The stadium of Roman Plovdiv after the 2011-2012 reconstructionThe stadium of Roman Plovdiv after the 2011-2012 reconstruction

Before that, the games in Philippopolis were called Pythian Games. The name suggests that they were fashioned after the prestigious games dedicated to Apollo, which were held every four years in the god's sanctuary in Delphi. It gave the Philippopolis games credibility in a highly competitive market.

Ancient Greek games began as a purely religious affair. They were dedicated to certain gods and were held in their oracles and sanctuaries. In Roman times, however, games turned into pure entertainment and every respectable city in the empire invested in a stadium and even in a hippodrome for chariot racing and an amphitheater for gladiator games.

When the first sport games in Philippopolis were held is unknown. The earliest evidence for them are the coins and inscriptions celebrating Caracalla's visit in 214. The last accounts are from 218, when Emperor Elagabalus (218-222) visited the city and had the games renamed after him, as Pythian Kendrisian Games.

The stadium predates Caracalla's times. According to a recently discovered inscription, it was built in the 90s. It wasn't big enough for chariot races but nevertheless was a spectacular sight. Built between two hills, it boasted a five-arched façade adorned with statues and reliefs depicting the symbols of the divine protectors of the local games, Hermes and Heracles.