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A history of the ancient olympic games

Learn More As a sacred place used regularly in religious ceremonies, as well as playing host to the Ancient Games, Olympia was at the centre of Greek civilisation. Renowned expert Paul Christesen gives Olympic. And central to this concept was the site itself.

THE LEGACY OF ANCIENT OLYMPIC GAMES

Olympia lay on the north-western corner of the Peloponnese. Zeus, King of the Greek Gods, was said to have taken up residence in Olympia around 1200BC when the Eleans conquered the surrounding area. The fearsome deity marked his ascension by hurling a thunderbolt into the sacred grove from his home atop Mount Olympus.

The sacred olive tree of Zeus, from which the victory wreaths were cut, marked the finishing line for all races.

  1. If Delphi was the centre of the Earth, as Greeks believed, there is no doubt that Olympia was the heart of Greece. By the Roman period these training facilities, along with the rest of the site, had, quite apart from the religious aspect, become a year-round tourist attraction.
  2. However, its immortal spirit, its ideology and the philosophy of the Olympic Games survived and were passed on through modern Greece and Pierre de Coubertin to the entire modern world.
  3. The numbering of the Olympiads began from 776 B. The sacred olive tree of Zeus, from which the victory wreaths were cut, marked the finishing line for all races.
  4. Athletic competition became so important to the Greeks that the Olympic festivals were a peaceful influence on the warlike city-states. In accordance with tradition, the origins of sport and the Olympic games in particular are to be found in prehistoric times.
  5. Athletic competition became so important to the Greeks that the Olympic festivals were a peaceful influence on the warlike city-states.

The first stadium, a simple affair using the natural embankments of the surrounding hills, remained within the deified area too. The discovery of more than 150 wells dating to this time indicates that even this early in the life of the Olympic Games, they attracted considerable attention. By the mid fourth century BC the third incarnation of the stadium was built.

  • Sparta was famous for the strict military training of its citizens;
  • At their heart, the Games were a religious festival and a good excuse for Greeks from all over the Mediterranean basin to gather for a riotous barbeque;
  • For the first 13 Olympic Games, the only event was the one-stade run;
  • Such was the position of the Games in the life of Greeks that, already in the Classical era, the Olympiads were often used for dating the events in the history of Greece;
  • There was, however, a loophole to this misogynistic rule — chariot owners, not riders, were declared Olympic champions and anyone could own a chariot;
  • And central to this concept was the site itself.

The position of the stadium had been shifted, with events no longer finishing at the altar of Zeus. However, the site lost none of its religious potency during the vast majority of the 1000-plus years of the Ancient Games, its diversity being key to its survival. There were over 70 different altars, you could sacrifice to pretty much anyone you wanted to.

Welcome to the ancient olympic games

Interest reached a pinnacle in the following century and the fifth and final renovation took place. Throughout these reincarnations the length of the track in the stadium remained constant. As well as competition, training took place at Olympia. At first this happened outdoors but during the Hellenistic period 323BC-31BC the palestra and the gymnasium were built.

It was flanked by colonnades and had an extensive bathing system in the adjoining rooms. The gymnasium was an elongated rectangle with space for both the javelin and discus throwers to do their thing. Both buildings were centres of intellectual debate and learning, with philosophers and teachers taking advantage of the shade and abundance of young minds.

By the Roman period these training facilities, along with the rest of the site, had, quite apart from the religious aspect, become a year-round tourist attraction. Here, we give you the essential lowdown, highlight our favourite facts and preview the upcoming features. View All time greats of the olympic games A magical collection of characters light up the accounts of almost 12 centuries of action at the Ancient Games.

  • That is, they had to pay their own expenses, and they could receive no monetary awards;
  • In Olympia, the Idaean Hercules had his brothers, the Idaean Daktyloi, compete in footrace after he had marked the place and length of the track;
  • The prizes were useful presents initially, but from 752 B;
  • Olympic victors were considered heroes;
  • For instance, in A.

Huge, heroic men caught the attention with the stars of the combat sports particularly adored. Their physique, love of a challenge and extraordinary appetites chimed with a public brought up on the immortal heroes of Greek mythology.

Here, we pick out the best of the best.