Department of Greek & Latin


The Reality of Games

The Games have been idealised as the place for athletic excellence and gaining eternal glory for the winners. Yet the reality of attending the Games at Olympia reveals that the conditions were far from ideal. The place was small, confined, ill-equipped to receive all these people pouring in for the Games. The living conditions were very difficult for the duration of the Games, but this was also an exciting spectacle which attracted thousands of people from all over Greece. The whole area must also have been a forest of statues by the Roman period.

Cheating was, as is today, a very real possibility and the Greeks were acutely aware of it. A series of statues paid for with the fines imposed on cheaters in Olympia was intended as a warning for anyone thinking about doing the same. Yet the reality was that the punishment could be inflicted only if the cheating was detected, so the real numbers of people cheating (including the judges) elude us.