performed in the Stadium on the fifth day of the festivities, which lasted six to eight days. The Pan-Hellenic Pythian Games were second in importance only to the Olympic Games. The Pythian winners were awarded with a palm tree twig or a wreath of laurels. Some of the events performed in the Stadium were the dolichos (a long distance running race of 24 stades), the stadion (one-stade race), the diaulos (two-stade race), wrestling, jumping, discus throwing and javelin throwing. The athletic contests were completed with the hoplite, a race of 2-4 stades, during which the athletes ran wearing only a helmet and greaves, whilst carrying a shield. 

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