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in antiquity, the panhellenic festivals and competitions in honor of the god Poseidon held every two years on the Isthmus of Corinth. Originally they were significant locally, but in the early sixth century B.C. they assumed panhellenic importance. Gymnastic, equestrian, and, later, poetry and music competitions were conducted at the festivals. A palm branch was presented to the victor, and he was crowned with a wreath of celery or pine. Archaeological excavations, begun in the 1880’s, revealed a theater, hippodrome, and stadium near Corinth as well as the remains of temples to Poseidon and Melicertes.
There are differing stories as to the origin of the games; one legend says they were founded by Theseus after he killed the robber chief Sinis. The games were one of the four great national Greek festivals, the others being the Olympic, Pythian, and Nemean games. The Isthmian games were especially popular because they offered more amusements than the other three festivals.
OxClassDict-1970, p. 556