The crown of pine
by Church, Alfred John, 1829-1912
interesting subject matter
The Games were reputed to have originated as funeral games for Melicertes (also known as Palaemon), instituted by Sisyphus, legendary founder and king of Corinth, who discovered the dead body and buried it subsequently on the Isthmus. In Roman times, Melicertes was worshipped in the region.
Theseus, legendary king of Athens, expanded Melicertes' funeral games from a closed nightly rite into fully-fledged athletic-games event which was dedicated to Poseidon, open to all Greeks, and was at a suitable level of advancement and popularity to rival those in Olympia, which were founded by Heracles. Theseus arranged with the Corinthians for any Athenian visitors to the Isthmian games to be granted the privilege of front seats (prohedria, Ancient Greek προεδρία). Another version states that Kypselos, tyrant of Corinth in the 7th century BC, returned to the Games their old splendour.
If we are to accept the traditional date of the first Olympic Games (776 BC), we can say that the first Isthmian Games would have been held in 582 BC.
At least until the 5th century BC (Pindar's time) the winners of the Isthmian games received a wreath of celery; later, the wreath was altered such that it consisted of pine leaves. Victors could also be honored with a statue or an ode. Besides these prizes of honor, the city of Athens awarded victorious Athenians with an extra 100 drachmas.