The Olympic Games of Ancient Greece and What They Represented The ancient Olympic games were primarily part of a religious festival in honor of Zeus, the father of the Greek gods and goddesses. The festival and the Games were held in Olympia, a rural sanctuary site in western Peloponnesia. The Greeks invented athletic contests and held them in honor of their many gods and Zeus. The Isthmos games were staged every two years at the Isthmos of Corinth. The Pythian games took place every four years near Delphi. The most famous games were held at Olympia, which took place every four years.
The period between two celebrations became known as an Olympiad. The Greeks used Olympiads as one of their methods to count years. The origin of the ancient Olympic games has been lost; although, there are many legends surrounding its origins. One of these legends associates the first Games with the ancient Greek concept of ekeicheiria or Olympic truce. The first recorded celebration of the Games in Olympia was in 776 B. C. , although this was certainly not the first time they were held. The Games were then mostly a local affair, and only one event was contested, the Stadion race.
From that moment on, the Games slowly became more important throughout ancient Greece, reaching their peak in the Sixth and Fifth Centuries B. C. The Olympics were of fundamental, religious importance. The number of events increased to twenty, and the celebration was spread over several days. Winners of the events were broadly admired and were immortalized in poems and statues. During the ancient times, normally, only young men competed. Performers were usually naked; furthermore, as the festival was meant to be, in part, a celebration of the achievements of the human body.
No married women were allowed to watch the ames and only Greek natives could participate. All of the contestants either participated nude or with a genital loin clothe; thus, explaining why married women were not allowed into the games. One of the ancient wonders of these Games was a statue of Zeus at Olympia, made of gold and ivory by a Greek sculptor, Pheidias. This was placed inside a temple, and it was a towering forty-two feet high. Only free men who spoke Greek were allowed to participate in the Ancient Games of classical times.
The games at Olympia were greatly expanded from a one-day festival of athletics and wrestling, in 472 B. C. , to five days with many events. The order of the events is not precisely known, but the first day of the festival was devoted to sacrifices. On the Middle Day of the festival, one hundred oxen were sacrificed in honor of the gods. Athletes also often prayed and made small sacrifices for themselves. On the second day, the foot-race (the main event of the games,) took place in the stadium, an oblong area enclosed by sloping banks of earth. At Olympia there were four different types of races.
On other days, wrestling, boxing, and the pancratium, a combination of the two, were held. In wrestling, the aim was to throw the opponent to the ground three times. In ancient Greek wrestling, biting and genital holds were illegal. In the pancratium, the most rigorous of the sports, the contest continued until one or the other of the participants acknowledged defeat. Horseracing, in which each entrant owned his horse, was confined to the could pay for such training, equipment, and feed of both the rider and the horses; therefore, whichever rider and horse won was not awarded with the Olive Wreath but the owner was.
There were also chariot races that consisted of both two-horse and our-horse chariot races, with separate races for chariots drawn by foals. After the horseracing came the pentathlon, a series of five events: sprinting, long jumping, Javelin hurling, discus throwing, and wrestling. The ancient Greeks considered the rhythm and precision of an athlete throwing the discus as important as his strength. The discus was circular-shaped of stone, iron, bronze, or lead. There were different sizes according to age groups. The Javelin was a long wooden stick with a spearhead, similar height to that of a person.
To Jump long distances, athletes sed lead or stone weights to increase the length of the Jump. Upon winning the games, the victor would get not only the prestige of being in first place but also a crown of olive leaves. During competition for some of the events, many of the participants would use oils to keep their skin smooth, as well as provide an appealing luster to anyone who saw them. The Olympic victor received his first awards immediately after the competition. Following the announcement of the winner’s name by the herald, a Greek Judge would place a palm branch in his hands, hile the spectators cheered and threw flowers to him.
Red ribbons were tied on his head and hands as a mark of victory. The official award ceremony would take place on the last day of the Games at the elevated entrance of the temple of Zeus. Loudly, the herald would announce the name of the Olympic winner, his father’s name, and his homeland; then, the Hellanodikis placed the sacred olive tree wreath on the winner’s head. Throughout their history, the Olympics grew hugely in importance. Originating as simple running competitions, they became a major sports event; however, the quality f the competitions and the ethical values of the participants were not always of the highest standard.
These phenomena became obvious after the conquest of Greece by Rome in 146 B. C. , when a period of “decline ” started, which eventually led to the end of the Games. Gradually, the Games lost importance as the Romans gained power in Greece. When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, the Olympic games were seen as a “pagan” festival threatening Christian hegemony, and in 393 B. C. , the emperor, Theodosius, outlawed the Olympics, ending a thousand year period of Olympic games.