No one can say when sports began. Since it is difficult to imagine a time when children did not spontaneously run races or wrestle, it is clear that children have always included sports in their play, but one can only speculate about the emergence of sports as autotelic physical contests for adults.
Some historians see modern sport as distinctive in its secularism and its concern with quantification and records, but others see ancient and modern sport as part of a continuum, an enduring heritage. Whether sport is modern or timeless, great athletes have always understood effort and agony. The great place in the sport competitions took the Olympic Games (Vinnichuk 217).
According to mythology the Olympics were founded by King Pelops after he defeated Oinomaos, king of Pisa, in a chariot race. For his victory Pelops won the princess Hippodameia as his wife. In thanksiving he founded the games to honor Zeus.(Encyclopedia BRITANNICA).
Although the number of events of Olympia remained limited, local athletic festivals offered a vast array of competitions in male beauty, dancing in armor, chariot dismounting, torch racing, team events, and more. Epigraphic studies, such as the publication of new victor lists from the Panathenaic Games at Athens and numerous inscriptions recording contests in Hellenistic and Roman times from Alexandria to Aphrodisias, continue to reveal more about games beyond Olympia. The inscriptions reflect the proliferation of prizes, honors, and festivals throughout the Mediterranean. Some new games were modeled on Olympia, but Olympia and the other panhellenic games remaineda the most revered. Finally historians and inscriptions record gifts of money and buildings and the patronage of Olympia and athletes by such famous figures as Herod, king of Judaea, and Roman emperors including Hadrian (Vinnichuk 233).
The ancient Olympics were rather different from the modern Games. There were fewer events, and only free men who spoke Greek could compete, instead of athletes from any country. Also, the games were always held at Olympia instead of moving around to different sites every time.
Like our Olympics, though, winning athletes were heroes who put their home towns on the map. One young Athenian nobleman defended his political reputation by mentioning how he entered seven chariots in the Olympic chariot-race. This high number of entries made both the aristocrat and Athens look very wealthy and powerful.
Many of the games played in the Olympic Games of ancient Greece are still included in the Olympics of today. Three of these games are boxing, weightlifting, and the pentathalon (1). One event from the ancient Greek Olympics that is too dangerous to be included in the games today is chariot racing.
Ancient competitors went to Olympia on their own initiative and at their own expense; they were not screened at home by athletic trials or officially supported by local committees.
As I said before, people who were not Greek could not compete in the Games, but Greek athletes traveled hundreds of miles, from colonies of the Greek city-states. These colonies were as far away as modern-day Spain, Italy, Libya, Egypt, the Ukraine, and Turkey.
Unlike men, who competed nude girls ware a short dress called an “off-the-shoulder chiton,” which left the right shoulder and breast bare.
Ancient athletes competed as individuals, not on national teams, as in the modern Games. The emphasis on individual athletic achievement through public competition was related to the Greek ideal of excellence, called arete. Aristocratic men who attained this ideal, through their outstanding words or deeds, won permanent glory and fame. Those who failed to measure up to this code feared public shame and disgrace (Encyclopedia BRITANNICA).
Victorious athletes were professionals in the sense that they lived off the glory of their achievement ever afterwards. Their hometowns might reward them with free meals for the rest of their lives, cash, tax breaks, honorary appointments, or leadership positions in the community. The victors were memorialized in statues and also in victory odes, commissioned from famous poets.
For centuries the events and facilities at Olympia were spartan for both athletes and spectators. Only judges and diplomatic representatives had permanent stone seats in a small area on the southern embankment. Spectators camped out nearby or came early, standing or sitting on the grassy embankments to watch the competitions.
There were no women’s events, and adult women were barred from attending the games on pain of death.There is no evidence that such executions were ever carried out. Kallipatcira (1), who attended disguised as a trainer and Ieapt into the stadium to congratulate her victorious son, went unpunished out of respect for her illustrious family. But to prevent such a violation from happening in the future, trainers thereafter had to enter the stadium naked (Vinnichuk 235).
1.Kallipatricira ? wife of the most famous Greece merchant.
The Olympic festival not only celebrated excellence in athletics. It also provided the occasion for Greeks to produce lasting cultural achievements in architecture, mathematics, sculpture, and poetry.
The ancient Greeks were architectural innovators. The temple of Zeus, designed by the architect Libon, was one of the largest Doric temples built in Greece. Libon tried to build the temple in an ideal system of proportions, so that the distance between the columns was harmoniously proportional to their height, and the other architectural elements were sized proportionately as well. (Encarta the Encyclopedia).
The most spectacular sight at Olympia was the gold and ivory cult statue of Zeus enthroned, which was made by the sculptor Pheidias and placed inside the temple. The statue was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and stood over 42 feet high. A spiral staircase took visitors to an upper floor of the temple, for a better view of the statue (Vinnichuk 241).
The cultural achievement most directly tied to the Olympic games was poetry commissioned in honor of athletic victors. These poems, called Epinicians, were written by the most famous poets of the day, including Pindar, Bacchylides, and Simonides, and they were extremely popular (Vinnichuk 242).
The Olympic Games were different from the modern Games in their program but not in their importance. The Games took place in every aspect of life from the education and to the architecture and poetry. Even that the Olympic Games have loosen their religious meaning, they have continue to play important role in our modern life.
1. L. Vinnichuk
“People and customs of ancient Greece and Rome” Moscow 1988.
2. J.Hersmith, “HISTORY TODAY”, December 1997, pp 35-41
3. N.Dowin Jr ,
“Ancient Rome”, Archeology magazine, July/August 1996, pp. 26-37.
4. Encyclopedia BRITANNICA.
5. Encarta the Encyclopedia.
6. email@example.com (History forum in the internet)