SACRED PROCESSION OF THE OLYMPIC GAMES

According to the literary sources, Elis (or Ilida) the capital of the city- state of the Eleans and the seat of the organizing authority of the Olympic Games of antiquity, is situated 300 stades (approximately 58 km) away from the Sanctuary Zeus in Olympia following the valley road named Sacred Way. On the eve of the opening of the Olympic Games, the majestic Sacred Procession was formed in Elis marking the commencement of the two days hike through the sacred way to Olympia, its final destination.

The hellanodikai (judges), the priests and the officials of Elis, the “theoroi”, that is, the official emissaries of the Greek cities, the athletes with their coaches, were the prominent members on the head of the Sacred Procession. The riders and horsemen with their racing horses and chariots, the residents of Elis, the inhabitants of the countryside and the numerous foreign visitors and pilgrims along with their rich votive offerings and the animals to be sacrificed to Zeus were incorporated into Sacred Procession.

When the procession reached the Piera spring, the hellanodikai performed a sacrifice of a pig in the frame of a cleansing ritual. After the ceremony, the procession continued along the Sacred Way towards the small town of Letrinoi (close to Pirgos, the contemporary capital of the Elia Perfecture) where all its members spent the night. The next day, around noon, the Sacred Procession finally arrived at Olympia marking the opening of another Olympiad.

Source: Museum of the History of the Olympic Games of Antiquity – Ephorate of Antiquities of Ilia.

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