panathenaic festival at the acropolis athletic contest

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Athletic contests included foot races, wrestling, boxing, pankration (a combination of wrestling and boxing), pentathlon (five-event contest: stade race, javelin-throw, discus throw, long jump, and wrestling), four-horse chariot and two-horse chariot races, horseback race, javelin-throw from horseback, apobat�s race, pyrrhic dancing,3 euandria (physical fitness or beauty contest), torch relay race (about which more later), and boat race. All these events, except for the torch and boat races, were held in each of three age categories: boys (12-16), ageneios (16-20), and men (20+) and took place in the Agora until 330 B.C. when a stadium was built in the outskirts of Athens.

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Boat races were not typically part of Greek athletic festivals, but they may have found a place in the Panathenaic festival because of Athena’s connection with boat-building (cf. her participation in the building of the Argo). Pyrrhic dancing, physical fitness, torch relay race, and boat races were tribal competitions restricted to Athenian citizens, whereas even non-Athenians took part in the track and field and equestrian events. Except for the four last-named contests,4 the prizes (for first and second place only) were varying numbers of amphoras filled with olive oil. The olive tree and its fruit were sacred to Athena and the oil was a very valuable commodity in the ancient world. It could be used like butter for cooking, as soap, and as fuel in lamps. The winning athletes normally sold their prize oil for cash. Besides the everyday usefulness mentioned above, olive oil was in great demand by administrators of the numerous athletic festivals throughout the Greek world. Athletes rubbed themselves with olive oil before competition and scraped it off afterwards with a metal device called a stlengis.

As an indication of value, in the fourth century B.C. the prize for the victor in the stade race (a 600 ft. long foot race) in the men’s category was 100 amphoras of olive

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