The Heraean Games: Not Just For Sparta

The Heraean Games were a series of athletic competitions held from around 500 BC until 300 AD. They are considered one of the most important events in Greek history. There was no organized competition before these games, but they served as a kind of test event for future Olympic contests, which would take place at Olympia every four years during the 4th century BC.

The first contest took place in Crete between the Mycenaeans and the Minoans. The second took place in Athens between the Athenians and Lacedaemonians. These two events marked the beginning of what became known as “the Olympics.”

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History Edit

Athens won both contests, but it wasn’t until after their victories that any other city or state began organizing its own version of these games. At least three different versions of the games were held throughout Greece. The most famous of these was the one in Delphi, where the god Apollo performed his rituals and prophesied winners of various sporting events.

Another version was held in Attica, with the Isthmus Bridge being used as a stage for many athletic contests. A third version was held in Corinth, where athletes competed against each other rather than against humans or animals.

Olympia was the most famous of all the games, however, with heroes like Arion, Damaretus, and Ankaios all winning individual events.

The last Heraean Games were held in 300 AD, when a Christian Roman official put an end to such displays of “pagan” dominance.

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Contests and Venues Edit

Most events were held in open areas where people could watch the events. Other venues were closed off entirely, such as stadiums or coliseums, although other contests involved underwater swimming, gladiator fights, or chariot racing.

There was a wide range of male and female events, with most of them tailored to an individual’s strengths rather than to teams. There were no horse or chariot racing events, however, as those contests were seen as being too “barbaric” for proper citizens. The most popular events were wrestling, javelin throwing, discus throwing, and jumping.

Some of the more violent events included boxing, pankration (an early form of mixed martial arts), and gladiator fights. There were also events like boat races, but those were done in closed waterways.

The Heraean Games began in 648 BC and lasted until 300 AD.

Continental and World History Edit

Greece is an island nation located in the southern part of Europe. The mainland contains many city-states that have been warring with each other for centuries.

Ancient Greece was the birthplace of many innovations in the fields of science, literature, art, and philosophy. It is widely considered to be the foundation of Western civilization.

Greece’s main contribution to human knowledge is in the areas of:

Philosophy: Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle all called Greece home at one point or another. They all made tremendous contributions to the field of ethics and morality.

Sources & references used in this article:

A perspective of the history of women’s sport in ancient Greece by B Spears – Journal of Sport History, 1984 – JSTOR

Sparta and the Elean War, ca 401/400 bc: Revenge or Imperialism? by C Falkner – Phoenix, 1996 – JSTOR

Greek bronzes recently acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art by GMA Richter – American Journal of Archaeology, 1939 – JSTOR