Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Ancient Olympic Games

The Ancient Olympic Games were organised in Ancient Olympia Greece and, therefore, named after their location. It is not quite clear when they began, however, there are records dating 776 BC. They took place every four years for more than a millennium. This four-year cycle was referred to as “Olympiad”, and was used as a date system. Time was not counted in years but in Olympiads.

The Games in Ancient Olympia led to the development of the Panhellenic Games, which were held in the same year. The Panhellenic Games included: the Olympic Games (the most important), the Pythian Games (held in Delphi), the Isthmian Games and the Nemean Games. These exceptional Games brought the Greek world together at a time when Greece consisted of many city-states which were economically and politically independent communities. Inspired by the feeling of national and religious unity, people would travel from other Greek city-states and the colonies (Italy, Asia Minor, Africa) to attend or compete.

At first, the Games were a peace treaty between Sparta and Elis, however, it was soon decided that all Greek states could participate providing they respected the sacred truce that was to be held during the games. This period of peace initially lasted a month (always during summer), but due to the fact that so many states participated and people from all over attended, it was extended to three months.

Athletes had to be male, of Greek origin and free to participate in the Games. Women, slaves and foreigners were forbidden. The fastest, strongest and most skillful athletes were always sent. It was considered a great honour to be a victor. Victors were crowned with wreaths from a sacred olive tree that grew behind the temple of Zeus. According to legend, the tree was planted by Hercules, the founder of the Ancient Olympic Games.