The history of ancient Greece exhibits their love of sports. The ancient Greeks believed a healthy body is equal to a healthy mind. There were many public gymnasiums where the ancient Greek men de-stressed themselves or underwent training. Men and young boys of ancient Greece practiced many sports to keep themselves fit.
Ancient Greeks conducted four national sports festivals and athletes from different legions came over to compete against each other. One of the sports festivals that is most popular and famous was the one conducted at Olympia to please the Greek God Zeus. This sport was conducted once in four years and sacrifices and offerings were given to Zeus in the form of grains, wine and lambs.
Ancient Greek Olympics
There are many myths connected with Ancient Greek Olympics. According to one of the myths, the guardians of the god Zeus conducted Olympics. There is another traditional myth, which tells that a Greek hero Pelops established the Olympic games after winning the chariot race against King Oenomaus to win the hands of his daughter Hippodamia.
Only men who could speak Greek were allowed to participate in ancient Greek Olympics. They were not open to slaves. Initially, only athletes from Greek city-states were allowed to compete. Eventually, the athletes from Greek colonies were also allowed to participate.
Historians believe the first Olympics were recorded in 776 BC in Olympia. The area where the games were held was a cult site and was not good for cultivation. The stadium was located at the temples of the Greek gods Zeus and Hera.
The ancient Greek Olympics began with an oath and prayers at the altar of Zeus by the participants. The athletes swore to compete with honor and respect the Olympics’ rules and regulations.
The game of Olympics was declared open once an athlete lit the cauldron. “Athlon ” was the term used to describe a prize. The prizes were a wreath of olive leaves or a branch of palm or woolen ribbons.
An interesting fact about ancient Greek Olympics was, only one event was conducted for the first thirteen Olympics. The event was known as the “Stadion” race, where the athletes raced up one length of the stadium that was 192 meters.
In 724 BC, diaulos was introduced. In this event, an athlete had to race the entire length of the stadium and back to the starting point. In 720 BC, a long-distance race known as dolichos was introduced. Here a participant had to run 12 laps around the stadium.
Events such as wrestling, boxing and pankration were eventually included in the ancient Greek Olympics. The other events included were horse racing, chariot racing, and the pentathlon.
Events like armor race and mule race were included in the ancient Greek Olympics of 520 BC and 500 BC.
Ancient Greek city-states were always at war with one another. An interesting fact of ancient Greek Olympics is all battles stopped during the Olympic festival. The soldiers who were also good athletes were allowed to travel to Olympia to participate in the events. This was a tradition practiced to honor the Greek god Zeus. There would be no war or battle for seven days prior to the battle and seven days after the battle. Ancient Greek Olympics were entirely different from the modern Summer Olympics.