The ancient Olympic Games were originally a festival, or celebration of and for Zeus; later, events such as a footrace, a javelin contest, and wrestling matches were added.

 

The Olympic Games (Ancient Greek: Ὀλύμπια, Olympia, "the Olympics"; also Ὀλυμπιάς, Olympias, ("the Olympiad") were a series of athletic competitions among representatives of city-states and one of the Panhellenic Games of ancient Greece. They were held in honour of Zeus, and the Greeks gave them a mythological origin.

 

The first Olympics is traditionally dated to 776 BC. They continued to be celebrated when Greece came under Roman rule until the emperor Theodosius I suppressed them in AD 393 as part of the campaign to impose Christianity as the State religion of Rome. The games were held every four years, or Olympiad, which became a unit of time in historical chronologies.

 

During the celebration of the games, an Olympic Truce was enacted so that athletes could travel from their cities to the games in safety. The prizes for the victors were olive leaf wreaths 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 was counted as one of the 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 and kingdom were allowed to participate, although the Hellanodikai, the officials in charge, allowed king Alexander I of Macedon to participate in the games only after he had proven his Greek ancestry. The games were always held at Olympia rather than moving between different locations as is the practice with the modern Olympic Games.

The Discobolus of Myron is a Greek sculpture completed at the start of the Classical Period, figuring a youthful ancient Greek athlete throwing the discus, circa 460–450 BC.  For more information please visit  Wikipedia

ArtistMyron

LocationThe British Museum

Olympic Victors names in papyrus 

Victors at the Olympics were honoured, and their feats chronicled for future generations.

 

To the 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.

The earliest myths regarding the origin of the games are recounted by the Greek historian, Pausanias.

 

According to the story, the dactyl Heracles (not to be confused with the son of Zeus and the Roman god Hercules) and four of his brothers, Paeonaeus, Epimedes, Iasius and Idas, raced at Olympia to entertain the newborn Zeus. He crowned the victor with an 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) would also engage in wrestling, jumping and running contests.

 

 

Another myth of the origin of the games is the story of Pelops, a local Olympian hero. The story of Pelops begins with Oenomaus, the king of Pisa, Greece, who had a beautiful daughter named Hippodamia. 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 and were therefore supernaturally fast. Pelops was a very handsome young man and the king's daughter fell in love with him. 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. At the same time, the king's palace was struck by lightning and reduced to ashes, save for one wooden pillar that was revered in the Altis for centuries, and stood near what was to be the site of the temple of Zeus. Pelops was proclaimed the winner and married Hippodamia. After his victory, Pelops organized chariot races as thanksgiving to the gods and as funeral games in honour 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.

 

One (later) myth, attributed to Pindar, states that the festival at Olympia involved Heracles, the son of Zeus: According to Pindar, Heracles established an athletic festival to honor his father, Zeus, after he had to complete his labors.

The games of previous millennia were discontinued and then revived by Lycurgus of Sparta, Iphitos of Elis, and Cleisthenes of Pisa at the behest of the Oracle of Delphi who claimed that the people had strayed from the gods, which had caused a plague and constant war. Restoration of the games would end the plague, usher in a time of peace, and signal a return to a more traditional lifestyle.

 

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.

 

Since these myths were documented by historians like Pausanias, who lived during the reign of Marcus Aurelius in the AD 160, it is likely that these stories are more fable than fact. It was often supposed that the origins of many aspects of the Olympics date to funeral games of the Mycenean period and later.

 

Alternatively, the games were thought to derive from some kind of vegetation magic or from initiation ceremonies. The most recent theory traces the origins of the games to large game hunting and related animal ceremonialism.

 

The Olympic games were held to be one of the two central rituals in ancient Greece, the other being the much older religious festival, the Eleusinian Mysteries. The games started in Olympia, Greece, in a sanctuary site for the Greek deities near the towns of Elis and Pisa (both in Elis on the peninsula of Peloponnesos). The first games began as an annual foot race of young women in competition for the position of the priestess for the goddess, Hera, and a second race was instituted for a consort for the priestess who would participate in the religious traditions at the temple.                    

 

 

The Heraean Games, the first recorded competition for women in the Olympic Stadium, were held as early as the sixth century BC. It originally consisted of foot races only, as did the competition for males. Some texts, including Pausanias's Description of Greece, c. AD 175, state that Hippodameia gathered a group known as the "Sixteen Women" and made them administrators of the Heraea Games, out of gratitude for her marriage to Pelops. Other texts related to the Elis and Pisa conflict indicate that the "Sixteen Women" were peacemakers from Pisa and Elis and, because of their political competence, became administrators of the Heraea. Being the consort of Hera in Classical Greek mythology, Zeus was the father of the deities in the pantheon of that era. The Sanctuary of Zeus in Olympia housed a 13-metre-high (43 ft) statue in ivory and gold of Zeus that had been sculpted by Phidias circa 445 BC. This statue was one of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World. By the time of the Classical Greek culture, in the fifth and fourth centuries BC, the games were restricted to male participants.

 

The historian Ephorus, 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 the term 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 then was, according to the later Greek traveler Pausanias who wrote in AD 175, the stadium [stadion] race, a race over about 190 metres (620 feet), measured after the feet of Hercules. The word stadium is derived from this foot race.

 

The Greek tradition of athletic nudity (gymnos) was introduced in 720 BC, either by the Spartans or by the Megarian Orsippus, and this was adopted early in the Olympics as well.

 

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 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.

The Olympic Games were part of the Panhellenic Games, 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 Games.

The games were in decline for many years but continued past AD 385, by which time flooding and earthquakes had damaged the buildings and invasions by barbarians had reached Olympia. In 394 Theodosius I banned all pagan festivals, but archaeological evidence indicates that some games were still held.                                                                                                                                                                                     

Stone seats - Ancient Olympic stadium

THE RE-BIRTH OF THE OLYMPIC GAMES

 

The Romans invaded Olympia in 85 BC. The Games continued under Roman rule but were disrupted by a Germanic invasion around AD 300. The Games became part of a pagan festival until the Christian emperor Theodosius I ordered the closure of all pagan events in 393.

 

Although the ancient Games were staged in Olympia, Greece, from 776 BC through 393 AD, it took 1503 years for the Olympics to return.

 

The first modern Olympics were held in Athens, Greece, in 1896. The man responsible for its rebirth was a Frenchman named Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who presented the idea in 1894 BUT also Demetrios Vikelas who participated in Paris International Sports Congress in 1894 and first President of International Olympic Committee!

 

 Baron Pierre de Coubertin, thought was to unveil the modern Games in 1900 in his native Paris, but delegates from 34 countries were so enthralled with the concept that they convinced him to move the Games up to 1896 and have Athens serve as the first host. And the Olympic Games returned to their home after 1503 years.

Baron Pierre de Coubertin and in the centre Demetrios Vikelas

ATHENS 2004 – THE OLYMPIC GAMES RETURN HOME AFTER ALMOST 30 CENTURIES.

 

Athens was chosen as the host city during the 106th IOC Session held in Lausanne on 5 September 1997.

Athens had lost its bid to organize the 1996 Summer Olympics to Atlanta nearly seven years before on 18 September 1990, during the 96th IOC Session in Tokyo.

 

1996 coincided with the 100th Anniversary of the first modern Olympics, which were also held in Athens. Under the direction of Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, Athens pursued another bid, this time for the right to host the Summer Olympics in 2004.

 

Olympic Games... a never-ending sports event!

 

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