Long jump | Greece

Name in Original Language

ἅλμα

Area Where Played

Greece

History

The contest is mentioned for the first time in Homer's Odyssey, in the games held by the Phaeaceans in honour of Odysseus. Long jump is mentioned as a separate sport on a dedicatory inscription engraved on the jumping weight (halter) of the Eleusinian athlete Epainetus. Usually however, it formed part of the pentathlon (a combination of five athletic events), and was seldom held as a separate event. It was considered to be particularly difficult because it demanded coordination of the athlete's body and mind. This is why the athlete was occasionally accompanied by a piper whose sounds provided the rhythm and music sequence for a well-performed jump. Jumping events including the long jump were held throughout ancient Greece in the Pythian, Isthmian, Nemean and, of course, Olympic games. The basic difference between ancient and modern long jump is that in antiquity athletes did not run in order to increase velocity, but jumped from a standing position, throwing back their halteres as they lifted their feet from the ground.

Detailed Description

As in all ancient Greek sports, long jump was part of young boys’ education, related to their preparation for serving their city in war as well as for their development of mind and body in a harmonic way.

Rules

The jumping pit was roughly 50 feet long and was filled with soft soil so that the athletes' footprints could be detected on it. Philostratus mentions that if both footprints did not appear in the pit, the jump was considered to be invalid. On one side of the pit was a fixed point called the bater. The bater was the starting point from which all jumps were measured. Athletes held special jumping weights (halteres) which they let go behind them once their feet were in the air.

The length of the jump was recorded with a wooden rod called a kanon. The length of the jump remains a problem. An ancient record informs us, that Phayllos of Kroton became the subject of an epigram: "Phayllos took a long jump of five and fifty feet" (16,3 m) and because most sand pits were only about 15 m long, he landed outside the pit. It is assumed that he was competing in triple or multiple jump. They probably made five jumps in a row, each time a standing jump with both feet together. The landing position of the first jump was the starting position of the second.