The Ancient Olympics

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The Ancient Olympics

Today, the Olympic games are known world wide, but it did not always used to be this way. Early Olympic games were much different than they are today. The games played and those who attended them were some of the biggest differences. Today’s Olympics have competitors from around the world. There are now hundreds of events in the modern athletic competition. This is a significant difference compared to the amount of events in the ancient Olympic games. The modern Olympics change their location every quadrennial. The early Olympics may have a lot of differences, but the anticipation and competitive atmosphere are the same.

The Olympic games started in the year 776 BC. They continued until the year 393 AD, when Roman Emperor Theodosius banned them for being a “pagan cult”.1 These games are linked to religious festivals for Zeus. The temple of Zeus, located in Olympia, is 40 feet tall and made of ivory and gold. It is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. A disagreement between the Eleans and the Pisatans started the tradition of these world-changing games. They disagreed over the sacred olive grove dedicated to Zeus that is located in Olympia. The agreement stated that anyone could use the grove if they came to worship it unarmed. They also agreed that athletic events were to take place. Theses games were to be held every four years, just like the modern Olympic games. Originally the Olympics lasted for 1 day, until they added more games. The winner of the first stade, the first Olympic game, was a cook named Coroibus of Elis. This was now the foundation for centuries of exciting games and a great historical time in human history.

As the games became more popular, the competitors were becoming professionals. According to David Gilman Romano, a professor of breek archaeology at the University of Arizona, "The idea was that you were training to please Zeus. But part of the festival would be to visit the temple, visit the cult statues, making offerings, celebrating and seeing your family.”2 They did also allowed poor fishermen and illiterate bakers to compete. This provided a great opportunity for them to have a chance at a higher social status. Young children that showed great promise were to become athletes and were sponsored by village elders. The victor of his event would receive his first awards immediately after his victory. A Hellanodikis would place palm branches in his hands. A Hellanodikis is a Greek Judge. The crowds would cheer energetically and the victor would wear red ribbon around his head and hands to signify that he was a champion.

The official award ceremony took place on the last day of the games. The ceremony would be at the temple of Zeus. A herald would then announce the winner’s name, his father’s name, and then the champion’s homeland. The Hellanodikis would the place the sacred olive tree branches, or kotinos, over the victor’s head. The winners would also receive wreath of olive branches from the sacred grove of Zeus. A boy, whose parents were still alive, cut the branches for the victor with a golden knife. The home city of the victor had far greater prizes for him than the actual Olympic games did. They would sometimes grant the winner a seat on the town senate. The victor never had to pay taxes again and got a lot of money from the state. He would also receive free meals. He would get the best seats in the theatre for free and the polis that he came from also made a brand-new gate in the wall that surrounded the city and named it after the victor. The victor received a statue among the gods. All of these prizes were very sentimental to the winner, even though the objects themselves were not worth that much. The Olympic games were not only about the competitors though.

The Olympic games brought huge numbers of visitors to Olympia. Most of the spectators slept outside and set up tents under the stars. The wealthy and high-class people often brought...
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