Ancient Greek Olympic Games

By: Mariam Ma

There are many stories on how the Ancient Olympic Games started in ancient Greece.

Ancient Greek Olympic Games
One story unfolds that it was Heracles who first established the Games after concluding his twelve labors to honor his father, the deity Zeus. Another legend tells that it was the guardians of an infant Zeus who founded the Games by competing in the first footrace. Or perhaps it was Zeus himself who created the Olympic Games after he defeated his father Cronus to become the King of Gods. Whatever the story was, it became clear that;

The ancient Olympic Games were held as a tribute to Zeus.

Ancient Greek Sports

  • The Host City is Always Greece
    Unlike the modern Olympics, the host city of the ancient Olympic Games did not change. It was always held in Olympia, Greece. Olympia is also known for the Temple of Zeus where the ivory and gold statue of Zeus can be found. The statue was proclaimed to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World which again speaks of the importance of the gods in the Greek life and culture.
  • The Olympics served as a meeting place and festival
    Every four years, athletes and spectators would gather to compete and honor the gods. However, only free Greek men were allowed to compete. Women were barred from competing and only maidens were allowed to attend the Games. To the winners at the Olympic Games, great honor came to them from their home villages. Statues were erected in their image and their legend grew in stories. One could say that this is not much different from today's sporting heros.
  • Oldest Records dates back to 776BC
    The oldest records of the Olympic Games date back to 776 BC but the Games might have started as early as 884 BC. The Olympics thrived for many centuries and grew in events and participants.
  • The Roman Empire outlawed the Olympics
    However, as the Roman Empire's power infiltrated Greece, Emperor Theodosius I outlawed the Olympics as a pagan festival in 393 AD. 
  • First Modern Olympics
    The Olympics laid dormant for nearly 1500 years until a French historian, Pierre de Coubertin, officially revived the Olympics by setting up the International Olympic Committee to organize the Games. Athens, Greece became the host city of the first modern Olympics in 1896. In keeping with ancient traditions, the Olympics are held in four year cycles known as the Olympiad. However, the host city now changes to spread the goodwill and the Olympic spirit to other nations.

The Olympics has certainly come a long way from ancient times but the wealth of history that surrounds the spectacle remains. Perhaps that is why the Olympics will continue to capture the imagination of a worldwide audience throughout the ages.

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