The Ancient Olympic Games

Essay by morteamoreCollege, UndergraduateA-, December 2004

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The tradition of the Olympic Games leads back into antiquity and spans across the centuries. The Greek poet Pindar claims that the Olympic Games were created by Herakles, the strongman hero of Greek mythology, and that it was in celebration of the success of one of his twelve labors. However, the games actually developed from funeral games that were held to honor the local heroes. The event was held in Olympia, a remote area that was easily accessible from the river Alpheios (Swaddling 7). The Games were a combination of athletic competition and religious celebration in honor of Zeus, the Greek father of the gods and goddesses. The date that is traditionally given for the first Olympic Games is 776 BCE, but it is evident that games were actually held unofficially many years before this date, and it is thought that there may have been twenty-seven Olympiads previous to 776 BCE.

The first recorded winner at the Olympics was a man named Koroibos from the nearby city of Elis, who won the stade, a foot-race. For thirteen Olympic festivals the stadion race was the only event that existed. Eventually, many more events were added and the duration of the games lasted for five days (Lee 110 - 112). The Games were the spirit of ancient Greece and many people came from all over the country to either participate in or observe the festivities. The festival was extremely successful and spawned other festivals in the same spirit. The Olympic Games were a center for sacrifice, ritual, athletic competition and politics, and it was considered the largest event in Greek antiquity.

The Games were extremely important to the Greeks. In fact, they were so important all warfare ceased while the Games were in progress and the masses were gathering from all...