Date and duration of the Olympiads

The Olympic festival, like the other Panhellenic festivals, was held once every four years in accordance to the Greek eight-year calendar. The exact dates of the festival were calculated on the basis of the lunar 28-day month. The games were held at the first full moon after the summer solstice, coinciding with today's mid-July, approximately between the 11th-16th of the month. This was the hottest period of the year, and many athletes found the heat uncomfortable.

The time spanning between two Olympic festivals was called an Olympiad. The term was also used to denote the days of the festival itself.

During the time interval between two Olympic festivals, Greeks gathered in other Panhellenic festivals held in other sanctuaries. The order of the festivals was the following:

Date Time of year Event
540 BC late summer 55th Olympiad
539 BC summer Nemean Games
538 BC spring Isthmian Games
537 BC summer Nemean Games
536 BC spring Isthmian Games
536 BC late summer 56th Olympiad

The Olympiads formed the basis of a nation-wide dating system. Each Olympiad was named after the athlete who had won in that year's stadion race. Later, in the early 4th century BC, the sophist Hippias of Elis numbered all Olympiads in relation to the first Olympiad, held in 776 BC. The list of Olympiads was later completed by Aristotle, Eratosthenes, Phlegon of Tralleis and Julius Africanus.

Introduction of Games | Events of an Olympiad