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					Ancient Olympics
• One difference between the ancient and modern Olympic Games is
  that the ancient games were played within the context of a religious
    – The Games were held in honor of Zeus, the king of the Greek gods,
        • and a sacrifice of 100 oxen was made to the god on the middle day of the
    – Athletes prayed to the gods for victory, and made gifts of animals,
      produce, or small cakes, in thanks for their successes.
• Ancient athletes competed as individuals, not on national teams, as
  in the modern Games.
    – The emphasis on individual athletic achievement through public
      competition was related to the Greek ideal of excellence, called arete.
    – Aristocratic men who attained this ideal, through their outstanding words
      or deeds, won permanent glory and fame.
    – Those who failed to measure up to this code feared public shame and
  The Olympic games were held
     at the same place each

• Elis is in the northwestern part of the Peloponnese, which is the
  southern peninsula of mainland Greece.
• Because it receives more rain, Elis has better forests and pastures
  than the rest of Greece.
• The region was respected in ancient times as a holy and neutral
  place because of the sacred grove to Zeus, called the Altis, at
• Olympia is a city at the western coast of the
• Olympia had two parts:
  – The city and the Olympics field above on a mountain.
• It was for women forbidden to see the Olympics.
  – Once there was a women who tried to see them. See
    clothed herself like a trainer and looked at the
    matches of her son. When son won a match, she
    shouted like a woman and the men of Olympia killed
    her. From that time not only the participants but also
    the trainers and visitors weren't allowed to wear
• According to legend, the
  altar of Zeus stood on a
  spot struck by a
  thunderbolt, which had
  been hurled by the god
  from his throne high atop
  Mount Olympus, where
  the gods assembled.
  Some coins from Elis had
  a thunderbolt design on
  the reverse, in honor of
  this legend.
Over time, the Games flourished, and Olympia
became a central site for the worship of Zeus.

Individuals and communities
   donated buildings, statues,
   altars and other dedications to
   the god.
The most spectacular sight at
   Olympia was the gold and
   ivory cult statue of Zeus
   enthroned. The statue was one
   of the Seven Wonders of the
   Ancient World, and stood over
   42 feet high.
A spiral staircase took visitors to
   an upper floor of the temple,
   for a better view of the statue.
People who were not Greek could not compete
in the Games,

• but Greek athletes traveled hundreds of miles,
   – from colonies of the Greek city-states.
   – These colonies were as far away as modern-day Spain, Italy,
     Libya, Egypt, the Ukraine, and Turkey.
Excellence and the competitive
• When the Persian military
  officer Tigranes "heard
  that the prize was not
  money but a crown [of
  olive], he could not hold
  his peace, but cried,
   – 'Good heavens,
     Mardonius, what kind of
     men are these that you
     have pitted us against?
   – It is not for money they
     contend but for glory of
       • Herodotus, Histories ,
         The Olympic truce
• A truce (in Greek, ekecheiria, which literally
  means "holding of hands") was announced
  before and during each of the Olympic festivals,
  to allow visitors to travel safely to Olympia.
• An inscription describing the truce was written
  on a bronze discus which was displayed at
• During the truce, wars were suspended, armies
  were prohibited from entering Elis or threatening
  the Games, and legal disputes and the carrying
  out of death penalties were forbidden.
The ancient athlete: amateur or
                •   Athletic training was a basic part
                    of every Greek boy's education,
                    and any boy who excelled in sport
                    might set his sights on competing
                    in the Olympics.
                •   The Olympic competition included
                    preliminary matches or heats to
                    select the best athletes for the
                    final competition.
                •   Ancient writers tell the stories of
                    athletes who worked at other jobs
                    and did not spend all their time in
                •   However, just as in the modern
                    Olympics, an ancient athlete
                    needed mental dedication, top
                    conditioning, and outstanding
                    athletic ability in order to make the
Self-confidence was also an

• A Libyan athlete, Eubotas, was so sure of his
  victory in a running event that he had his victory
  statue made before the Games were held. When
  he won, he was able to dedicate his statue on
  the same day.
Victorious athletes were professionals in
the sense that they lived off the glory of
their achievement ever afterwards.
• Their hometowns might
  reward them with free
  meals for the rest of their
  lives, cash, tax breaks,
  honorary appointments,
  or leadership positions in
  the community.
• The victors were
  memorialized in statues
  and also in victory odes,
  commissioned from
  famous poets.
Events - Boxing

• Ancient boxing had fewer rules than the modern sport. Boxers
  fought without rounds until one man was knocked out, or admitted
  he had been beaten. Unlike the modern sport, there was no rule
  against hitting an opponent when he was down.
• There were no weight classes within the mens' and boys' divisions;
  opponents for a match were chosen randomly.
• Instead of gloves, ancient boxers wrapped leather thongs
  (himantes) around their hands and wrists which left their fingers
Events – Chariot Racing
              • There were both 2-horse
                chariot and 4-horse
                chariot races, with
                separate races for
                chariots drawn by foals.
                Another race was
                between carts drawn by a
                team of 2 mules. The
                course was 12 laps
                around the stadium track
                (9 miles).
Events – Riding
• The course was 6 laps around
  the track (4.5 miles), and there
  were separate races for full-
  grown horses and foals.
  Jockeys rode without stirrups.
• Only wealthy people could
  afford to pay for the training,
  equipment, and feed of both
  the driver (or jockey) and the
  horses. As a result, the owner
  received the olive wreath of
  victory instead of the driver or
Events - Pankration

• This event was a grueling combination of boxing and wrestling.
  Punches were allowed, although the fighters did not wrap their
  hands with the boxing himantes.
• Rules outlawed only biting and gouging an opponent's eyes, nose,
  or mouth with fingernails. Attacks such as kicking an opponent in the
  belly, which are against the rules in modern sports, were perfectly
• Pankration was more than just an Olympic event, it formed the basis
  for all combat training for Greek soldiers. Grave, even permanent
  injuries were common, as an accepted means of disabling the
  adversary: mainly breaking limbs, fingers or even the neck.
Events - Pankration
•   Pankration bouts were quite brutal and sometimes life-threatening to the
    competitors. There were no weight divisions and no time limits. The fighting
    arena or "ring" was no more than twelve to fourteen-feet square to
    encourage close-quarter action. Referees were armed with stout rods or
    switches to enforce the rules against biting and gouging.
•   The contest itself continued uninterrupted until one of the combatants either
    surrendered, suffered unconsciousness, or, of course, was killed. Although
    knockouts were common, most pankration battles were decided on the
    ground where both striking and submission techniques would freely come
    into play.
     – (though there are stories of fighters who chose to die rather than surrender.)
•   If there was no winner by sunset, the judges would declare Climax and the
    fighters would start taking alternating undefended blows until one was

• There were 4 types of races at Olympia.
   – The stadion was the oldest event of the Games. Runners
     sprinted for 1 stade (192 m.), or the length of the stadium.
   – The other races were a 2-stade race (384 m.),
   – and a long-distance run which ranged from 7 to 24 stades
     (1,344 m. to 4,608 m.).
   – And if these races weren't enough, the Greeks had one
     particularly grueling event which we lack. There was also a 2 to
     4-stade (384 m. to 768 m.) race by athletes in armor. This race
     was especially useful in building the speed and stamina that
     Greek men needed during their military service. If we remember
     that the standard hoplite armor (helmet, shield, and greaves)
     weighed about 50-60 lbs, it is easy to imagine what such an
     event must have been like.
            • Like the modern sport, an
              athlete needed to throw
              his opponent on the
              ground, landing on a hip,
              shoulder, or back for a
              fair fall.
            • 3 throws were necessary
              to win a match.
            • Biting was not allowed.
            • Attacks such as breaking
              your opponent's fingers
              were permitted.
Events - Pentathlon
•   This was a 5-event combination
•   Discus - The ancient Greeks
    considered the rhythm and
    precision of an athlete throwing
    the discus as important as his
    strength. The discus was made of
    stone, iron, bronze, or lead, and
    was shaped like a flying saucer.
    Sizes varied, since the boys'
    division was not expected to throw
    the same weight as the mens'.

•   Javelin - a man-high length of
    wood, with either a sharpened end
    or an attached metal point. It had
    a thong for a hurler's fingers
    attached to its center of gravity,
    which increased the precision and
    distance of a javelin's flight.
Events - Pentathlon
• Jump - Athletes used lead or
  stone jump weights (halteres)
  shaped like telephone
  receivers to increase the
  length of their jump. The
  halteres were held in front of
  the athlete during his ascent,
  and forcibly thrust behind his
  back and dropped during his
  descent to help propel his
  body further.
• Running – Mentioned Above
• Wrestling – Mentioned above
• According to legend, the ancient Olympic
Games were founded by Heracles The first
recorded Olympic victor was Koroibos of Elis,
traditionally dated to 776 B.C. Historical records
and documents have preserved a long list of subsequent
Olympic victors. Greek historians later used number of the
Olympiad as a means of dating events. If an event was said to have
occurred in the first Olympiad, for example, it would be dated to the
period of 776 to 772 B.C.
• The games carried on, even as Greece's power declined
  Rome's rose. Although the Olympics continued to enjoy a
  measure of prestige, the varying political and economic
  changes of the Hellenistic and Roman periods affected both
  the site and the games. Some later Roman emperors, who
  admired Greek culture, revived the splendor of the games
  and restored the site and buildings.
         • By the 3rd century A.D.,
           however, the lists of victors are
           increasingly uncertain and
           incomplete; by the end of the
           century the lists stop
         • Once the Roman emperors
           formally adopted Christianity,
           they discouraged and
           eventually, outlawed, old
           "pagan" religious practices.
         • Since the Olympic games were
           first and foremost a religious
           celebration in honor of Zeus,
           they held no place in the
           Christian empire.
         • The emperor Theodosius I
           legally abolished the games in
           393 or 394 A.D.
The Modern Games
• The interest in reviving the Olympics as an international event
  grew when the ruins of ancient Olympia were uncovered by
  German archaeologists in the mid-nineteenth century. At the
  same time, Pierre de Coubertin was searching for a reason
  for the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–
  1871). He thought the reason was that the French had not
  received proper physical education, and sought to improve
  this. Coubertin also sought a way to bring nations closer
  together, to have the youth of the world compete in sports,
  rather than fight in war.
• In a congress at the Sorbonne University, in Paris, France,
  held from June 16 to June 23, 1894 he presented his ideas to
  an international audience. On the last day of the congress, it
  was decided that the first modern Olympic Games would take
  place in 1896 in Athens, in the country of their birth.

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