On the top of the Lykaion mountain in Peloponnesus, where the prefectures of Arcadia, Messinia and Ilia meet…
The Ancient Lykaia
The ancient Lykaia were athletic and musical games of the Arcadian people dedicated to Lykaios (= full of light) Zeus and Pan. They were established by the mythical Lycaon, first king of ancient Arcadia, who reigned after Pelasgus.
Lykaia are considered one of the oldest pre-Hellenic celebrations. They are mentioned in the "Pario Chronicle" while Pindar characterizes them as the most important and oldest celebration of the Greeks, second only to Eleusinia. Later authors and various inscriptions refer to the Lykaia or list Lykaionikes (= victors of Lykaia) in the various sports. Arcadian coins of the 6th BC century are also related to the Lykaia.
The ancient Lykaia were held on the birthplace of Zeus, the top of Lykaion mountain, in the sanctuaries of the gods Zeus and Pana and the Hippodrome. Current excavation projects in the archaeological site of the top of Lykaion mountain have revealed traces of the Zeus worship dating back to 3.000 B.C. and a complex compound of religious sites and sport grounds. In the2nd AD century, Lykaia were transferred to Megalopolis.
They were held every four years probably in July or in the beginning of August.
The ancient Lykaia were part of a religious celebration that united the victor with the divine. They were considered the first common celebration of people, the first mass human event. They were born at the edge of man's uplift from the animal to the spiritual interests, which is why they are mythologically based on both of these periods of the human history.
In the beginning, a sacrifice was made at the altar of Lykaios Zeus on the top of the Lykaion mountain. Then, a multitude of athletic, equestrian as well as musical competitions for men and children were held. The Lykaia Games were identified by the name of the high priest of Zeus or Pan on whose priesthood they were being performed.
Among the main sports are the diaulos, the stadion, the dolichos, the pentathlon, the pankration, the wrestling, chariot races, the quadriga and others. Lykaia were organized, based on participation and athletic rules and they were aiming to the improvement of the mental, physical and spiritual health of young people as well as the moral perfection of man.
No matter how divided the Arcadians were when they gathered on the Lykaion mountain, which was the original cradle of their ancestors, they were considered one nation and as such they competed with the other Greeks.
The Modern Lykaia
The modern Lykaia were revived in 1973 by the association "O Lykaios Dias" and the Community of Ano Karies of Arcadia. Since then, they are held every four years in the end of July or in the beginning of August.
The modern Lykaia have as their center the archaeological site of Mount Lykaia and as their cradle its, sacred for the Arcadians, mountain top. They take place in the exact same place where they were performed in the old days, as close as possible to the ancient ways, mixing ancient (e.g. diaulos) and modern (e.g. long jump) sports at an altitude of 1,300 meters.
They are pan-arcadian athletic, music and spiritual celebrations with panhellenic participation and global appeal. They, also, keep intact their pure and true ideals and are still and will forever remain "Stefanites” (= wreath-crowning) and not Chrimatites" (= money-giving) competitions, ultimately aiming, like the ancient ones, in the mental, physical and spiritual health of our young people as well as in the moral perfection of man.