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The ancient Olympic Games (Ὀλυμπιακοί ἀγώνες, "Olympiakoi agones") were a series of athletic competitions among representatives of
city-states A city-state is an independent sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The word is borrowed from Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance la ...

city-states
and one of the
Panhellenic Games "Panhellenic Games" is the collective term for four separate sports festivals held in ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a civilization belonging to a period of History of Greece, Greek history from the Greek Dark Age ...
of
Ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a civilization belonging to a period of History of Greece, Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of Classical Antiquity, antiquity ( AD 600). This era wa ...
. They were held in honor of Zeus, and the Greeks gave them a
mythological Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narratives that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or origin myths. The main characters in myths are usually non-humans, such as gods, demigods, and other supernatural figures ...
origin Origin(s) or The Origin may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Comics and manga * Origin (comics), ''Origin'' (comics), a Wolverine comic book mini-series published by Marvel Comics in 2002 * The Origin (Buffy comic), ''The Origin'' (Bu ...
. The first Olympics is traditionally dated to 776 BC. They continued to be celebrated when Greece came under
Roman rule
Roman rule
, until the emperor
Theodosius I Theodosius I ( grc-gre, Θεοδόσιος ; 11 January 347 – 17 January 395), also called Theodosius the Great, was Roman emperor from 379 to 395. During his reign, he faced and overcame a war against the Goths and two civil wars, and ...

Theodosius I
, who having been converted to Christianity, banned pagan festivals. He banned the Olympics in AD394 as part of the campaign to impose Christianity as the State religion of Rome. The games were held every four years, or
Olympiad An Olympiad ( el, Ὀλυμπιάς, ''Olympiás'') is a period of four years associated with the Olympic Games The modern Olympic Games or Olympics (french: Jeux olympiques) are leading international sporting events featuring summer and ...

Olympiad
, which became a unit of time in historical chronologies. During the celebration of the games, an
Olympic TruceThe Olympic Truce is a tradition originating from ancient Greece that dates back to 776 BC. A "truce" (Ancient Greek: Ekecheiria, ékécheiria, meaning "laying down of arms") was announced before and during the Ancient Olympic Games, Olympic Games to ...
was enacted so that athletes could travel from their cities to the games in safety. The prizes for the victors were or crowns. The games became a political tool used by city-states to assert dominance over their rivals. Politicians would announce political alliances at the games, and in times of war, priests would offer sacrifices to the gods for victory. The games were also used to help spread Hellenistic culture throughout the Mediterranean. The Olympics also featured religious celebrations. The
statue of Zeus at Olympia The Statue of Zeus at Olympia was a giant seated figure, about tall, made by the Greek sculptor Phidias of the Parthenon to his Friends'' (1868) by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema Phidias or Pheidias (; grc, Φειδίας, ''Pheidias'';   ...
was counted as one of the
seven wonders of the ancient world 324px, Timeline and map of the Seven Wonders. Dates in bold green and dark red are of their construction and destruction, respectively. The Seven Wonders of the World or the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (simply known as Seven Wonders) is a ...

seven wonders of the ancient world
. Sculptors and poets would congregate each olympiad to display their works of art to would-be patrons. The ancient Olympics had fewer events than the modern games, and only freeborn Greek men were allowed to participate, although there were victorious women chariot owners. As long as they met the entrance criteria, athletes from any Greek
city-state A city-state is an independent sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The word is borrowed from Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance la ...
and kingdom were allowed to participate. The games were always held at Olympia rather than moving between different locations as is the practice with the modern
Olympic Games The modern Olympic Games or Olympics (french: Jeux olympiques) are leading international sporting events featuring summer and winter sports competitions in which thousands of athletes An athlete (also sportsman or sportswoman) is a pe ...
. Victors at the Olympics were honored, and their feats chronicled for future generations.


Origin mythology

To the Ancient Greeks, it was important to root the Olympic Games in mythology. During the time of the ancient games their origins were attributed to the gods, and competing legends persisted as to who actually was responsible for the genesis of the games. These origin traditions have become nearly impossible to untangle, yet a chronology and patterns have arisen that help people understand the story behind the games. Greek historian,
PausaniasPausanias (; Greek language, Greek: Παυσανίας) is the name of several people: *Pausanias of Athens, lover of the poet Agathon and a character in Plato's ''Symposium'' *Pausanias (general), Spartan general and regent of the 5th century BC *Pa ...
provides a story about the
dactyl Dactyl may refer to: * Dactyl (mythology) In Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the Cosmogony, origin and Co ...
Heracles (not to be confused with the son of
Zeus Zeus or , , ; grc, Δῐός, ''Diós'', label=genitive In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Ling ...

Zeus
and the Roman god
Hercules Hercules (, ) is the Roman equivalent of the Greek divinity, divine hero Heracles, son of Jupiter (mythology), Jupiter and the mortal Alcmene. In classical mythology, Hercules is famous for his strength and for his numerous far-ranging adventur ...

Hercules
) and four of his brothers, Paeonaeus,
Epimedes In Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the Cosmogony, origin and Cosmology#Metaphysical cosmology, nature of th ...
,
Iasius In Greek mythology, Iasus (; Ancient Greek: Ἴασος) or Iasius (; Ἰάσιος) was the name of several people: *Iasus (Iasius), one of the Dactyl (mythology), Dactyli or Korybantes, Curetes. *Iasus (king of Argos), Iasus, king of Argos *Iasus ...
and
Idas In Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of s originally told by the , and a of . These stories concern the and , the lives and activities of , , and , and the origins and significance of the ancient Greeks' own and practices. Mod ...
, who raced at Olympia to entertain the newborn Zeus. He crowned the victor with an
olive wreath The olive wreath, also known as ''kotinos'' ( el, κότινος), was the prize for the winner at the ancient Olympic Games The ancient Olympic Games (Ὀλυμπιακοί ἀγώνες, "Olympiakoi agones") were a series of athletic co ...

olive wreath
(which thus became a peace symbol), which also explains the four-year interval, bringing the games around every fifth year (counting inclusively). The other Olympian gods (so named because they lived permanently on
Mount Olympus Mount Olympus (; el, Όλυμπος, Ólympos, also , ) is the highest mountain A mountain is an elevated portion of the Earth's crust, generally with steep sides that show significant exposed bedrock. A mountain differs from a plateau in ...

Mount Olympus
) would also engage in wrestling, jumping and running contests. Another myth of the origin of the games is the story of
Pelops In Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of s originally told by the , and a of . These stories concern the and , the lives and activities of , , and , and the origins and significance of the ancient Greeks' own and practices. Mod ...

Pelops
, a local Olympian hero.
Oenomaus In Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the Cosmogony, origin and Cosmology#Metaphysical cosmology, nature of ...
, the king of
Pisa, GreecePisa ( grc, Πῖσα) is a modern village situated to the east of Olympia, Greece. Currently it is not politically independent but is a neighborhood of the village of Archea Olympia, the capital of the Municipality of Ancient Olympia, of which it ...
, had a daughter named
Hippodamia Hippodamia (, ; also Hippodamea and Hippodameia; Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly div ...
, and according to an oracle, the king would be killed by her husband. Therefore, he decreed that any young man who wanted to marry his daughter was required to drive away with her in his chariot, and Oenomaus would follow in another chariot, and spear the suitor if he caught up with them. Now, the king's chariot horses were a present from the god
Poseidon Poseidon (; grc-gre, Ποσειδῶν, ) was one of the Twelve Olympians upright=1.8, Fragment of a relief Relief is a sculptural technique where the sculpted elements remain attached to a solid background of the same material. The t ...

Poseidon
and therefore supernaturally fast. The king's daughter fell in love with a man called Pelops. Before the race, she persuaded her father's charioteer Myrtilus to replace the bronze axle pins of the king's chariot with wax ones. Naturally, during the race, the wax melted and the king fell from his chariot and was killed. After his victory, Pelops organized chariot races as a thanksgiving to the gods and as funeral games in honor of King Oenomaus, in order to be purified of his death. It was from this funeral race held at Olympia that the beginnings of the Olympic Games were inspired. Pelops became a great king, a local hero, and he gave his name to the
Peloponnese The Peloponnese (), Peloponnesia, or Peloponnesus (; el, Πελοπόννησος, Pelopónnēsos, ) is a peninsula and geographic regions of Greece, geographic region in southern Greece. It is connected to the central part of the country by the ...
. One (later) myth, attributed to
Pindar Pindar (; grc-gre, Πίνδαρος , ; la, Pindarus; c. 518 – 438 BC) was an Greek lyric, Ancient Greek lyric poet from Thebes, Greece, Thebes. Of the Western canon, canonical nine lyric poets of ancient Greece, his work is the best preserv ...

Pindar
, states that the festival at Olympia involved
Heracles Heracles ( ; grc-gre, Ἡρακλῆς, , glory/fame of Hera Hera (; grc-gre, Ἥρα, Hḗrā; grc, Ἥρη, Hḗrē, label=none in Ionic Ionic or Ionian may refer to: Arts and entertainment * Ionic meter, a poetic metre in anci ...

Heracles
, the son of Zeus: According to Pindar, Heracles established an athletic festival to honor his father, Zeus, after he had completed his labors. The patterns that emerge from these myths are that the Greeks believed the games had their roots in religion, that athletic competition was tied to worship of the gods, and the revival of the ancient games was intended to bring peace, harmony and a return to the origins of Greek life.


History

The Olympic games were held to be one of the two central rituals in
ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a civilization belonging to a period of History of Greece, Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of Classical Antiquity, antiquity ( AD 600). This era wa ...
, the other being the much older religious festival, the
Eleusinian Mysteries The Eleusinian Mysteries ( el, Ἐλευσίνια Μυστήρια, Eleusínia Mystḗria) were initiations held every year for the Cult (religious practice), cult of Demeter and Persephone based at the Panhellenic Sanctuary of Eleusis in ancien ...
.


Prehistory

Areas around the Mediterranean had a long tradition of athletic events. Ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians depicted athletic scenes in tombs of kings and their nobles. They did not, however, hold regular competitions, and those events that occurred were probably the preserve of kings and upper classes. Minoans culture held gymnastics in high esteem, with bull-leaping, tumbling, running, wrestling and boxing shown on their frescoes. The Myceneans adopted Minoan games and also raced chariots in religious or funerary ceremonies.
Homer Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēros'') was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally re ...

Homer
's heroes participate in athletic competitions to honor the dead. In the ''Iliad'' there are chariot races, boxing, wrestling, a foot race, as well as fencing, archery, and spear throwing. The ''Odyssey'' adds to these a long jump and discus throw.


First games

Aristotle reckoned the date of the first Olympics to be 776 BC, a date largely accepted by most, though not all, subsequent ancient historians. It is still the traditionally given date and archaeological finds confirm, approximately, the Olympics starting at or soon after this time.


Olympiad calendar

The historian
Ephorus Ephorus of Cyme (; grc-gre, Ἔφορος ὁ Κυμαῖος, ''Ephoros ho Kymaios''; c. 400330 BC) was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, ...
, who lived in the fourth century BC, is one potential candidate for establishing the use of Olympiads to count years, although credit for codifying this particular epoch usually falls to Hippias of Elis, to Eratosthenes, or even to Timaeus, whom Eratosthenes may have imitated. The Olympic Games were held at four-year intervals, and later, the ancient historians' method of counting the years even referred to these games, using ''
Olympiad An Olympiad ( el, Ὀλυμπιάς, ''Olympiás'') is a period of four years associated with the Olympic Games The modern Olympic Games or Olympics (french: Jeux olympiques) are leading international sporting events featuring summer and ...

Olympiad
'' for the period between two games. Previously, the local dating systems of the Greek states were used (they continued to be used by everyone except the historians), which led to confusion when trying to determine dates. For example, Diodorus states that there was a solar eclipse in the third year of the 113th Olympiad, which must be the eclipse of 316 BC. This gives a date of (mid-summer) 765 BC for the first year of the first Olympiad. Nevertheless, there is disagreement among scholars as to when the games began. The only competition held at first, according to the later Greek traveller
PausaniasPausanias (; Greek language, Greek: Παυσανίας) is the name of several people: *Pausanias of Athens, lover of the poet Agathon and a character in Plato's ''Symposium'' *Pausanias (general), Spartan general and regent of the 5th century BC *Pa ...
who wrote in AD175, was the '' stadion'', a race over about , measured after the feet of Hercules. The word ''stadium'' is derived from this event.


Early history

Several groups fought over control of the sanctuary at Olympia, and hence the games, for prestige and political advantage. Pausanias later writes that in 668 BC, Pheidon of
Argos Argos usually refers to: * Argos, Peloponnese Argos (; Greek language, Greek: Άργος ; Ancient Greek: Ἄργος ) is a city in Argolis, the Peloponnese (region), Peloponnese, Greece and is one of the List of oldest continuously inhabited ci ...
was commissioned by the town of Pisa to capture the sanctuary from the town of Elis, which he did and then personally controlled the games for that year. The next year, Elis regained control. In the first 200 years of the games' existence, they only had regional religious importance. Only Greeks in proximity to the Olympia competed in these early games. This is evidenced by the dominance of Peloponnesian athletes in the victors' rolls. The Olympic Games were part of the
Panhellenic Games "Panhellenic Games" is the collective term for four separate sports festivals held in ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a civilization belonging to a period of History of Greece, Greek history from the Greek Dark Age ...
, four separate games held at two- or four-year intervals, but arranged so that there was at least one set of games every year. The Olympic Games were more important and more prestigious than the Pythian, Nemean, and
Isthmian GamesIsthmian Games or Isthmia (Ancient Greek: Ἴσθμια) were one of the Panhellenic Games of Ancient Greece, and were named after the Isthmus of Corinth, where they were held. As with the Nemean Games, the Isthmian Games were held both the year befo ...
.


Imperial period


Roman conquest of Greece

After the Roman conquest of Greece the Olympics continued but the event declined in popularity throughout the pre-Augustan era. During this period, Romans largely concentrated on domestic problems, and paid less attention to their provinces. The fact that all equestrian victors were from the immediate locality and that there is a "paucity of victor statues in the Altis" from this period suggests the games were somewhat neglected. In 86 BC the Roman general
Sulla Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix (; 138–78 BC), commonly known as Sulla, was a Roman general A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, or marines Marines or naval infan ...

Sulla
robbed Olympia and other Greek treasuries to finance a war. He was the only Roman to commit violence against Olympia. Sulla hosted the games in 80 BC as a celebration of his victories over . Supposedly the only contest held was the stadion race because all the athletes had been called to Rome.


Augustus

Under the rule of emperor
Augustus Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BC19 August AD 14) was the first Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles through ...

Augustus
the Olympics underwent a revival. Before he came to full power, Augustus' right-hand man
Marcus Agrippa Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa (; 63 BC – 12 BC) was a Roman general, statesman, and architect who was a close friend, son-in-law, and lieutenant to the Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the ...

Marcus Agrippa
restored the damaged temple of Zeus and in 12 BC Augustus asked King
Herod of Judea Herod I (; ; grc-gre, ; c. 72 – 4 or 1 BCE), also known as Herod the Great, was a Roman Empire, Roman client state, client king of Judea, referred to as the Herodian Kingdom of Judea, Herodian kingdom. The history of his legacy has polarized ...
to subsidize the games. While no Roman ever entered an athletic event at Olympia, in the early years of Augustus reign some of his associates, including future emperor Tiberius, won equestrian events. After Augustus was declared a God by the Senate after his death, a statue of his likeness was commissioned at Olympia. Subsequent divine emperors also had statues erected within the sacred Altis. The stadium was renovated at his command and Greek athletics in general were subsidized.


Nero

One of the most infamous events of Olympic history occurred under the rule of
Nero Nero ( ; full name: Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 15 December AD 37 – 9 June AD 68) was the fifth emperor of Rome. He was Adoption in Ancient Rome, adopted by the Roman emperor Claudius at the age of 13 and s ...

Nero
. He desired victory in all chariot races of the Panhellenic Games in a single year, so he ordered the four main hosts to hold their games in 67 AD and therefore the scheduled Olympics of 65 AD were postponed. At Olympia he was thrown from his chariot, but still claimed victory. Nero also considered himself a talented musician, so he added contests in music and singing to those festivals that lacked them, including the Olympics. Despite his terrible singing, he won all the contests, no doubt because judges were afraid to award victory to anyone else. After his assassination, the Olympic judges had to repay the bribes he had bestowed and declared the "Neronian Olympiad" to be void.


Renaissance

In the first half of the second century, the Philhellenic emperors,
Hadrian Hadrian (; la, Caesar Traianus Hadrianus ; 24 January 76 – 10 July 138) was Roman emperor from 117 to 138. He was born into a Roman Italo-Hispanic family, which settled in Spain from the Italian city of Atri, Abruzzo, Atri in Picenum. Hi ...

Hadrian
and
Antoninus Pius Antoninus Pius (; la, Antōnīnus Pius ; 19 September 86 – 7 March 161) was Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emper ...

Antoninus Pius
oversaw a new and successful phase in the history of the games. The Olympics attracted a great number of spectators and competitors and the victors' fame spread across the Roman Empire. The renaissance endured for most of the second century. Once again, "philosophers, orators, artists, religious proselytizers, singers, and all kinds of performers went to the festival of Zeus."


Decline

The 3rd century saw a decline in the popularity of the games. The victory list of Africanus ends at the Olympiad of 217 and no surviving text of subsequent authors mention any new Olympic victors. Excavated inscriptions show the games continued, however. Until recently the last securely datable winner was Publius Asclepiades of Corinth who won the pentathlon in 241 AD. In 1994 a bronze plaque was found inscribed with victors of the combative events hailing from the mainland and Asia Minor; proof that an international Olympic Games continued until at least 385 AD. The games continued past AD385, by which time flooding and earthquakes had damaged the buildings and invasions by barbarians had reached Olympia. In 394
Theodosius I Theodosius I ( grc-gre, Θεοδόσιος ; 11 January 347 – 17 January 395), also called Theodosius the Great, was Roman emperor from 379 to 395. During his reign, he faced and overcame a war against the Goths and two civil wars, and ...

Theodosius I
banned all pagan festivals, including the Olympics, but archeological evidence indicates that some games were still held.


Location

Olympia lies in the valley of the Alfeiós River (Romanized as Alpheus) in the western part of the
Peloponnese The Peloponnese (), Peloponnesia, or Peloponnesus (; el, Πελοπόννησος, Pelopónnēsos, ) is a peninsula and geographic regions of Greece, geographic region in southern Greece. It is connected to the central part of the country by the ...
, today around 18 km away from the
Ionian Sea The Ionian Sea ( el, Ιόνιο Πέλαγος, ''Iónio Pélagos'' ; it, Mar Ionio ; al, Deti Jon ("our sea")) is an elongated bay A bay is a recessed, coastal body of water that directly connects to a larger main body of water, suc ...

Ionian Sea
but perhaps, in antiquity, half that distance. The Altis, as the sanctuary as was originally known, was an irregular quadrangular area more than 180 meters on each side and walled except to the North where it was bounded by the Mount Kronos. It consisted of a somewhat disordered arrangement of buildings, the most important of which are the Temple of Hera, the , the
Pelopion The Pelopion was a structure at the ancient site of Olympia, Greece Olympia ( el, label=Modern Greek, Ολυμπία ; grc, Ὀλυμπία ), officially Archaia Olympia ( el, label=Modern Greek, Αρχαία Ολυμπία; grc, Ἀρχαί ...

Pelopion
and the area of the great altar of Zeus, where the largest sacrifices were made. The name Altis was derived from a corruption of the
Elean Elis or Eleia ( el, Ήλιδα, Ilida, grc-att, Ἦλις, Ēlis ; Elean Elis or Eleia ( el, Ήλιδα, Ilida, grc-att, Ἦλις, Ēlis ; Elean: , ethnonym An ethnonym (from the el, ἔθνος, ''éthnos'', "nation" and , ''ó ...

Elean
word also meaning "the grove" because the area was wooded, olive and plane trees in particular. Uninhabited throughout the year, when the games were held the site became overcongested. There were no permanent living structures for spectators, who rich or poor, made do with tents. Ancient visitors recall being plagued by summer heat and flies; such a problem that sacrifices were made to Zeus Averter of Flies. The site's water supply and sanitation was finally improved after nearly a thousand years, by the mid-second century AD.


Culture

The ancient Olympics were as much a religious festival as an athletic event. The games were held in honor of the Greek god
Zeus Zeus or , , ; grc, Δῐός, ''Diós'', label=genitive In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Ling ...

Zeus
, and on the middle day of the games, 100 oxen would be sacrificed to him. Over time Olympia, the site of the games, became a central spot for the worship of the head of the Greek
pantheon Pantheon may refer to: * Pantheon (religion), the set of gods belonging to a particular religion, mythology or tradition * Pantheon (mythical creature), a mythical or imaginary creature used in heraldry, particularly in Britain Computing *Pant ...
and a temple, built by the Greek architect Libon, was erected on the mountaintop. The temple was one of the largest
DoricDoric may refer to: * Doric, of or relating to the Dorians of ancient Greece ** Doric Greek, the dialects of the Dorians * Doric order, a style of ancient Greek architecture * Doric mode, a synonym of Dorian mode * Doric dialect (Scotland) * Doric C ...
temples in Greece. The sculptor
Pheidias of the Parthenon The Parthenon (; grc, Παρθενών, , ; ell, Παρθενώνας, , ) is a former temple A temple (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of ...
created a statue of the god made of gold and ivory. It stood tall. It was placed on a throne in the temple. The statue became one of the
seven wonders of the ancient world 324px, Timeline and map of the Seven Wonders. Dates in bold green and dark red are of their construction and destruction, respectively. The Seven Wonders of the World or the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (simply known as Seven Wonders) is a ...

seven wonders of the ancient world
. As the historian
Strabo Strabo''Strabo'' (meaning "squinty", as in strabismus Strabismus is a condition in which the eyes do not properly align with each other when looking at an object. The eye that is focused on an object can alternate. The condition may be pre ...

Strabo
put it, Artistic expression was a major part of the games. Sculptors, poets, painters and other artisans would come to the games to display their works in what became an artistic competition. Poets would be commissioned to write poems in praise of the Olympic victors. Such victory songs or epinicians, were passed on from generation to generation and many of them have lasted far longer than any other honor made for the same purpose.
Pierre de Coubertin Charles Pierre de Frédy, Baron de Coubertin (; born Pierre de Frédy; 1 January 1863 – 2 September 1937, also known as Pierre de Coubertin and Baron de Coubertin) was a French educator and historian, founder of the International Olympic Commi ...
, one of the founders of the modern
Olympic Games The modern Olympic Games or Olympics (french: Jeux olympiques) are leading international sporting events featuring summer and winter sports competitions in which thousands of athletes An athlete (also sportsman or sportswoman) is a pe ...
, wanted to fully imitate the ancient Olympics in every way. Included in his vision was an artistic competition modeled on the ancient Olympics and held every four years, during the celebration of the Olympic Games. His desire came to fruition at the Olympics held in
Athens , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens montage. Clicking on an image in the picture causes the browser to load the appropriate article. rect 15 15 985 460 Acropolis of Athens rect 15 475 48 ...

Athens
in
1896 Events January–March * January 2 Events Pre-1600 * 69 – The Roman legion The Roman legion ( la, legiō, ) was the largest military unit of the Roman army, composed of 4,200 infantry and 300 equites (cavalry) in the ...
.


Politics

Power in
ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a civilization belonging to a period of History of Greece, Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of Classical Antiquity, antiquity ( AD 600). This era wa ...
became centered around the
city-state A city-state is an independent sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The word is borrowed from Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance la ...
in the 8th century BC. The city-state was a population center organized into a self-contained political entity. These city-states often lived in close proximity to each other, which created competition for limited resources. Though conflict between the city-states was ubiquitous, it was also in their self-interest to engage in trade, military alliances and cultural interaction. The city-states had a dichotomous relationship with each other: on one hand, they relied on their neighbors for political and military alliances, while on the other they competed fiercely with those same neighbors for vital resources. The Olympic Games were established in this political context and served as a venue for representatives of the city-states to peacefully compete against each other. The spread of Greek colonies in the 5th and 6th centuries BC is repeatedly linked to successful Olympic athletes. For example, Pausanias recounts that
Cyrene Cyrene may refer to: Antiquity * Cyrene (mythology), an ancient Greek mythological figure * Cyrene, Libya, an ancient Greek colony in North Africa (modern Libya) ** Crete and Cyrenaica, a province of the Roman Empire ** Cyrenaica, the region aroun ...

Cyrene
was founded c. 630 BC by settlers from
Thera Santorini ( el, Σαντορίνη, ), officially Thira (Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in S ...

Thera
with
Sparta Sparta (Doric Greek Doric or Dorian ( grc, Δωρισμός, Dōrismós) was an . Its variants were spoken in the southern and eastern as well as in , , , , , some islands in the southern and some cities on the south east coast of ...

Sparta
n support. The support Sparta gave was primarily the loan of three-time Olympic champion Chionis. The appeal of settling with an Olympic champion helped to populate the colonies and maintain cultural and political ties with the city-states near Olympia. Thus, culture and the games spread while the primacy of Olympia persisted. The games faced a serious challenge during the
Peloponnesian War The Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC) was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to ...

Peloponnesian War
, which primarily pitted Athens against Sparta, but, in reality, touched nearly every Hellenic city-state. The Olympics were used during this time to announce alliances and offer sacrifices to the gods for victory. During the Olympic Games, a truce, or ''ekecheiria'' was observed. Three runners, known as ''spondophoroi'', were sent from
Elis Elis or Ilia ( el, Ηλεία, ''Ileia'') is a historic region in the western part of the Peloponnese The Peloponnese (), Peloponnesia, or Peloponnesus (; el, Πελοπόννησος, Pelopónnēsos, ) is a peninsula and geographic regions ...

Elis
to the participant cities at each set of games to announce the beginning of the truce.Swaddling, 1999, p.11 During this period, armies were forbidden from entering Olympia; and legal disputes, and the use of the death penalty, were forbidden. The truce — primarily designed to allow athletes and visitors to travel safely to the games — was, for the most part, observed.
Thucydides Thucydides (; grc-gre, Θουκυδίδης ; BC) was an Athenian , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens montage. Clicking on an image in the picture causes the browser to load the app ...
wrote of a situation when the
Sparta Sparta (Doric Greek Doric or Dorian ( grc, Δωρισμός, Dōrismós) was an . Its variants were spoken in the southern and eastern as well as in , , , , , some islands in the southern and some cities on the south east coast of ...

Sparta
ns were forbidden from attending the games, and the violators of the truce were fined 2,000 minae for assaulting the city of Lepreum during the period of the ''ekecheiria''. The Spartans disputed the fine and claimed that the truce had not yet taken hold. While a martial truce was observed by all participating city-states, no such reprieve from conflict existed in the political arena. The Olympic Games evolved the most influential athletic and cultural stage in ancient Greece, and arguably in the ancient world. As such the games became a vehicle for city-states to promote themselves. The result was political intrigue and controversy. For example,
PausaniasPausanias (; Greek language, Greek: Παυσανίας) is the name of several people: *Pausanias of Athens, lover of the poet Agathon and a character in Plato's ''Symposium'' *Pausanias (general), Spartan general and regent of the 5th century BC *Pa ...
, a Greek historian, explains the situation of the athlete Sotades,


Events

Apparently starting with just a single foot race, the program gradually increased to twenty-three contests, although no more than twenty featured at any one Olympiad. Participation in most events was limited to male athletes, except for women who were allowed to take part by entering horses in the
equestrian The word equestrian is a reference to Equestrianism, horseback riding, derived from Latin ' and ', "horse". Horseback riding (or Riding in British English) Notable examples of this are: *List of equestrian sports, Equestrian sports *Equestrianism, ...

equestrian
events. Youth events are recorded as starting in 632 BC. Our knowledge of how the events were performed primarily derives from the paintings of athletes found on many vases, particularly those of the Archaic and Classical periods. Competitors had access to two gymnasiums for training purposes: the Xystos for the runners and pentathletes, and the Tetragono for wrestlers and boxers. For most of its history, Olympic events were performed in the nude. Pausanias says that the first naked runner was Orsippus, winner of the ''stadion'' race in 720 BC, who simply lost his garment on purpose because running without it was easier. The 5th-century BC historian
Thucydides Thucydides (; grc-gre, Θουκυδίδης ; BC) was an Athenian , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens montage. Clicking on an image in the picture causes the browser to load the app ...
credits the
Spartans Sparta (Doric Greek Doric, or Dorian ( grc, Δωρισμός, Dōrismós) was an Ancient Greek dialect. Its variants were spoken in the southern and eastern Peloponnese as well as in Sicily, Epirus, Southern Italy, Crete, Rhodes, some ...
with introducing the custom of "publicly stripping and anointing themselves with oil in their gymnastic exercises. Formerly, even in the Olympic contests, the athletes who contended wore belts across their middles; and it is but a few years since that the practice ceased."


Running

The only event recorded at the first thirteen games was the ''
stade Stade (), officially the Hanseatic City of Stade (german: Hansestadt Stade, nds, Hansestadt Stood) is a city in Lower Saxony Lower Saxony (german: Niedersachsen ; nds, Neddersassen; stq, Läichsaksen) is a German state (''Land'') situated i ...
'', a straight-line sprint of just over 192 metres. The '' diaulos'' (lit. "double pipe"), or two-stade race, is recorded as being introduced at the 14th Olympiad in 724 BC. It is thought that competitors ran in lanes marked out with lime or gypsum for the length of a stade then turned around separate posts (''kampteres''), before returning to the start line.
Xenophanes Xenophanes of Colophon (city), Colophon (; grc, wikt:Ξενοφάνης, Ξενοφάνης ὁ Κολοφώνιος ; c. 570 – c. 478 BC) was a Greece, Greek philosopher, theologian, poet, and critic of religious polytheism. Xenophanes is see ...
wrote that "Victory by speed of foot is honored above all." A third foot race, the '' dolichos'' ("long race"), was introduced in the next Olympiad. Accounts of the race's distance differ; it seems to have been from twenty to twenty-four laps of the track, around 7.5 km to 9 km, although it may have been lengths rather than laps and thus half as far. The last running event added to the Olympic program was the ''
hoplitodromos The hoplitodromos or hoplitodromia (Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its popul ...
'', or "
hoplite Hoplites () ( grc, ὁπλίτης : hoplítēs) were citizen-soldiers of Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 B ...
race", introduced in 520 BC and traditionally run as the last race of the games. Competitors ran either a single or double ''diaulos'' (approximately 400 or 800 metres) in full military armour. The hoplitodromos was based on a war tactic of soldiers running in full armor to surprise the enemy.


Combat

Wrestling (''
pale Pale may refer to: Jurisdictions * Medieval areas of English conquest: ** Pale of Calais, in France (1360–1558) ** The Pale, or the English Pale, in Ireland *Pale of Settlement, area of permitted Jewish settlement, western Russian Empire (1791 ...
'') is recorded as being introduced at the 18th Olympiad. Three throws were necessary for a win. A throw was counted if the body, hip, back or shoulder (and possibly knee) touched the ground. If both competitors fell nothing was counted. Unlike its modern counterpart
Greco-Roman wrestling #REDIRECT Greco-Roman wrestling#REDIRECT Greco-Roman wrestling Greco-Roman ( US), Graeco-Roman ( UK), classic wrestling (Europe Europe is a continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by conventi ...
, it is likely that tripping was allowed. Boxing ('' pygmachia'') was first listed in 688 BC, the boys' event sixty years later. The laws of boxing were ascribed to the first Olympic champion Onomastus of Smyrna. It appears that body-blows were either not permitted or not practised. The Spartans, who claimed to have invented boxing, quickly abandoned it and did not take part in boxing competitions. At first the boxers wore ''himantes'' (sing. ''himas''), long leather strips which were wrapped around their hands. The
pankration Pankration (; el, παγκράτιον) was a sporting event introduced into the Ancient Greece, Greek Ancient Olympic Games, Olympic Games in 648 BC, which was an empty-hand submission sport with few rules. The athletes used boxing and wrestlin ...

pankration
was introduced in the 33rd Olympiad (648 BC). Boys' pankration became an Olympic event in 200 BC, in the 145th Olympiad. As well as techniques from boxing and wrestling, athletes used kicks, locks, and chokes on the ground. Although the only prohibitions were against biting and gouging, the pankration was regarded as less dangerous than boxing. It was one of the most popular events: Pindar wrote eight odes praising victors of the pankration. A famous event in the sport was the posthumous victory of
Arrhichion Arrhichion (also spelled Arrhachion, Arrichion or Arrachion) of Phigalia ( el, Αρριχίων ο Φιγαλεύς) (died 564 BC) was a champion pankratiast in the ancient Olympic Games The ancient Olympic Games (Ὀλυμπιακοί ἀ ...
of Phigaleia who "expired at the very moment when his opponent acknowledged himself beaten".


Discus

The (''diskos'') event was similar to the modern competition. Stone and iron ''diskoi'' have been found, although the most commonly used material appears to be bronze. To what extent the diskos was standardized is unclear, but the most common weight seems to be 2 kg size with a diameter of approximately 21 cm, roughly equivalent to the modern discus.


Long jump

In the long jump (''halma'') competitors swung a pair of weights called ''halteres''. There was no set design; jumpers tended to use either spherical weights made of stone carved to fit the hand or longer lead weights. It is debated whether the jump was performed from a standing start or after a run-up. In his analysis of the event based on vase paintings, Hugh Lee concluded that there was probably a short run-up.


Pentathlon

The pentathlon was a competition made up of five events: running, long jump, discus throw, javelin throw, and wrestling. The pentathlon is said to have first appeared at the 18th Olympiad in 708 BC. The competition was held on a single day, but it is not known how the victor was decided, or in what order the events occurred, except that it finished with the wrestling.


Equestrian events

Horse racing and chariot racing were the most prestigious competitions in the games, due to only the wealthy being able to afford the maintenance and transportation of horses. These races consisted of different events: the four-horse chariot race, the two-horse chariot race, and the horse with rider race, the rider being hand picked by the owner. The four-horse chariot race was the first equestrian event to feature in the Olympics, being introduced in 680 BC. It consisted of two horses that were harnessed under a
yoke A yoke is a wooden Beam (structure), beam normally used between a pair of oxen or other animals to enable them to pull together on a load when working in pairs, as oxen usually do; some yokes are fitted to individual animals. There are several ...

yoke
in the middle, and two outer horses that were attached with a rope. The two-horse chariot was introduced in 408 BC. The horse with rider competition, on the other hand, was introduced in 648 BC. In this race, Greeks did not use saddles or
stirrups A stirrup is a light frame or ring that holds the foot of a rider, attached to the saddle The saddle is a supportive structure for a professional other load, fastened to an animal's back by a girth. The most common type is the equestria ...
(the latter was unknownin Europe until about the 6th century AD), so they required good grip and balance. Pausanias reports that a race for carts drawn by a pair of
mule A mule is the of a male (jack) and a female (). Horses and donkeys are different species, with different numbers of s. Of the two between these two species, a mule is easier to obtain than a , which is the offspring of a female donkey () a ...

mule
s, and a trotting race, were instituted respectively at the seventieth Festival and the seventy-first, but were both abolished by proclamation at the eighty-fourth. The trotting race was for mares, and in the last part of the course the riders jumped off and ran beside the mares. In AD67, the Roman Emperor
Nero Nero ( ; full name: Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 15 December AD 37 – 9 June AD 68) was the fifth emperor of Rome. He was Adoption in Ancient Rome, adopted by the Roman emperor Claudius at the age of 13 and s ...

Nero
competed in the chariot race at Olympia. He was thrown from his chariot and was thus unable to finish the race. Nevertheless, he was declared the winner on the basis that he would have won if he had finished the race.


Famous athletes

* Running: ** Koroibos of Elis (''stadion'', traditionally declared first Olympic champion) ** Orsippus (''diaulos'', first to compete naked) ** Leonidas of Rhodes (''stadion'', ''diaulos'' and ''hoplitodromos'') (His record of 12 individual olympic titles was broken in 2016 by Michael Phelps who received his 13th original title.) ** Chionis of Sparta (three-time ''stadion''/''diaulos'' winner and champion jumper) ** Astylos of Croton (''stadion'', ''diaulos'' and ''hoplitodromos'') ** Alexander I of Macedon (''stadion'') * Combat: **
Arrhichion Arrhichion (also spelled Arrhachion, Arrichion or Arrachion) of Phigalia ( el, Αρριχίων ο Φιγαλεύς) (died 564 BC) was a champion pankratiast in the ancient Olympic Games The ancient Olympic Games (Ὀλυμπιακοί ἀ ...
(''pankratiast'', died while successfully defending his championship in the 54th Olympiad (564 BC). Described as "the most famous of all pankratiasts".) ** Milo of Croton (''wrestling'', legendary six-time victor: once as youth, the rest in the men's event) ** Diagoras of Rhodes (''boxing'' 79th Olympiad, 464 BC) and his sons Akusilaos and Damagetos (boxing and ''
pankration Pankration (; el, παγκράτιον) was a sporting event introduced into the Ancient Greece, Greek Ancient Olympic Games, Olympic Games in 648 BC, which was an empty-hand submission sport with few rules. The athletes used boxing and wrestlin ...

pankration
'') ** Timasitheos of Croton (''wrestling'') ** Theagenes of Thasos (''boxer'', ''pankratiast'' and ''runner'') ** Sostratus of Sicyon (''pankratiast'', notorious for his finger-breaking technique) ** Dioxippus (''pankratiast'', crowned champion by default in 336 BC when no other pankratiast dared meet compete. Such a victory was called ''akoniti'' (lit. without getting dusted) and remains the only one ever recorded in the Olympics in this discipline.) ** Varastades (''boxing'', Prince and future King of Kingdom of Armenia (antiquity), Armenia, last known Ancient Olympic victor (boxing) during the 291st Olympic Games in the 4th century * Equestrian: ** Cynisca of Sparta (owner of a four-horse chariot) (first woman to be listed as an Olympic victor) ** Pherenikos ("the most famous racehorse in antiquity", 470s BC) ** Tiberius (steerer of a four-horse chariot) **
Nero Nero ( ; full name: Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 15 December AD 37 – 9 June AD 68) was the fifth emperor of Rome. He was Adoption in Ancient Rome, adopted by the Roman emperor Claudius at the age of 13 and s ...

Nero
(steerer of a ten-horse chariot) * Other: ** Herodorus of Megara (ten-time Herald and Trumpet contest, trumpet champ)


Olympic festivals in other places

Athletic festivals under the name of "Olympic games", named in imitation of the original festival at Olympia, were established over time in various places all over the Greek world. Some of these are only known to us by inscriptions and coins; but others, as the Olympic festival at Antioch, obtained great celebrity. After these Olympic festivals had been established in several places, the great Olympic festival itself was sometimes designated in inscriptions by the addition of Pisa (Greece), Pisa.William Smith (lexicographer), William Smith, ''A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities'', 1875
ancientlibrary.com


See also

* Archaeological Museum of Olympia * Epinikion * Athletes and athletics in ancient Greek art * ''Ludi'', the Roman games influenced by Greek traditions * New Testament athletic metaphors * Olympic Games ceremony * Panathenaic Games * History of physical training and fitness


References

Bibliography * * Gardiner, E. Norman, ''Athletics of the Ancient World'', 246 pages, 200+ illustrations, with new material, Oxford University Press, 1930 * * * Golden, Mark, ''Sport and Society in Ancient Greece'', Cambridge University Press, 1998. * *
Kotynski, Edward J. ''The Athletics of the Ancient Olympics: A Summary and Research Tool''. 2006.
2009-10-25)
new link
* * Mallowitz, Alfred. ''Cult and Competition Locations at Olympia''. Raschke 79–109. * Miller, Stephen. "The Date of Olympic Festivals". Mitteilungen: Des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Athenische Abteilung. Vol. 90 (1975): 215–237. * * * Remijsen, Sofie. ''The End of Greek Athletics in Late Antiquity''. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. * * *


Ancient Olympics. Research by K. U. Leuven and Peking University


Further reading

* Christesen, Paul. 2007. ''Olympic Victor Lists and Ancient Greek History.'' Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge Univ. Press. * Lee, Hugh M. 2001. ''The Program and Schedule of the Ancient Olympic Games.'' Nikephoros Beihefte 6. Hildesheim, Germany: Weidmann. * Nielsen, Thomas Heine. 2007. ''Olympia and the Classical Hellenic City-State Culture.'' Historisk-filosofiske Meddeleser 96. Copenhagen: Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters. * Sinn, Ulrich. 2000. ''Olympia: Cult, Sport, and Ancient Festival.'' Princeton, NJ: M. Wiener. * Valavanis, Panos. 2004. ''Games and Sanctuaries in Ancient Greece: Olympia, Delphi, Isthmia, Nemea, Athens.'' Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum.


External links


The Ancient Olympic Games virtual museum (requires registration)

Olympiakoi Agones

Ancient Olympics
General and detailed information
The Ancient Olympics
A special exhibit
The story of the Ancient Olympic Games



Olympia and Macedonia: Games, Gymnasia and Politics
Thomas F. Scanlon, professor of Classics, University of California


Webquest The ancient and modern Olympic Games

Goddess Nike and the Olympic Games: Excellence, Glory and Strife
{{authority control Ancient Olympic Games, 8th-century BC establishments in Greece 390s disestablishments in the Roman Empire 394 disestablishments Defunct multi-sport events Festivals in ancient Greece Greek inventions History of gymnastics History of the Olympics Panhellenic Games Recurring sporting events established before 1750 Sport in antiquity, Olympic Games Iron Age Greece, Olympic Games