chapter  9
14 Pages


Homer wrote that competitors in the foot-race ran to a mark in the distance, turned around it and ran back to the starting point so the ancient Greeks raced up and down a straight track, not around bends. The ‘stade’ (Greek racecourse) gained its name from the fact that it had a sprinting track which was one stade (600ft/180m) long, with all races being multiples of that . However, the track at Olympia, reputedly stepped out by Herakles, son of Zeus, was 192.27m (630.8ft) long. The track at Epidaurus was 181.3m (594.8ft) and that at Delphi 177.5m (582.3ft). Whoever stepped out the track at Pergamon out-stepped even Herakles – with a whopping 210m (689ft). The ancient Greek stadium was therefore non-standard but in the common form of a long parallelogram some 180m long by some 30m (98.4ft) wide. The enclosure containing the stadium would allow approximately 15m (49.2ft) at either end of the track and might be square, as at Epidaurus, or curved, as at Delphi and Athens, hence the derivation of the shape of the modern stadium.