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by Archaeology Newsroom

The Ancient Lycaea

Lycaea, dedicated to the gods Zeus and Pan, was the most important festival in Arcadia. It was established by Lycaon, the mythical king of Arcadia, and it included rites, performed on the top of the Lycaeon Mount at 1383m height, as well as athletic games and horse races that were conducted in a valley close to the mountain peak. Tradition considers it an age-long festival, but according to the Parian Marble it was established in the fourteenth century B.C.. The archaeological finds evidence rites that date from the archaic period, while the historical sources confirm the conduct of games from the early classical age. The archaeological excavations brought to light tablets inscribed with fourth-century programs of games and names of Lycaean victors. In the athletic games that were held every five years and had a pan-Arcadian range, could also participate distinguished athletes from all over Greece. The program of the games included foot races, wrestling, and horse and chariot races and was similar to that of the Olympic games.