Ancient Olympics - Barefooted Competitors

Ancient Olympics - Barefooted Competitors Archeological Wonders Famous Historical Events Sports Ancient Places and/or Civilizations

Runners competed in their bare feet during the Ancient Olympics.  Ruins, in the town of Olympia, provide us a glimpse of how those types of events were conducted at the time.

The starting block for foot races, in Ancient-Olympic times, was called a “balbis.”  We can still see the balbis at Olympia today.  

Athletes would position their toes into the groves of the balbis, each waiting to start at the same time (since false starters suffered severe consequences, such as a whipping).  We learn more from an article published in Smithsonian Magazine:

Rather than crouch, sprinters stood upright, leaning slightly forward, feet together, arms outstretched, every muscle poised.  A rope was stretched before them at chest height, creating a rudimentary starting gate.  Contestants tended to eye the barrier respectfully: the punishment for false starts was a thrashing from official whip bearers.

Class mattered a great deal in ancient Greece, but Olympic athletes  wore exactly the same thing when competing:  nothing at all.  Status was thus stripped away since every runner competed without clothing.

Media Credits

Image of the balbis, at Olympia, online via Education World.



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"Ancient Olympics - Barefooted Competitors" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Aug 24, 2019.
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