The Olympic Games

map of ancient Greece

The Olympic Games were originally a religious festival. Remember those events that the rich citizens paid for? The Olympics were one of them. The games began in the 8th century BC. Their competitions are the inspiration for what we still know as the Olympic Games today.

The original Olympics were held in the honor of Zeus, the head god in their mythology. The games were held every four years just as they are today. And just like today, people came from all over to watch and to compete.

In order for that to happen, the city states, like Athens and Sparta, called a truce for one month to allow people to travel. A truce means that everyone agreed to not fight. This means the Olympic games were more important than wars, making the Olympics a symbol of peace.

What events do you think they had?

olympic games site
Ruins from the site of the Olympics

It started with short running races, but the games got larger and grew longer. The events that were held could all be done in a stadium. They included traditional track and field events such as the long jump and throwing the javelin and discus. There was also wrestling, boxing, and chariot races. Wrestling didn’t really have rules and it could get ugly!

Unmarried women had their own races at the same time, though mostly it was Spartan women who competed in the sports. A married woman could be punished for even showing up to watch the Olympics.

Winners weren’t given metals but wreaths to wear. They gained great honors though, raising their position in society. Everyone looked up to them and wanted to be with them.

Races had a lot of people in them and so did the stadium, which could seat multiple tens of thousands of people.

Olympic runners

The end of the games called for a celebration feast. Traders and politicians took advantage of the large audience. Performers such as jugglers and acrobats would also entertain the crowds.