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Les hippodromes et les concours hippiques dans la grèce antique

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Jean-Charles Moretti
, 
Panos Valavanis

Hippodromes et concours hippiques grecs : Histoire de la recherche et nouvelles données

The hippodrome and the equestrian contests at the sanctuary of Zeus on Mt. Lykaion, Arcadia

David Gilman Romano

Résumé

The Sanctuary of Zeus on Mt. Lykaion in Arcadia was well known as the site of the Lykaia, athletic and equestrian contests held in honour of Zeus; there is epigraphical, literary and archaeological evidence for the existence of the festival. The site was excavated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by K. Kontopoulos and K. Kourouniotis of the Archaeological Society of Athens, and work at the site resumed in 2004, as a synergasia between the University of Arizona and the Greek Archaeological Service, under the auspices of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, and known as the Mt. Lykaion Excavation and Survey Project, http://lykaionexcavation.org. Two late 4th century BC victor inscriptions, IG V 2 549 and 550, found at the site by Kourouniotis, tell us a great deal about the nature of the athletic and equestrian contests. The inscriptions give us the list of the events that include 3 boys events, 9 men’s athletic events and 4 equestrian events. In addition, Kourouniotis found archaeological evidence for both the stadium and the hippodrome in the mountain meadow 200 m below the altar of Zeus, including stone starting blocks from the stadium and stone turning posts from the hippodrome. Evidence from the current work of the Mt. Lykaion Excavation and Survey Project demonstrates that the dromos of the stadium and the hippodrome existed on two parallel terraces, at different elevations. The dimensions of the hippodrome are 250 m long and 50 m wide and are similar in dimension to early examples of the Roman circus of the Augustan period. There is some archaeological evidence to suggest the existence of a proto-stadium near the southern peak of Mt. Lykaion, 40 m below the altar of Zeus. This would support the idea that before the stadium and hippodrome were created in the lower mountain meadow, the athletic contests were held near the temenos and altar. Such events may also have included early equestrian contests at the southern peak of the mountain.

Texte intégral

  • 1 The results of the work that I discuss here have been carried out as a synergasia, since 2010, unde (...)
  • 2 Callimachos, Hymn 1.5-14; Pausanias, 8.36.3.
  • 3 It was K. Kourouniotis who published the first description of the hippodrome, Kourouniotis 1909, pp (...)

1The Sanctuary of Zeus at Mt. Lykaion is located high in the Arcadian mountains, to the northwest of Megalopolis, near where the ancient and modern borders of Arcadia, Messenia and Elis meet (fig. 1).1 The sanctuary was known in antiquity as the Arcadian “birthplace of Zeus” as both Callimachos and Pausanias talk about the sanctuary in these terms.2 There were two important elements of the sanctuary, the altar and temenos at the southern peak of the mountain, and the buildings and structures of the lower mountain meadow. It was the lower sanctuary that served during the historical period as the site of a famous athletic festival, the Lykaion Games, Lykaia, that included human as well as equestrian events. K. Kontopoulos in the late 19th century, and subsequently K. Kourouniotis in the early 20th century, worked at Mt. Lykaion, both representing the Archaeological Society of Athens. K. Kourouniotis identified architectural elements of both the hippodrome and the stadium in the mountain meadow and he published promptly the results of his research that have served as a basis of our work.3

Fig. 1 — Map of the Peloponnesos indicating the location of Mt. Lykaion.

Fig. 1 — Map of the Peloponnesos indicating the location of Mt. Lykaion.

D. G. Romano, M. Pihokker, and A. Mayer, after a map by E. Gaba, Wikimedia Commons.

  • 4 Romano, Voyatzis 2014, pp. 628-629. The Neolithic pottery is being studied by S. Petrakis, the Earl (...)

2Our modern research and excavation have added considerably to knowledge about the Sanctuary of Zeus at Mt. Lykaion. Now, after 14 years of continuous fieldwork and research, the southern peak of the mountain (1,382 masl.) is known to be the site of Neolithic, Early Helladic, Middle Helladic and Late Helladic activity.4 There is archaeological evidence for a Mycenaean shrine on the altar and cult activity there that appears to continue without interruption from the Mycenaean period into the Hellenistic period. It is possible that during some period of early use of the altar, athletics were held nearby on a lower southwest shoulder of the southern peak of the mountain, some 40 m below the elevation of the altar, an area that we are calling the “proto-stadium” (fig.2).

Fig. 2 — Plan of the Sanctuary of Zeus at Mt. Lykaion.

Fig. 2 — Plan of the Sanctuary of Zeus at Mt. Lykaion.

D. G. Romano, A. Insua, M. Pihokker, and E. Rodriguez-Alvarez.

The Lykaion Games

  • 5 Pliny, Naturalis Historia 7.205, mentions that the earliest “gymnastic” games in Greece were starte (...)
  • 6 Romano, Voyatzis 2015, pp. 263-264; Roy 2007, pp. 289-292.
  • 7 A Corinthian kotyle base and a bone seal, both of the 7th century BC have been found in an area dee (...)

3In a mountain meadow, 200 m lower in elevation from the altar and 600 m to the northeast, is the site of the Lykaia, known from a number of ancient authors and from several inscriptions.5 There exists in the meadow a hippodrome, stadium, stoa, seats or steps, administrative building, corridor, fountain house and bath facility (figs. 2-3). The major building phase of this lower sanctuary dates to the time of the construction of Megalopolis in the second quarter of the 4th century BC.6 Earlier archaeological evidence dating to the 7th century BC has been found in the lower sanctuary suggesting the existence of an earlier phase.7

Fig. 3 — Sanctuary of Zeus including the ash altar in the background and the hippodrome and stadium terrace in the middle ground.

Fig. 3 — Sanctuary of Zeus including the ash altar in the background and the hippodrome and stadium terrace in the middle ground.

Photo: D. G. Romano.

4Pausanias (8.35.5) tells us that there is a hippodrome at Mt. Lykaion, when he is talking about a sanctuary of Pan in the area of the lower sanctuary,

ἔστι δὲ ἐν τῷ Λυκαίῳ Πανός τε ἱερὸν καὶ περὶ αὐτὸ ἄλσος δένδρων καὶ ἱππόδροµός τε καὶ πρὸ αὐτοῦ στάδιον: τὸ δὲ ἀρχαῖον τῶν Λυκαίον ἦγον τὸν ἀγῶνα ἐνταῦθα. ἔστι δὲ αὐτόθι καὶ ἀνδριάντων βάθρα, ούκ ἐπόντων άνδριάντων βάθρα, οὐκ ἐπόντων ἔτὶ ἀνδριάντων: ἐλεγεῖον δὲ ἐπὶ τῶν βάθρων ἑνὶ Αστυάνακτός φησιν εἴναι τὴν είκόνα, τὸν δὲ Ἁστυάνακτα εἴναι γένος τῶν ἀπὸ Ἀρκάδος.

There is on Mt. Lykaion a sanctuary of Pan, and around it a grove of trees, and a hippodrome and in front of it is a stadium. In the old days they used to hold here the Lykaion Games. Here there are also bases of statues, with now no statues on them. On one of the bases an elegiac inscription declares that the statue was a portrait of Astyanax, and that Astyanax was of the race of Arceas.

  • 8 The statue bases and monument bases are being studied by I.B. Romano. See Romano, Davis, Romano 201 (...)
  • 9 These inscriptions are currently being restudied by K.W. Mahoney who will publish them in D.G. Roma (...)
  • 10 The athletic events for boys included wrestling (πἀλη), boxing (πὐξ) and the stadion (στἀδιον) and (...)
  • 11 IG V 2, 550, ll. 8-9.

5K. Kourouniotis found a number of statue and monument bases in the lower sanctuary and these are being studied and catalogued as a part of our current campaigns.8 He also found two victor inscriptions in the building that he named the “xenon”, what we are calling the “administrative building”. These inscriptions are very important for our understanding of the festival itself, including the events and the names and hometowns of the victorious athletes as well as a list of the priests and the magistrates in charge of the festival. The inscriptions that were published by Fr. Hiller von Gaertringen are IG V 2, 549 and 550, include six lists, five of victors in the athletic contests and one that is a body of officials. The texts are securely dated to the period 320-304 BC.9 Based on the information contained in these two inscriptions we know that in addition to the three boys and nine men’s athletic events,10 there were four equestrian events held at Mt. Lykaion, the two-horse chariot race (τελεία συνωρίς), the four-horse chariot race (τέλειον τέθριππον), the four-foal chariot race (πωλικὸν τέθριππον), and the race on horseback (ἵππος κέλης). It appears that the athletic events of the Lykaia were of some importance in the late 4th century BC and specifically the equestrian events based on the lists of victors that are preserved. We know that the illegitimate son of Ptolemy I, Lagos, participated and won the two-horse chariot race (τελεία συνωρίς) in the Lykaia probably in 308-304 BC.11

Organization of the Lower Sanctuary

6The organization and plan of the entire lower sanctuary suggests that it was likely to have been a design, conceived at one time, making use of the mountain meadow on the eastern slopes of Mt. Lykaion that was naturally fed by two springs from the mountain itself. The plan of the built lower sanctuary is dominated by the hippodrome and stadium that were located between the bath facility to the north (and which may turn out to be a part of a larger palaistra or gymnasium) and the buildings to the south including the stoa, seats or steps, administrative building, corridor, fountain house and statue bases.

  • 12 Blouet 1833, fig. 33.
  • 13 Curtius 1851, pl. 7; Beulé 1855, p. 129 ff. A recent topographical study has been undertaken to loc (...)

7The location of the hippodrome has been visible in the meadow for hundreds of years. A. Blouet, one of a number of early travellers who visited the site, made a drawing of the sanctuary as a part of the Expédition scientifique de Morée and published it in 1833 (fig.4).12 His drawing illustrates the general shape of the hippodrome, indicating its length as well as its width and shows it in respect to the bath facility to the north and the remains of the buildings then visible to the south. A. Blouet’s drawing includes what may be interpreted as a long terrace embankment of the hippodrome on its eastern edge, as well as a rounded north end. E. Curtius and Ch.E. Beulé also visited the site of Mt. Lykaion and published their work in 1851 and 1855 respectively.13

Fig. 4 — Blouet’s 1833 drawing of hippodrome terrace and related structures. North is at the bottom of the drawing.

Fig. 4 — Blouet’s 1833 drawing of hippodrome terrace and related structures. North is at the bottom of the drawing.

After Blouet 1833, p. 37.

  • 14 My permit was under the auspices of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and with the (...)
  • 15 The starting line blocks were first mentioned by Kourouniotis 1909, pp. 190-191. See the discussion (...)
  • 16 Romano 2005a, pp. 381-396.
  • 17 Kourouniotis 1909, p. 189. These well-cut seat blocks have not been found in our recent work.

8In 1996 I undertook an architectural and topographical survey of the site in order to create an accurate topographical plan of the sanctuary with its component buildings monuments and structures.14 With a small crew we surveyed, with an electronic total station, the above ground and visible buildings of the ancient mountaintop sanctuary and, as a result, created an accurate map as well as a digital terrain model. This model indicated that the dromos of the stadium lay within the boundaries of the hippodrome based on the location of the in situ stone starting line blocks of the stadium15 and on the assumption that the entire width of the terrace, 102 m, was the hippodrome, in its entirety.16 Over the years, the surface of the athletic terraces had been characterized by a series of shallow and mostly curvilinear modern agricultural terraces that divided the space and, as a result, the original locations, divisions between, and elevations of the ancient terraces was not clear. Whereas the northern limit of the broad hippodrome terrace was evident from the topographic relief, and the eastern and western sides were clear from the rising topography on either side, the southern extreme of the athletic terraces was not as apparent. K. Kourouniotes had proposed that the southern end of the hippodrome was to be found near a line of well-cut seat blocks to the north of the stoa and the line of seats or steps.17

  • 18 Romano, Voyatzis 2015, p. 246, n. 76. This description was also proposed by Kourouniotis 1909, pp.  (...)
  • 19 The orientation of the hippodrome is 8-9° northwest and the orientation of the dromos of the stadiu (...)

9During our years of continued work, 2004-present, I have modified my understanding of the location and extents of the hippodrome and stadium based on our excavations and further topographical and architectural survey. I now understand that the hippodrome and the stadium lie side-by-side, in a roughly north-south orientation, but on separate terraces, and at different elevations (fig.5). The dromos of the stadium is not found within the limits of the hippodrome as previously proposed.18 As a result of this most recent work I measure the total length of the hippodrome as ca. 250 m and the total width as ca. 50 m.19 We know that the western side of the hippodrome borders the higher terrace that includes the dromos of the stadium, and that the eastern side of the hippodrome borders the lower terrace that includes the bath facility and related space.

Fig. 5 — Hippodrome and Stadium plan indicating location of trenches.

Fig. 5 — Hippodrome and Stadium plan indicating location of trenches.

D. G. Romano, A. Insua, M. Pihokker, E. Rodriguez-Alvarez, and A. Ford.

  • 20 Davis 2009, viiib.

10From a geological study of the area of the hippodrome, undertaken by G. Davis, as well as from our excavation trenches, it is known that portions of the mountain meadow as hippodrome have been filled in, especially to the north and east, and there are other portions of the facility where the limestone bedrock of the mountain was cut down, to the west to provide a flat area for the athletes.20 The northern aspect of both the hippodrome and the stadium terraces is partially an artificial tongue of land that projects to the north, although there is no retaining wall preserved.

11This new interpretation of the hippodrome and stadium is based on a combination of evidence from topographical survey, geophysical remotely sensed data, archaeological excavation, as well as the ancient literary and historical accounts.

  • 21 Sarris 2014.

12Under the direction of A. Sarris, geophysical remote sensing was undertaken in 2005 and 2007 in the area of the Sanctuary of Zeus and including the area of the stadium and hippodrome.21 As a result of this work, as well as for other reasons, a number of areas of interest were chosen for the resulting excavation.

Excavation within the Stadium and Surrounding Apron to the south

  • 22 In each case, the elevation of the floor was discovered within a few centimetres of 1,165.6 masl an (...)
  • 23 Romano, Voyatzis 2015, p. 250. The great amount of fill that covers the surface of the ancient hipp (...)

13In a series of trenches dug in what was then described as the “hippodrome” between 2006-2010 and in 2016 we have revealed a number of different elements of the architectural design of the stadium (fig. 5). In Trenches A, C, D and HH, all at the southern end of the combined hippodrome and stadium terraces, a floor surface was discovered at approximately the same elevation.22 This elevation of the floor levels was also very close to the elevation of the stone starting line blocks for human foot races found toward the centre of the stadium terrace, one of which still remains in situ, ca. 178 m to the north.23 From this evidence it would appear that the level of the dromos of the stadium was continued around the south end of the terraces as a kind of southern apron of space immediately adjacent to the stadium and hippodrome at the south end of the facilities (fig. 5).

  • 24 Romano, Voyatzis 2015, pp. 248-257, fig. 47:46.
  • 25 The surfaces were found at 1,165.4 – 1,165.7 masl.

14In Trench A we discovered the presumed floor of the hippodrome near its southeastern extreme that can now be interpreted to be included in the apron of the stadium terrace. On the floor surface of Trench A we found a portion of a 3rd-2nd century BC small bowl.24 Trench C was dug looking for the southern extreme of the hippodrome and what we found was the edge of the floor of what is now identified as the apron at the south end of the stadium and hippodrome. Hard by was the rising bedrock that indicated the beginning slope of the hill to the south and thus we had a good indication of the southern limit of the hippodrome and stadium terraces. Trench D was dug in the area of the stadium terrace where we hoped to find the floor of the dromos of the stadium. The trench was dug 145 m to the south of the location of the starting line and two hard packed surfaces were found side by side confirming again the floor surface.25

  • 26 Mentzer, Romano, Voyatzis 2017.

15Trench HH was situated within the gravel track that has been created for the Modern Lykaion Games. Although there were no artifacts from this deep trench we discovered several interesting things about this part of the apron at the south end of the stadium, including a kind of clay barrier between the stadium apron floor and the rocky hillside. Micromorphological analysis was completed on the composition of the floor surface or surfaces indicating a man-made composition.26

Excavation on the terrace to the west of the stadium

  • 27 The Classical pottery is being studied by A. Steiner.
  • 28 Romano, Voyatzis 2015, pp. 250-251.
  • 29 Romano, Voyatzis 2015, pp. 253.

16Trench B was dug on a low terrace, ca. 150 m long, immediately to the west of the dromos of the stadium. We explored this higher terrace to determine if it was ancient or modern built in connection with the nearby modern dirt road and perhaps related to the Modern Lykaion Games. We learned that the terrace was ancient and it contained several clay surfaces and pottery dating to the 5th-4th centuries.27 An obsidian blade was found at a lower level.28 Trench E was dug into the same terrace to the west of the stadium, 45 m northwest of Trench B. The clay surfaces discovered in Trench E were not as clear as they were in Trench B but there was a similar change in the stratigraphy at approximately the same elevation.29

Excavation within the hippodrome

  • 30 This clay surface appeared at 1,163.7 – 1,164.0 masl.
  • 31 Coarse ware pottery and tiles were also found in the two levels immediately above the cobbles. It i (...)

17Trench R was dug in the southern portion of the hippodrome on a modern agricultural terrace. Here it was noted that the beginning height of the trench was lower than the level of the ancient floor levels found nearby in trenches A and D. Within Trench R was found a stratum that showed a high concentration of cobbled limestone and tiles in a mixture, likely representing a deep foundation level of the hippodrome. Covering these was a clay level that may have served as the hippodrome floor.30 It seems very likely that the builders of the hippodrome were faced with the task of filling in low levels of the plateau.31

  • 32 The C14 testing was undertaken as a part of an NSF grant, no. 1125523.
  • 33 The floor surfaces appear at approximately 1,163.1 – 1,163.9 masl.

18Trench S was dug as a result of the geophysical remote sensing that I have mentioned earlier undertaken by A. Sarris. This area had responded strongly to a magnetic prospection device that is capable of detecting anomalies in the subsurface. A deep trench was dug in this area, finding very little until we reached a very low level, 1.5 m below surface, where we discovered a heavy concentration of charcoal and animal bone surrounding a large amorphous area of orange earth. No pottery or tiles were found here but Carbon 14 dating has been done on the charcoal with a calibrated date of 670 BC ± 127 BC.32 Further excavation in this area at a higher level has revealed a portion of the floors of the hippodrome that are characterized as hard clay surfaces.33 The 7th century date of the charcoal and the burning serves as a good terminus post quem for the construction of the hippodrome.

19Trench BB was dug to explore another geophysical anomaly revealed by A. Sarris’s work. This trench was roughly equidistant from the east and west sides of the hippodrome and stadium terraces towards its northern end. In this trench we found nothing remarkable and assume that this portion of the hippodrome terrace may have been partially washed away.

K. Kourouniotis investigations in the Hippodrome

  • 34 Kourouniotis 1909, p. 190, fig. 7.
  • 35 Kourouniotis 1909, p. 189, fig. 6. It is not clear from the description or the photograph if these (...)
  • 36 Kourouniotis 1909, p. 190, writes that the base for one of the turning posts was found 295 m from t (...)

20When K. Kourouniotis worked in the area of the hippodrome, he found the remains of two circular bases on the surface of the fields of the mountain meadow towards its north end. He suggested that these bases could have been for the support of turning posts, νυσσαι.34 According to K. Kourouniotis the bases were found approximately 60 m away from each other and the easternmost was 265 m to the north of a series of well cut blocks that he identified as seats to view the athletic events of the stadium and hippodrome at the southern end.35 The easternmost base was found 28 m from the eastern retaining wall of the hippodrome and the western base was found 30 m from the western limit of the hippodrome. The original locations of the bases are not clear today since they have been moved since K. Kourouniotis’ time.36

Architectural and Topographical Survey

  • 37 During one of my first visits to the site in 1979, I recorded the location of several of the unflut (...)
  • 38 In the typical design of the Roman circus, there was a meta (turning post) at both ends of the aren (...)

21During the course of our own computerized architectural and topographical survey, the stone drums of the columns of the turning posts were found in different places on the hippodrome terrace. I assumed that the drums, as well as the bases, had been moved about by local farmers. We have located one of the bases on the eastern retaining wall of the hippodrome close to the remains of several drums of two stone turning posts, characterized by unfluted and tapering limestone drums.37 In their original configurations, each would have comprised four stone pieces including a base and three tapering drums. Each turning post would originally have been 2.94 m in height (fig. 6). If the northern bases, as discovered by K. Kourouniotis, were in their original positions towards the north end of the hippodrome facility, it is possible that they could have supported the two tapering stone columns that represented each end of the starting line of the hippodrome. The width of 60 m between the bases would have provided enough space for multiple chariot teams to assemble at the start of the contests. It is also possible that one of the turning posts could have been situated to the north and the other to the south on the hippodrome terrace so that the turning posts would have indicated the course to be run.38

Fig. 6 — Hippodrome stone turning posts, extant blocks and reconstruction.

Fig. 6 — Hippodrome stone turning posts, extant blocks and reconstruction.

X. Valle, O. Tarricone, and P. Biswas.

  • 39 Kourouniotis 1909, p. 197, fig. 16, mentions that he found a series of stone basins at ground level (...)
  • 40 There were two ancient springs close by that provided water for the lower sanctuary, the Agno Fount (...)
  • 41 This was the likely use of the water channels and water basins that lined the sides of many ancient (...)

22There are a few other objects that we have found in the lower sanctuary that may be related to the hippodrome and equestrian athletics. We have found 8 shallow stone basins at ground level in and around the hippodrome and nearby in some of the sanctuary buildings. They are circular in shape and approximately 0.95 m in diameter and approximately 0.11 m deep in the interior of the basin.39 I have wondered if these might have been used as basins from which horses or other animals might drink water. This would mean of course that the basins would need to be filled periodically by hand since there are no water channels that fed the basins.40 The basins are shallow and would not be the same as a deep horse trough. Another use of the basins might have been to use the water from the basins to maintain the surfaces of the hippodrome and related neighbouring areas.41

  • 42 Romano, Voyatzis 2015, p. 243, fig. 35:44.
  • 43 For parallels, see Furtwängler 1890, no. 1250, pl. 66; Payne 1962, p. 182, no. 24, pl. 82 (from the (...)

23We have found one object from the area to the north of the seats or steps that is related to the harness of a horse, a fragment of a bronze snaffle bit.42 Examples of these have been found at other sites.43 It is possible that horses were processed in the area of the seats or steps during the festival.

Hippodrome in the Sanctuary of Zeus

  • 44 The stone corridor that extends from the east side of the Administrative Building towards the stadi (...)

24The physical situation of the hippodrome is best understood in the context of the entire lower sanctuary that was likely planned for and built during the second quarter of the 4th century BC at the time when Megalopolis was founded. The Sanctuary of Zeus at Mt. Lykaion was likely the great Parrhasian sanctuary of Zeus Lykaios and it became the premier cult centre of the Arcadian Federation. When the Sanctuary of Zeus was renovated and rebuilt at this time, the planning included the construction of new buildings and structures on a series of artificially levelled terraces. In the area of the lower sanctuary, the highest terrace included the fountain house, the second terrace included the stoa and the administrative building and the third terrace included the seats or steps. There was likely to have been a fourth terrace at a slightly lower level where K. Kourouniotis discovered a series of high quality “seats” closer to the level of the stadium and hippodrome.44 Lower still was a terrace that bordered the ancient stadium to the west and beyond this terrace was the dromos of the stadium and the apron, and lower and distinct was the hippodrome terrace. Below the hippodrome to the northeast at a still lower level was the bath facility. Each of these terraces is separated by several metres in elevation and this is important in the discussion of the hippodrome, the stadium and the bath facility.

Hippodrome and Stadium as Athletic Facilities

  • 45 During the 2016 campaign Trench S was expanded and the hippodrome floor was discovered at an elevat (...)

25The hippodrome and the stadium were constructed side by side on two broad terraces. Each terrace was approximately 50 m wide and 250 m long, although the stadium terrace is constrained at the southwest by the higher terrace to the west that meets the stadium terrace at an oblique angle. In addition, the dromos of the stadium is found in the southern 2/3’ s of the stadium terrace and the hippodrome appears to have been the full length of the neighbouring terrace. The difference in elevation between the two terraces would have been noticeable.45 This would mean that the difference in elevation would have clearly delineated the two parallel facilities with the dromos of the stadium approximately 2-3 m higher in elevation than the racecourse floor of the hippodrome. Pausanias described the facilities, “there is on Mt. Lykaion a sanctuary of Pan, and around it a grove of trees, and a hippodrome and in front of it is a stadium”. Standing in the lower sanctuary and looking out to the northeast one would have seen the dromos of the stadium in the foreground and the hippodrome in the background, thus confirming Pausanias’ description.

  • 46 Humphrey 1986, p. 124.
  • 47 Porath 1995, p. 70.
  • 48 Ostrasz 1989, p. 57.

26The maximum dimensions of the hippodrome facility are smaller than many would have predicted, 250 × 50 m but there is now clear evidence that the hippodrome at Mt. Lykaion was of this size and shape. Although to my knowledge there is not another Greek hippodrome with which to compare the dimensions, it is possible to compare the measurements with later examples of the Roman circus. The Circus Maximus in Rome, likely to have been the largest Roman circus, was huge, the arena eventually measuring ca. 580 m × 79 m by the 3rd century CE.46 But Roman circuses were not all that large and, in fact, Augustan circuses could be much more modest in their dimensions. For example, at Caesarea Maritima a very small circus facility was a part of the Herodian palace complex of the 1st century BC. The length of the arena is at least 265 m and its width is 50.35 m.47 In the 2nd century CE at Gerasa, the circus arena is 245 m in length and the width is 50 m.48 These are examples very similar to the size of the available space for the Greek hippodrome in the mountain meadow at Mt. Lykaion.

27We have not yet found any evidence for starting gates of the hippodrome at Mt. Lykaion but it is likely that the start of the equestrian races would have been found at the north end of the hippodrome terrace. It is possible that the horses and chariots would have approached the north end of the terrace from the south by means of a path on the raised terrace to the west of the stadium and hippodrome (fig. 5). It seems likely that the staging area for the equestrian events may have occurred to the west of the stadium and hippodrome terraces, in a flatish area to the northwest. One of the circular shallow stone basins was found in this area suggesting some use related to the hippodrome.

28With respect to the date of the hippodrome, we can assume that the equestrian contests were probably at their peak in the late 4th century BC at the time of the two victor inscriptions. The deep trench that produced the red earth and the organic material towards the middle of the hippodrome terrace indicates that there was an earlier episode in this area in roughly the 7th century BC that likely preceded the construction of the hippodrome. The floor of the hippodrome from Trench S included a fragment of 5th-4th century BC black gloss pottery. The rim and body fragment from a small bowl found on the surface of the apron towards the south end of the facility dated to the 3rd-2nd century BC suggests the stadium facility was still in use at that time. It seems likely, therefore, that the hippodrome and the stadium were constructed sometime after the 7th century BC and that it continued in use until at least the end of the 3rd century BC.

29There is another example of a hippodrome that is located immediately adjacent to a stadium, which is the situation at Olympia. Pausanias (6.20.10) tells us that at Olympia, “just beyond the stadium, is the hippodrome and the starting-place for the horses” (υπερβάλλονται δὲ ἐκ τοῦ σταδίου, καθότι οἱ Ἑλλανοδίκαι καθέζονται, κατὰ τοῦτο χωρίον ἐς τῶν ἳππων ἀωειµένον τοὺς δρόµους καὶ ἡ ἄφεσίς ἐστι τῶν ἵππων). The author continues with a detailed description of the hysplex, the starting gate at Olympia. Although the hippodrome at Olympia has never been discovered, and its dimensions cannot be measured, its general location is secure since the stadium has been excavated.

Later History of the Hippodrome at Mt. Lykaion

  • 49 Dow 1937, pp. 120-126.
  • 50 Romano, Voyatzis 2015, pp. 210-217. S. Rotroff is responsible for the study of the Hellenistic pott (...)
  • 51 See Rotroff 2015. V. Moses is studying the faunal material.

30An inscription found on the Athenian Acropolis, IG II2 993, records the Athenian acceptance of an invitation from the city of Megalopolis to participate in the re-foundation of the Lykaia in the year 215 BC.49 The re-founded games may have taken place in the city of Megalopolis and the hippodrome and the stadium in the mountain meadow may have gone out of use about that time. Although the festival and athletic and equestrian contests may have been moved to the city of Megalopolis, it is known from archaeological evidence from Mt. Lykaion that there was continued dining activity likely from the area of the Administrative Building since the adjacent stone corridor, constructed in the second quarter of the 4th century BC was used as a refuse pit for the meals that were consumed nearby.50 The pit includes dining pottery, as well as the bones of animals consumed in the meals as well as other discarded material.51

Earlier Hippodrome at Mt. Lykaion?

31In our recent work at Mt. Lykaion we have identified an area close by the southern peak of the mountain and adjacent to the ash altar of Zeus that we have labeled the “proto-stadium.” This is a flat area, approximately 150 m long and 15 m wide with sloping natural embankments to the west and the east. This area would have provided a natural facility that would have met the requirements of a stadium, including space for a running track or dromos and with spectator facilities as natural embankments of earth on the east and west sides. It is approximately 40 m lower than the peak of the altar, 150 m to the southwest, and is in within full view of it. This seems to be a logical place for the early athletic contests of the ancient Lykaion Games before the creation of the festival grounds in the lower mountain meadow. If correct, this would mean that the altar, the temenos and the stadium would all have been within a stone’s throw of each other at the southern peak of the mountain. There is also a possibility that the early equestrian events may have been held at this location as well. Although we know a good deal about formal hippodromes from ancient literature, there is also the possibility that an informal hippodrome could have been utilized. Such is the situation of the following example from Xenophon.

  • 52 A second passage earlier in the Anabasis (1.2.10) has to do with another festival, celebrated by Xe (...)

32We should recall the athletic games that we learn about from Xenophon in the Anabasis (4.8.25-8) when the Greeks, many of them Arcadians, reach Trapezus and sacrifice to Zeus, Herakles and other gods. They sacrificed oxen and then prepared athletic games on the mountainside where they were camped.52 The athletic events included the stadium race for boys, the dolichos, wrestling, boxing and the pankration. From Xenophon,

ἔθεον δὲ καὶ ἵπποι καὶ ἔδει αὐτοὺς κατὰ τοῦ πρανοῦς ἐλάσαντας ἐν τῇ θαλάττῃ ἀποστρέψαντας πάλιν πρὸς τὸν βωµὸν ἄγειν. καὶ κάτω µὲν οἱ πολλοὶ ἐκαλινδοῦντο: ἄνω δὲ πρὸς τὸ ἰσχυρῶς ὄρθιον µόλις βάδην ἐπορεύοντο οἱ ἵπποι: ἔνθα πολλὴ κραυγὴ καὶ γέλως καὶ παρακέλευσις ἐγίγνετο

  • 53 Trans. J. Dillery.

There were horse races also and the riders had to drive their horses down the steep slope, turn them around on the shore, and bring them back again to the altar. And on the way down most of the horses rolled over and over, while on the way up against the exceedingly steep incline, they found it hard to keep on at a walk. So there was much shouting and laughter and cheering.53

  • 54 Romano, Voyatzis 2014, pp. 589-591. Horse racing in Arcadia is very old according to Pausanias (8.4 (...)

33Perhaps, in the beginning, the equestrian events of the Lykaia were held at the altar as well. Although we don’t yet know when athletic events began at Mt. Lykaion, we do know of what may well be continuous cult activity at the altar from the 16th century BC.54

Notes

1 The results of the work that I discuss here have been carried out as a synergasia, since 2010, under the direction of the Ephoreia of Antiquities of Arcadia and under the auspices of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. The current directors of the project are Dr. A. Karapanagiotou, Dr. M. Voyatzis and myself. During the period 2004-2010, Dr. Voyatzis and I collaborated with A. Panagiotopoulou and Dr. M. Petropoulos of the Greek Archaeological Service. We thank our Greek colleagues for their many contributions to our success. A popular article and two preliminary reports have appeared discussing the results of the project, Romano, Voyatzis 2010; Romano, Voyatzis 2014; and Romano, Voyatzis 2015. The website for the project is http://lykaionexcavation.org, accessed on November 27th, 2018.

2 Callimachos, Hymn 1.5-14; Pausanias, 8.36.3.

3 It was K. Kourouniotis who published the first description of the hippodrome, Kourouniotis 1909, pp. 189-192. He also published the results of his excavations at the altar and the temenos, Kourouniotis 1904.

4 Romano, Voyatzis 2014, pp. 628-629. The Neolithic pottery is being studied by S. Petrakis, the Early Helladic pottery by J. Forsen, the Middle Helladic pottery by G. Nordquist and the Late Helladic and Iron Age pottery by M.E. Voyatzis.

5 Pliny, Naturalis Historia 7.205, mentions that the earliest “gymnastic” games in Greece were started by Lycaon in Arcadia and Pausanias, 8.2.1, adds that Lycaon founded the Lykaion Games and also states that these games were older than the Panathenaic Games in Athens. Pindar, Nemean 10.45, and Olympian 7.84, notes that the prizes at Lykaion are of χαλκὸς bronze or copper although he doesn’t mention what form the prize took. Plutarch, Caesar 61, mentions that there is a connection between the Lupercalia in Rome and the Arcadian Lykaia.

6 Romano, Voyatzis 2015, pp. 263-264; Roy 2007, pp. 289-292.

7 A Corinthian kotyle base and a bone seal, both of the 7th century BC have been found in an area deep beneath the seats or steps. There is also evidence below the level of the later hippodrome from the 7th century BC. See Romano, Voyatzis 2015, pp. 238-245; p. 254 n. 91.

8 The statue bases and monument bases are being studied by I.B. Romano. See Romano, Davis, Romano 2012, pp. 429-436.

9 These inscriptions are currently being restudied by K.W. Mahoney who will publish them in D.G. Romano, M.E. Voyatzis (eds.), Mt. Lykaion Studies 1, American School of Classical Studies at Athens.

10 The athletic events for boys included wrestling (πἀλη), boxing (πὐξ) and the stadion (στἀδιον) and the athletic events for men included wrestling (πἀλη), boxing (πὐξ), pankration (πανκρἀτιον), pentathlon (πἐνταθλον), stadion, (στἀδιον), diaulos (δἰαυλος), dolichos (δόλιχος) and the race in armor (ὁπλἰτης).

11 IG V 2, 550, ll. 8-9.

12 Blouet 1833, fig. 33.

13 Curtius 1851, pl. 7; Beulé 1855, p. 129 ff. A recent topographical study has been undertaken to locate the hippodrome at Delphi, Valavanis 2017.

14 My permit was under the auspices of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and with the permission of the 5th Ephoreia of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities in Sparta,

15 The starting line blocks were first mentioned by Kourouniotis 1909, pp. 190-191. See the discussion in Romano, Voyatzis 2015, pp. 245-258.

16 Romano 2005a, pp. 381-396.

17 Kourouniotis 1909, p. 189. These well-cut seat blocks have not been found in our recent work.

18 Romano, Voyatzis 2015, p. 246, n. 76. This description was also proposed by Kourouniotis 1909, pp. 190-191.

19 The orientation of the hippodrome is 8-9° northwest and the orientation of the dromos of the stadium is 11-13° northwest.

20 Davis 2009, viiib.

21 Sarris 2014.

22 In each case, the elevation of the floor was discovered within a few centimetres of 1,165.6 masl and it was composed of a hard packed clay.

23 Romano, Voyatzis 2015, p. 250. The great amount of fill that covers the surface of the ancient hippodrome and stadium at their south end, approximately 1.5 m, has been brought in to surface the modern track that is used for the Modern Lykaion Games that have been held in this location every four years since 1973. In the first year of the Modern Lykaion Games, equestrian as well as human athletic events were introduced to replicate, in part, the ancient festival. The modern equestrian events were discontinued thereafter because of potential injury to participants. The most recent Modern Lykaion Games, organized by the village of Ano Karyes, was successfully held during the Summer of 2017.

24 Romano, Voyatzis 2015, pp. 248-257, fig. 47:46.

25 The surfaces were found at 1,165.4 – 1,165.7 masl.

26 Mentzer, Romano, Voyatzis 2017.

27 The Classical pottery is being studied by A. Steiner.

28 Romano, Voyatzis 2015, pp. 250-251.

29 Romano, Voyatzis 2015, pp. 253.

30 This clay surface appeared at 1,163.7 – 1,164.0 masl.

31 Coarse ware pottery and tiles were also found in the two levels immediately above the cobbles. It is likely that these three levels were a part of the hippodrome levelling and construction process although we have no diagnostic pottery. Below the level of the cobbled stones was found a concentration of animal bone and charcoal.

32 The C14 testing was undertaken as a part of an NSF grant, no. 1125523.

33 The floor surfaces appear at approximately 1,163.1 – 1,163.9 masl.

34 Kourouniotis 1909, p. 190, fig. 7.

35 Kourouniotis 1909, p. 189, fig. 6. It is not clear from the description or the photograph if these well cut blocks are seats or not as they could also have served as a retaining wall. Unfortunately, these blocks have not been discovered in our years of work.

36 Kourouniotis 1909, p. 190, writes that the base for one of the turning posts was found 295 m from the stoa and the other one 60 m to the west of the first.

37 During one of my first visits to the site in 1979, I recorded the location of several of the unfluted drums of the turning posts. Several were found at the north end of the hippodrome and several others towards the south end. Others still were found on the eastern “retaining wall” of the hippodrome. I did not include this information in my dissertation, Romano 1981, pp. 172-177. Since that time the stone starting line blocks, the base, the column drums of the turning posts as well as a few other stone blocks found have been moved to an area at the south end of the stadium and hippodrome near the modern (2016) kiosk.

38 In the typical design of the Roman circus, there was a meta (turning post) at both ends of the arena. Commonly the metae would have been related in location to the spina that served as a median dividing the two long sides of the circus and they were often represented as cones of stone. The spina as a built construction could also include other monuments including obelisks, and various kinds of lap counting devices, i.e., dolphins or eggs. We have found no evidence of a spina or median of any kind in the hippodrome at Mt. Lykaion.

39 Kourouniotis 1909, p. 197, fig. 16, mentions that he found a series of stone basins at ground level around the area of the hippodrome.

40 There were two ancient springs close by that provided water for the lower sanctuary, the Agno Fountain and a smaller fountain near the stoa and the administrative building.

41 This was the likely use of the water channels and water basins that lined the sides of many ancient stadia. See Romano 1981, pp. 215-217; Romano 1993, p. 88.

42 Romano, Voyatzis 2015, p. 243, fig. 35:44.

43 For parallels, see Furtwängler 1890, no. 1250, pl. 66; Payne 1962, p. 182, no. 24, pl. 82 (from the temenos of Hera Limenia); Davidson 1952, p. 337, no. 2889, pl. 136.

44 The stone corridor that extends from the east side of the Administrative Building towards the stadium and the hippodrome descends in elevation and cuts through several of these terraces.

45 During the 2016 campaign Trench S was expanded and the hippodrome floor was discovered at an elevation of 1,163.0 – 1,163.5. The neighbouring dromos of the stadium is identified due to the fact that one of the stone starting line blocks of the stadium is in situ and the neighbouring area is characterized by outcroppings of bedrock that has been cut down. The elevation of the starting line block is 1,165.8 and the elevation of the bedrock outcroppings in the area of the starting line block are between 1,164.9 – 1,166.1.

46 Humphrey 1986, p. 124.

47 Porath 1995, p. 70.

48 Ostrasz 1989, p. 57.

49 Dow 1937, pp. 120-126.

50 Romano, Voyatzis 2015, pp. 210-217. S. Rotroff is responsible for the study of the Hellenistic pottery.

51 See Rotroff 2015. V. Moses is studying the faunal material.

52 A second passage earlier in the Anabasis (1.2.10) has to do with another festival, celebrated by Xenias the Arcadian, the festival to Lykaion Zeus. Xenophon tells us that there were 11,000 hoplites and about two thousand peltasts that had marched to Peltae where the festival was celebrated in front of Cyrus the Great where the prizes offered were golden strigils. There are no details about the specific athletic events in this passage.

53 Trans. J. Dillery.

54 Romano, Voyatzis 2014, pp. 589-591. Horse racing in Arcadia is very old according to Pausanias (8.4.5) who says that the first funeral games were held for Azan son of Arcas and included a horse race and other contests. Pausanias (5.1.8) mentions that Apis was killed in the chariot race in these funeral games.

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1 — Map of the Peloponnesos indicating the location of Mt. Lykaion.
Crédits D. G. Romano, M. Pihokker, and A. Mayer, after a map by E. Gaba, Wikimedia Commons.
URL http://books.openedition.org/efa/docannexe/image/6417/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 511k
Titre Fig. 2 — Plan of the Sanctuary of Zeus at Mt. Lykaion.
Crédits D. G. Romano, A. Insua, M. Pihokker, and E. Rodriguez-Alvarez.
URL http://books.openedition.org/efa/docannexe/image/6417/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 410k
Titre Fig. 3 — Sanctuary of Zeus including the ash altar in the background and the hippodrome and stadium terrace in the middle ground.
Crédits Photo: D. G. Romano.
URL http://books.openedition.org/efa/docannexe/image/6417/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 528k
Titre Fig. 4 — Blouet’s 1833 drawing of hippodrome terrace and related structures. North is at the bottom of the drawing.
Crédits After Blouet 1833, p. 37.
URL http://books.openedition.org/efa/docannexe/image/6417/img-4.png
Fichier image/png, 1,2M
Titre Fig. 5 — Hippodrome and Stadium plan indicating location of trenches.
Crédits D. G. Romano, A. Insua, M. Pihokker, E. Rodriguez-Alvarez, and A. Ford.
URL http://books.openedition.org/efa/docannexe/image/6417/img-5.png
Fichier image/png, 90k
Titre Fig. 6 — Hippodrome stone turning posts, extant blocks and reconstruction.
Crédits X. Valle, O. Tarricone, and P. Biswas.
URL http://books.openedition.org/efa/docannexe/image/6417/img-6.png
Fichier image/png, 52k

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University of Arizona

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