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5 Things You Were Wondering About the Ancient Olympic Games

5 Things You Were Wondering About the Ancient Olympic Games

Why did they start the Games?

The Olympic Games originated as a tribute to the Ancient Greek god, Zeus. There were also other games held in different cities as tributes to other Greek gods, collectively known as the Panhellenic Games. The first record of the Olympic Games dates back to 776 B.C. The Games were held in the Ancient, traditional fashion for 100 years to follow.  It wasn’t until the 19th Century that the Olympics were rediscovered and held again in 1896. This marked the transition into the modern games that we know today. The games have adapted along with society, for example, allowing female athletes to participate, changing the venues, the clothing worn, and adding more events. The torch relay that happens at the Opening Ceremonies to our Olympic Games today is a symbol that links the Ancient Games to the modern Olympic Games.

2.What did they play?

The sports in the first Olympic Games differ greatly from our modern Olympics. There were no team sports, only
individual ones. The events included different running tests (speed and a variety of distances), wrestling, boxing, pankration (a type of martial arts combining boxing and wrestling), equestrian, and the pentathlon (combined the five major activities – running, long jump, javeline, wrestling and discus). Today, the sports vary greatly and include both individual as well as team activities. The summer games include a host of competitions from canoeing to gymnastics, while the winter games include everything from curling to cross-country skiing.

3.Could anyone participate?

Originally, in order to play in the Olympic Games, the athlete had to be male, Greek, and free-born. Some exceptions were made for women who owned horses, but women and slaves were mainly excluded from the Games. Each city chose its best athletes and they were to train hard for several months leading up to the Games. Today, athletes of all genders and on a team of a participating country can participate (with qualification). 

4.Did the winners receive medals?

Rather than choosing gold, silver and bronze medal winners, the Ancient Games only awarded one winner. The winner would receive a palm leaf in his hands and a red ribbon around his head and hands. Then, they would have a crown of olive branch placed upon his head. Instead of a medal, the victor would return to their hometown and reap the benefits by receiving a statue in his honor as well as numerous other advantages. The townspeople would treat the winner as a hero for the rest of his life. In today’s Olympics, three winners are given medals (gold, silver, bronze) for each activity.

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5.How long were the Games?

The Ancient Games occurred once every four years. Today, the summer and winter Games are alternated every two years. Today’s Olympic Games each last a little under three weeks. The Ancient Games all took place in one day and eventually expanded to five days. 

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