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  • Level: GCSE
  • Subject: Maths
  • Word count: 3390

Commentary on One or More Events at the Olympic Games Based on Primary Evidence

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The Olympic Games

Commentary on One or More Events at the Olympic Games Based on Primary Evidence

Myron:         Good morning and welcome to day two of the Olympic Games in Olympia held in the honour of Zeus.  I'm Myron and with me is Phayllos.  Greetings to all the listeners who have joined us at these very hot and exciting Games.  I do believe that this has probably been one of the hottest days in this lunar month, so far.  If this is the first time you have tuned into us, then you missed the swearing-in ceremony for competitors and judges before the altar and statue of Zeus.  You missed public sacrifices in the Altis, orations by well-known philosophers and recital by poets and historians and this is just to name but a few.  Remember this prestigious event is only held every four years so don't miss this one or you'll be sorry for the next four years!  You've joined me for the chariot racing, which has not started just yet so Phayllos will tell us about the legendary origin of the chariot races.  

Phayllos:    Thank you Myron, hello and welcome to all the listeners who have joined us today.  I am Phayllos and before I tell you the origin of the chariot racing, I just have to thank my hero, Herakles who is the founder of the Games.  These Olympic Games are to celebrate one of his twelve labours which was the cleaning of King Augeas' stables, which he successfully completed.  I think our listeners should have heard of the famous local hero of Olympia, Pelops.  He entered one of the first chariot races held here at Olympia.

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Myron:     For the people at home who do not know what the horse terroriser is then I will explain.  At the edge of the South Back is a circular altar, which strikes fear and panic into the horses.  There are many different beliefs about the horse-terroriser but I belief that Alkathous who wanted to marry Hippodameia was killed in a chariot race by her father Oinomaos.  As a result of this he became an evil spirit and jealous of all the riders on the track.  Although there are other horse-terroriser I think that this one here the still the most to fear.  This is why charioteers pray to Poseidon the patron god of horses to keep them safe.

Phayllos:        Well thank you Myron but whilst telling us that story the charioteers have been around the first lap and now are on near to the end of their lap.  This is really fast pace driving each man whipping his horse to go quicker.  The sounds of the whip cracking against the horse back echoes throughout the Hippodrome.  As they come up to the horse-terroriser again will everyone make it past safely?  They pass it…everyone except Diomedes he goes down, his horses seem to be startled by something.  Do you think that it was the horse-terroriser, Myron?

Myron:        Of course I do some people just say it is the sun which shines directly into the eyes of the horses and this is what startles them not the horse-terroriser itself.  How can people say this when Diomedes' horses seem in panic and fear not just seem to be startled!

Phayllos         Very true Myron.  Diomedes seems to be fine but somebody better clear the way before the rest come back around otherwise there will be more carnage.

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Sophokles, fifth century BC

Elektra 698-760


"…the HORSE SCARER.  The shape is like a circular altar, and as horses gallop past it they suffer extreme panic from no visible cause, the panic puts them into confusion, the chariots are smashed up and the drivers are injured.  There are different Greek beliefs about the Horse-scarer…Alkathous son of Porthaon…he got his ration of earth here when he was killed by Oinomaos for wanting to marry Hippodameia: and because he was unlucky on the race-course he became a malicious daemonic spirit, jealous of the riders on it…the Horse scarer at Olympia is a much worse panicker of horses."

Pausanias' Description of Greece VI


Poseidon was lord of the sea, but here the horse's head in his right hand identifies him in another capacity, as patron god of horses.  Charioteers and jockeys would offer prayers and sacrifices to him before competing.  

Roman bronze statuette.  Height 16.9 cm    


"But at the last he misjudged the turn, slackened his left rein before the horse was safely round the bend, and so struck the post.  The hub was smashed across, and he was hurled over the rail entangled in the reins, and as he fell his horses ran wild across the course."

Sophokles, fifth century BC

Elektra 698-760


A figure of Victory personified flies down to crown the victor in a four-horse chariot-race.  Below is a panoply or set of armour - a shield, breast -plate, greaves and crested helmet - which was probably the prize at these particular games.  Silver coin from Syracuse, fourth century BC.

BMC Coins, Syracuse 176.

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