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Hysplex. Photo : Augusta Stylianou Artist

Athletes in the running games had to start simultaneously otherwise they were disqualified and to some reports even beaten.

How did the Greeks start their races? Originally, they probably used an auditory signal, either an official saying "Go" or perhaps a trumpet blast. Runners could anticipate the signal and start too soon, hence the invention of a starting gate, or hysplex. Inspired by the representation of a gate on a fourth-century Athenian vase, Stephen G. Miller of the University of California, Berkeley, and his Greek colleague Panos Valavanis reconstructed a form of the hysplex on the balbis of the stadium at Nemea in 1993 (see their work, Hysplex: The Starting Mechanism in Ancient Stadia. A Contribution to Ancient Greek Technology [1999].) This hysplex functions like the simple mousetrap. Between poles at each end of the balbis, ropes are stretched to form a barrier. Utilizing torsion from twisted ropes, the gate is lowered onto the ground, then raised against the tension and kept in a vertical position by a ring and cord fastened to larger stationary posts at each end. The rings are also attached to ropes held by an official standing behind the runners. When he jerks the ropes, the rings slip off the poles, the gate slams forward, and the runners spring onto the track. Hugh M. Lee, University of Maryland, College Park.

From "Ancient Greek Technology" exhibition at the Evagoras & Kathleen Lanitis Centre in Carob Mill Limassol

Replicas and Reconstruction by Prof . Kostas Kotsanas and his students

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