Ancient Olympic Games

Ancient Olympic Games

As is common knowledge, the early Olympic Games took place in ancient Greece. It consisted of numerous competitions that took place between various ancient Greek city-states’ and kingdoms’ representatives and featured several chariot racing, athletic and combat events.

The games took place so sincerely that a war or struggle between any of the participating kingdoms or city-states used to be postponed till the end of the games. There are numerous estimates about the date of origination of the Olympics. However, experts around the world have accepted the year to be 776 B.C, based on the imprints of the winners’ footrace, which was held once every four years in Olympia.

Legends and Myths

The history of the ancient Olympic Games is full of legends and mystique. A popular myth amongst the Greek folk says that Zeus and his son Heracles were the forebears, with Heracles being the person who named the games “Olympic” and decided that they will be held once in 4 years. Another myth suggests that Heracles built the Olympic stadium in Olympia in order to honor his father Zeus, and after it was completed, he walked a distance of 200 steps in a straight line. He named this distance “one stadion”, which later became a unit of measuring distance. One more legend persists that the games were based upon “Olympic truce”, a well-known Greek concept.

Ancient Olympic Events

The ancient Olympic Games comprised of various running events, equestrian events, boxing events, wrestling events and a pentathlon. The pentathlon was a long event consisting of javelin and discuss throws, wrestling, a footrace and a jumping event. Representatives of city-states and kingdoms competed in the true spirit of sport and fought hard to bring glory to their respective regions. It is widely believed that Coroebus, who was a cook from the city-state of Elis, became the first Olympic champion.

Religious Importance

The ancient Olympics were considered to be games of high religious significance. Apart from the sporting events, numerous sacrifices to Pelops and Zeus took place during the games. Widely known for his famous chariot race with King Oenomaus, Pelops was the mythical king of Olympia. Hence, the winners of the numerous athletic and equestrian events were highly praised and their deeds were often penned down in poems which compared them to Pelops.

As mentioned before, the games were held in Olympia every four years. The period between one Olympic Games and the next was known as an Olympiad, which later became a time measuring unit for the Greeks. The games were an integral part of a larger cycle called the Panhellenic games, which, apart from the Olympics, comprised of the Isthmian Games, the Pythian Games and the Nemean Games.

The Termination of the Ancient Olympic Games

After attaining their peak in the 6th and 5th centuries B.C, the gradual decline of the Olympic Games began. Experts speculate that the reason behind this was the increasing influence of the Romans in Greece. There is no known official date when the games died, but the most widely accepted date is 393 AD, when Theodosius I declared the abolishment of all pagan practices and religions. After the death of the Olympic Games, it took almost 2 millennia to resurrect them again. They were finally restored in the year 1896, when Pierre de Coubertin, who is considered to be the father of the Modern Olympic Games, revived them.


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