Origins of the Olympic Games Conference

The Origins of the Olympic Games and the Development of Olympia before the 5th cent. BC

Call for Papers

The early foundation date of the Olympic Games, traditionally referred to as 776 BC, has often been discussed and there are also many theories for the origins of the Games ranging from funeral games to vegetation magic, harvest festivals and even to initiation ceremonies. No consensus has been reached and given the nature of the evidence, there is much room for speculation. Based on the archaeological record, it is quite clear however, that during the Early Iron Age the sanctuary existed and flourished for a long time without the games and there is no evidence to demonstrate that it would have been established originally or primarily to house athletic or equestrian events. The origins, the rapid development and the high prestige attached to the Olympic Games, coupled with the remote location of the sanctuary present a series of problems, and the same holds true for the early history of the sanctuary: despite the intensive investigations conducted during the last decades, questions concerning the cult practice, the identity of the worshipped gods and the interpretation of buildings and votive offerings are still open to debate.

An interdisciplinary conference on these interrelated topics seems therefore due and contributions are welcome from different fields of research such as archaeology, archaeometry, archaeozoology, archaeobotany, ancient history, history of religions, landscape archaeology, epigraphy, topography etc.

Papers may concern but are not restricted to the following topics: the sanctuary and its natural environment; the relationship between the sanctuary and its neighbourhood; contacts with individual poleis; dedications of the Geometric and Archaic Periods; authenticity of the Olympic victor list; establishment of the athletic and equestrian disciplines; chronological problems; victory monuments; historiography of the Olympic Games; relationship between cult and competitions; old and new theories concerning the origins of the Games; ethnographic parallels; mythical tales surrounding Olympia and its Games; cults of gods and heroes. The discussion of individual monuments, artefacts, inscriptions is also possible, provided they add something to our understanding of some broader questions.

The conference will be hosted as a panel by the 9th Celtic Conference in Classics at Dublin (UCD) from 22nd to 25th June 2016. Papers in English or French should not exceed 35-40 minutes. Titles and abstracts (up to 300 words) including the name and the address/affiliation of the candidate should be sent by email to by 30th December 2015.

Decision on acceptance will be sent in January 2016. Participation fees will be announced later, but are estimated to reach ca. 150 Euro. Preliminary information on the event is available at the web site: Further details will be available at the same web site in due corse. The proceedings will be published as soon as possible.

Please circulate this call among your colleagues, who might be interested in the event. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Franziska LANG (TU Darmstadt)


Julia TAITA (independent scholar)

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