Olympic Origins

By: The Scribe on Wednesday, March 21, 2007



Olympic Origins

The first Olympic Games were held in 776 BC in Olympia, Greece. Many events that are known from our modern Olympic games were first described in the famous Greek poem The Iliad. Held every four years in ancient Greece during July or August, a truce was called between anyone at war within the country for about a month before and after the games, to ensure the athletes and spectators could travel safely to the event.

Athletes were unpaid and trained year-round for the events in which they planned to compete. Notably, all athletes in the Greek world trained and competed in the nude! Although the Greek ideal was to gain honor through winning in the games, the victor would be crowned with an olive wreath immediately after his event, and his name recorded in stone – second and third place prizes did not exist. On the final day of the competition, victors from many events received a large amphora of olive oil, which could be valued up to five years’ worth of pay.

Much like modern Olympic victors who gain sponsorships and advertising stints after their events, ancient Greek athletes were often given financial compensation by their hometowns upon their victories; in some cases a statue of the athlete would be erected in the center of town, idolizing and making the athlete into a famous, hometown hero.

The ancient Olympics included many events which are still held in today’s modern games: discus, javelin, jumping events, footrace, wrestling, and boxing. Chariot races were also quite popular.

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