What were the Panhellenic Games of Ancient Greece?
Ancient Olympia running track

The Panhellenic Games were four prestigious athletic festivals held in different parts of Greece, dedicated to the Gods from Greek Mythology. Here’s everything you need to know.

Stadiums of Ancient Greece

Many ancient sites in Greece have a stadium area, with the most well known being in Ancient Olympia. These stadiums give an indication not only into how well developed the ancient Greek city states were, but also the culture and customs of the time.

Whilst we know about the major athletic events held at these venues, little is known regarding if the stadiums were also used at other times during the year.

We do know the stadiums were often part of a larger complex which may have had sanctuary status, and would be cared for by a nearby city state.

Percy Jackson Olympia Tour from Nafplion

The Panhellenic Games

In the past, there were four important centres complete with stadiums, and these formed the core of what we refer to today as the Panhellenic Games. These stadiums were found at Ancient Olympia, Delphi, Nemea, and Isthmia.

Each of these locations held an athletic and cultural games based on their own calendars, and dedicated to a particular Greek God. Competitors from all over the ancient Greek world would travel to these locations and compete against one another, winning not only prestige for themselves but also for their families and city.

As many of the Greek city states seemed to be in a state of war with each other, truces were called at the time of the Games to ensure the safe passage of athletes.

Of the four Games, the Games at Olympia were considered to be the most important. For many athletes, particularly those travelling from Northern Greece, it must have been quite a journey to get there!

Ancient Athletic Games of Greece

The names of the games, and the frequency in which they were held are as follows:

Athletic Games

God Honoured

Location

Prize

Frequency

Olympic Games

Zeus

OlympiaElis

Olive wreath (Kotinos)

Every 4 years

Pythian Games

Apollo

Delphi

Laurel wreath

Every 4 years (2 years after the Olympic Games)

Nemean Games

ZeusHeracles

NemeaCorinthia

Wild celery

Every 2 years (2nd and 4th year of Olympiads)

Isthmian Games

Poseidon

IsthmiaSicyon

Pine

Every 2 years (year before and year after Ancient Olympics)

Visiting the sites of the Panhellenic Games today

Of the four Panhellenic Games, two sites are today popular places to visit in Greece. These two are unsurprisingly Ancient Olympia, and Delphi. We offer Greek Mythology tours to both of these locations.

The archaeological site of Nemea is a lesser visited destination, but certainly worthwhile all the same. Whilst we don’t currently offer Greek Mythology Tours to Nemea, we are happy to discuss creating a bespoke travel itinerary and arranging a guide for you. Please contact us for more details! 

As for Isthmia, it is a much smaller archaeological site set in a quiet location. It receives very few visitors each year, and you’ll have to use your imagination as to how the site looked in its heyday!

Greek Mythology Tours to Ancient Olympia

Not only were the Games at Olympia the most important in the ancient Greek world, but they also served as the inspiration for the modern Olympic Games. It’s a fascinating archaeological site to visit, and it’s even possible for people to run on the stadium track – a track well over two thousand years old!

Located in the Peloponnese region of Greece, Ancient Olympia is best visited as a day tour from Nafplion. Our Greek Mythology tour of Ancient Olympia is designed to give you a tour of the site, a deeper insight into ancient Greece, and also to share some of the stories from Greek Mythology.

Popular with families, we’ve also added a Percy Jackson dimension to the tour. So, if your kids are Percy Jackson fans, this is definitely a tour all the family will enjoy!

Find out more: Percy Jackson tour of Ancient Olympia.

Greek Mythology Tours to Delphi

The Temple of Apollo in Delphi, Greece

Visiting Delphi is one of the most popular day trips from Athens. It allows enough time at the site to fully appreciate its mystery and wonder, as well as to admire the surrounding countryside.

Delphi was both an Oracle centre as well as the home of the Pythian Games. As such, its sanctuary status made it one of the most important places in the ancient Greek world. It was even referred to as the Navel of the World!

Our private day trip to Delphi from Athens is a unique way to experience this UNESCO World Heritage site. Focusing on the Greek myths that are connected with the site, we explain some of Delphi’s hidden secrets and cultural importance.

As with the Olympia tour, there is an added bonus for families in the form of Percy Jackson inspiration! Our guide will explain the myths from where the Percy Jackson stories originated, as well as other fun facts for the kids.

Find out more: Percy Jackson tour of Delphi.

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