Delphi couldn’t help but remember one of the most embarrassing moments of her life whenever she came here.
“Come on Delphi, dance properly!”
One of the other girls scowled at her as she turned gracefully. Delphi had tried to shuffle a bit more enthusiastically.
“Don’t you want the gods to grant you a fine husband?” said another, a blonde girl who was keeping time perfectly.
Delphi opened her mouth to say: “No, actually, I don’t want to marry some smelly thirty-year-old soldier,” but she sensed the old ladies at the end of the passage were watching. So, she didn’t, and just tried to join in the best she could.
Delphi usually liked dancing. It was dancing naked in a cave round a bonfire with a group of other girls, being watched by old, nagging women that was the problem.
But it was tradition. And religion. And when those two things combined, even Delphi couldn’t argue her way out of them.
They had entered the passageway from the centre of the Panathenaic Stadium and had lit their bonfire, before offering gifts of bread, almonds and honey to the gods. Delphi had at least managed to not eat any of her offering on the way here. Not much of it anyway.
The stadium itself was magnificent. Soaring steps of marble seats stretched up in a great sweep around the central track, where the athletes would compete. It was here that the Panathenaic Games would take place – wrestling, running and throwing events – all to the loud cheers of thousands of Greek spectators. She was determined to sneak in and watch for herself – it shouldn’t be too difficult. She was pretty good at pretending to be a boy. As soon as she had walked in, she could sense the energy of the place – the sweat, the blood, the triumphs.
Delphi didn’t want to be dancing in this dark cave beneath the hill – she wanted to be on the track, running as fast as Hermes. She wanted to be on the podium and crowned with the laurel leaves. She wanted to be cheered by thousands of people.
She stumbled in her dance again as she remembered that the men did all their races naked too. Probably wouldn’t be able to get away with being a boy then, she thought.
Delphi sighed and concentrated on dancing to get it over with.