Origins and HistoryThe pentathlon was first featured in the 18th Olympic Games in 708 BC, and the Pythian and Nemean Games followed at some point afterwards. The event maintained its presence in these festivals until their abolition under Roman emperor Theodosius I in 394 AD. In the decades following his decree, all of the Panhellenic festivals slowly died out.
Discus ThrowThe discus throw of the ancient pentathlon was similar to the modern version, though employing different technique and material. Athletes would throw a bronze disc typically weighing 4.4 pounds. Each competitor was allowed 5 attempts, and the longest distance of the 5 was used as their score. The 5 attempts likely held symbolic importance, aligning with the theme of fives within the pentathlon. See Greek Discus for more information on the disc itself as well as throwing technique.
Javelin ThrowThe ancient Greek javelin throw was much like its modern counterpart as well. Athletes would throw a spear about as long as the height of an average man. These weapons featured a small leather strap called an amentum, or an ankyle, which was wrapped from one end near the middle of the shaft and from the other around the athlete’s first and middle fingers. This end would slip away as the javelin was thrown, allowing it to fly away freely. The amentum enabled the athlete to propel the javelin over a larger throwing arc and spiral it through the air, resulting in a much farther throw than otherwise. Some sources claim that there were two variations of the javelin throwing event: ekebolon and stockastikon. They claim that the contest of ekebolon was to throw the javelin as far possible, while stockastikon was an accuracy competition in which competitors attempted to land the spear as close to a target as possible. However, there is no known historical evidence to suggest the existence of this accuracy competition, whereas there is extant evidence for the distance competition. Like the discus throw, it is speculated that the athlete was allowed 5 attempts, after which the longest throw was recorded. See Greek Javelin for more information on the throwing technique and the weapon itself.
Long JumpThe long jump, contrary to the indication of its name, was likely a series of 5 consecutive jumps. This assumption is based on recorded distances of the victors from various Panhellenic festivals, as any fewer than 5 jumps to reach these distances (such as the recorded 55 feet by Phayllos of Croton in the 5th century BC) would require near superhuman abilities. Athletes were allowed 5 attempts, after which the farthest distance was recorded as their score. A vital tool and a symbol of the long jump was the halteres, which athletes used to gain extra momentum during their jump. See the referred article for detailed form and usage.
StadionThe stadion was a sprint named after both the stadium in which it was held and the track itself. This was the first sport to be featured in the ancient Olympic Games, and perhaps even before the beginning of their recorded history in 776 BC. Though the length of the stadion track was defined as 600 Greek pous, the actual length of such tracks varied among each stadium by up to 150 feet, as detailed in the full article linked below. For more detailed information, see Greek Stadion (Race).
WrestlingGreek wrestling, called palé, was the final event in the pentathlon. Competitors had to score three points via falls or submissions in order to win a match, with no break between scoring. The sport had two segments; orthe palé (upright wrestling) and kato palé (ground wrestling). These matches would always begin upright and would sometimes be taken to the ground if a fall wasn’t scored, though it appears that this was fairly infrequent. For more detailed information, see Greek Palé (Wrestling).
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