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Ancient Greek Games » Olympic Games

The Olympic Games were the most famous athletic competitions of Ancient Greece

According to the Greek poet Pindar, the Olympic Games were the most prestigious competition in Ancient Greece. They dated back to 776 BC and lasted for 5 days. The ancient Greeks believed that the first Olympic Games were held by gods and heroes.

The Sacred Period of the Olympic Games

The Olympic Games  were held every four years. During that time, all Greek states were obliged to discontinue any war and any battle between them. The four-year period that elapsed between two Olympic Games was called the Olympiad, which was a way for the ancient Greeks to measure time.

Day 1: Sacrifices were made on the altar of Zeus

statue of athlete at the olympic gamesDay 2-4: Athletic tournaments

Only free Greek citizens were allowed to take part in the games. Slaves and foreigners could watch the spectacles, but it was prohibited to women.
Popular disciplines of the Olympic Games were:
  • Pentathlon: jogging, jumping, wrestling, discus and javelin throw
  • Wrestling
  • Boxing
  • Pankration, a combination of boxing and wrestling
  • Road racing, as well as chariot racing and horse racing.

The latter two disciplines were held in the nearby Hippodrome, which was the largest structure of ancient Olympia.
It was common practice for the athletes in the ancient Greek Olympics to cover themselves in olive oil before their fight. After the fight, they would remove the thick mixture of olive oil, sweat and dust from their body and keep it for future use- or sell it to their admirers! This mixture was called "gloios" and the term is used nowadays in the Greek language to describe something sticky or slimy.

Day 5: The Award Ceremony

A victory in the Olympic Games was one of highest achievements for a Greek citizen.

olive wreath-the price of the olympic gamesDuring the ceremony, a herald announced the name, the father's name and the homeland of the winner.
All the stadium was filled with cheers and the spectators were throwing flowers.

The winners were crowned with an olive wreath called "kotinos". The branches of the olive wreath had to be cut with a golden sword by a boy, whose parents were both alive.
Gratefully, the winners  offered statues to the gods and placed them near the altar.

The Founder of the Olympic Games

The founder of the Olympic Games was Pelops, the king of Pisa in Peloponnese/southern Greece. However, according to another myth, it was Heracles, the strongest hero of Ancient Greece, who in fact established the Olympic Games.

Famous Games in Ancient Greece

    pictures of godname Isthmian Games (Poseidon)
    pictures of godname Nemean Games (Zeus)
    pictures of godname Olympic Games (Zeus)
    pictures of godname Pythian Games (Apollo)