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Hellanodikai

Hellanodikai

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The Hellanodikai were the judge
Judge
A judge is a person who presides over court proceedings, either alone or as part of a panel of judges. The powers, functions, method of appointment, discipline, and training of judges vary widely across different jurisdictions. The judge is supposed to conduct the trial impartially and in an open...

s of the Ancient Olympic Games, and the success of the games are attributed to their efforts. It was their sacred duty to maintain the standards and legacy of the games, as well as uphold the rules. Originally the title was Agonothetai (meaning game organisers), but was changed to Hellanodikai soon after.

Originally, there was only one Hellanodikos, but this expanded, reaching as high as twelve members and then settling on ten in 348 BC
348 BC
Year 348 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Corvus and Laenas...

. They supervised individual events, with a senior Hellanodikos as an overseer.

Hellanodikai were handpicked from people living in the region of Elis
Elis
Elis, or Eleia is an ancient district that corresponds with the modern Elis peripheral unit...

, as Elis was responsible for the running of the Olympics. Originally the post was hereditary, but this was changed, and an Elean from each of the ruling families were elected as a Hellanodikos. Their post only lasted for one Olympiad
Olympiad
An Olympiad is a period of four years, associated with the Olympic Games of Classical Greece. In the Hellenistic period, beginning with Ephorus, Olympiads were used as calendar epoch....

, and elections took place for each of the subsequent games.

Besides being judges and umpires, the Hellanodikai also were the general organisers, and were present at every ceremony
Ceremony
A ceremony is an event of ritual significance, performed on a special occasion. The word may be of Etruscan origin.-Ceremonial occasions:A ceremony may mark a rite of passage in a human life, marking the significance of, for example:* birth...

 and event that took place, having the honour of presenting the crowns and palm branches to the winners. They were also expected to police the games.

In the ten months preceding the games, the Hellanodikai lived in a specially made building in Elis, called the Hellanodikaion. This building was close to the gymnasiums
Gymnasium (ancient Greece)
The gymnasium in ancient Greece functioned as a training facility for competitors in public games. It was also a place for socializing and engaging in intellectual pursuits. The name comes from the Ancient Greek term gymnós meaning "naked". Athletes competed in the nude, a practice said to...

 where the athletes trained in preparation for the games. While staying at the Hellanodikaion, they were trained by the nomophylakes (νομοφύλακες, meaning 'guardians of the law') in the rules and regulations of the games.

Another task for the Hellanodikai was to supervise the training of the athletes, where they selected those who were well trained, as well as reject those who were not performing at a satisfactory level. The trainers for the individual athletes had to be present, but could not intervene or they were punished accordingly. They evaluated each athlete on behaviour, character and morality, as well as the more standard attributes such as power, stamina, and resistance. Those that were approved were entered into a special list called the leukoma (λεύκωμα).

Two days before the games, the athletes which were eligible left Elis for Olympia
Olympia, Greece
Olympia , a sanctuary of ancient Greece in Elis, is known for having been the site of the Olympic Games in classical times, comparable in importance to the Pythian Games held in Delphi. Both games were held every Olympiad , the Olympic Games dating back possibly further than 776 BC...

, in a procession led by the Hellanodikai.

The Hellanodikai were renowned for their fairness, and the public held them in high regard. While bribery and cheating among the athletes was commonplace, there was only one recorded case of corruption among the judges, where a Hellanodikos won two equestrian
Equestrianism
Equestrianism more often known as riding, horseback riding or horse riding refers to the skill of riding, driving, or vaulting with horses...

events. To remain impartial, the Hellanodikai were no longer allowed to participate in the games, and this remained the only blemish on their otherwise impeccable record.