Ancient Olympic Games

The ancient Olympic Games were originally a festival, or celebration of and for Zeus; later, events such as a footrace, a javelin contest, and wrestling matches were added. The Olympic Games (Ancient Greek: Ὀλύμπια, Olympia,[1][2][3][4][5][6] "the Olympics"; also Ὀλυμπιάς, Olympias,[7][4][5][6] "the Olympiad") were a series of athletic competitions among representatives of city-states and one of the Panhellenic Games of ancient Greece. They were held in honor of Zeus, and the Greeks gave them a mythological origin. The first Olympics is traditionally dated to 776 BC.[8] They continued to be celebrated when Greece came under Roman rule, until the emperor Theodosius I suppressed them in AD 393 as part of the campaign to impose Christianity as the State religion of Rome. The games were held every four years, or olympiad, which became a unit of time in historical chronologies.

During the celebration of the games, an Olympic Truce was enacted so that athletes could travel from their cities to the games in safety. The prizes for the victors were olive leaf wreaths or crowns. The games became a political tool used by city-states to assert dominance over their rivals. Politicians would announce political alliances at the games, and in times of war, priests would offer sacrifices to the gods for victory. The games were also used to help spread Hellenistic culture throughout the Mediterranean. The Olympics also featured religious celebrations. The statue of Zeus at Olympia was counted as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Sculptors and poets would congregate each olympiad to display their works of art to would-be patrons.

The ancient Olympics had fewer events than the modern games, and only freeborn Greek men were allowed to participate,[9] although there were victorious women chariot owners. As long as they met the entrance criteria, athletes from any Greek city-state and kingdom were allowed to participate, although the Hellanodikai, the officials in charge, allowed king Alexander I of Macedon to participate in the games only after he had proven his Greek ancestry.[10][11] The games were always held at Olympia rather than moving between different locations as is the practice with the modern Olympic Games.[12] Victors at the Olympics were honored, and their feats chronicled for future generations.

An artist's impression of ancient Olympia
The palaestra of Olympia, a place devoted to the training of wrestlers and other athletes


To the Greeks, it was important to root the Olympic Games in mythology.[13] During the time of the ancient games their origins were attributed to the gods, and competing legends persisted as to who actually was responsible for the genesis of the games.[14]

These origin traditions have become nearly impossible to untangle, yet a chronology and patterns have arisen that help people understand the story behind the games.[15]

  • The earliest myths regarding the origin of the games are recounted by the Greek historian, Pausanias. According to the story, the dactyl Heracles (not to be confused with the son of Zeus and the Roman god Hercules) and four of his brothers, Paeonaeus, Epimedes, Iasius and Idas, raced at Olympia to entertain the newborn Zeus. He crowned the victor with an olive wreath (which thus became a peace symbol), which also explains the four year interval, bringing the games around every fifth year (counting inclusively).[16][17] The other Olympian gods (so named because they lived permanently on Mount Olympus) would also engage in wrestling, jumping and running contests.[18]
  • Another myth of the origin of the games is the story of Pelops, a local Olympian hero. The story of Pelops begins with Oenomaus, the king of Pisa, Greece, who had a beautiful daughter named Hippodamia. According to an oracle, the king would be killed by her husband. Therefore, he decreed that any young man who wanted to marry his daughter was required to drive away with her in his chariot, and Oenomaus would follow in another chariot, and spear the suitor if he caught up with them. Now, the king's chariot horses were a present from the god Poseidon and were therefore supernaturally fast. Pelops was a very handsome young man and the king's daughter fell in love with him. Before the race, she persuaded her father's charioteer Myrtilus to replace the bronze axle pins of the king's chariot with wax ones. Naturally, during the race, the wax melted and the king fell from his chariot and was killed. At the same time, the king's palace was struck by lightning and reduced to ashes, save for one wooden pillar that was revered in the Altis for centuries, and stood near what was to be the site of the temple of Zeus. Pelops was proclaimed the winner and married Hippodamia. After his victory, Pelops organized chariot races as thanksgiving to the gods and as funeral games in honor of King Oenomaus, in order to be purified of his death. It was from this funeral race held at Olympia that the beginnings of the Olympic Games were inspired. Pelops became a great king, a local hero, and he gave his name to the Peloponnese.
  • One (later) myth, attributed to Pindar, states that the festival at Olympia involved Heracles, the son of Zeus: According to Pindar, Heracles established an athletic festival to honor his father, Zeus, after he had completing his labors.
  • The games of previous millennia were discontinued and then revived by Lycurgus of Sparta, Iphitos of Elis, and Cleisthenes of Pisa at the behest of the Oracle of Delphi who claimed that the people had strayed from the gods, which had caused a plague and constant war. Restoration of the games would end the plague, usher in a time of peace, and signal a return to a more traditional lifestyle.[19]

The patterns that emerge from these myths are that the Greeks believed the games had their roots in religion, that athletic competition was tied to worship of the gods, and the revival of the ancient games was intended to bring peace, harmony and a return to the origins of Greek life.[20]

Since these myths were documented by historians like Pausanias, who lived during the reign of Marcus Aurelius in the AD 160, it is likely that these stories are more fable than fact. It was often supposed that the origins of many aspects of the Olympics date to funeral games of the Mycenean period and later.[21] Alternatively, the games were thought to derive from some kind of vegetation magic or from initiation ceremonies. The most recent theory traces the origins of the games to large game hunting and related animal ceremonialism.[22]


A Torch Race
A torch race

The Olympic games were held to be one of the two central rituals in ancient Greece, the other being the much older religious festival, the Eleusinian Mysteries.[23] The games first started in Olympia, Greece, in a sanctuary site for the Greek deities near the towns of Elis and Pisa (both in Elis on the peninsula of Peloponnesos). The Sanctuary of Zeus in Olympia housed a 13-metre-high (43 ft) statue in ivory and gold of Zeus that had been sculpted by Phidias circa 445 BC. This statue was one of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World. By the time of the Classical Greek culture, in the fifth and fourth centuries BC, the games were restricted to male participants.

The historian Ephorus, who lived in the fourth century BC, is one potential candidate for establishing the use of Olympiads to count years, although credit for codifying this particular epoch usually falls to Hippias of Elis, to Eratosthenes, or even to Timaeus, whom Eratosthenes may have imitated.[24][25][26] The Olympic Games were held at four-year intervals, and later, the ancient historians' method of counting the years even referred to these games, using the term Olympiad for the period between two games. Previously, the local dating systems of the Greek states were used (they continued to be used by everyone except the historians), which led to confusion when trying to determine dates. For example, Diodorus states that there was a solar eclipse in the third year of the 113th Olympiad, which must be the eclipse of 316 BC. This gives a date of (mid-summer) 765 BC for the first year of the first Olympiad.[27] Nevertheless, there is disagreement among scholars as to when the games began.[28]

The exedra reserved for the judges at Olympia on the north embankment of the stadium

The only competition held then was, according to the later Greek traveller Pausanias who wrote in AD 175, the stadion race, a race over about 190 metres (620 feet), measured after the feet of Hercules. The word stadium is derived from this foot race.

The Greek tradition of athletic nudity (gymnos)[29] was introduced in 720 BC, either by the Spartans or by the Megarian Orsippus, and this was adopted early in the Olympics as well.

Several groups fought over control of the sanctuary at Olympia, and hence the games, for prestige and political advantage. Pausanias later writes that in 668 BC, Pheidon of Argos was commissioned by the town of Pisa to capture the sanctuary from the town of Elis, which he did and then personally controlled the games for that year. The next year, Elis regained control.

The Olympic Games were part of the Panhellenic Games, four separate games held at two- or four-year intervals, but arranged so that there was at least one set of games every year. The Olympic Games were more important and more prestigious than the Pythian, Nemean, and Isthmian Games.

The games were in decline for many years but continued past AD 385, by which time flooding and earthquakes had damaged the buildings and invasions by barbarians had reached Olympia.[30] In 394 Theodosius I banned all pagan festivals, but archeological evidence indicates that some games were still held.[31]


Discobolus in National Roman Museum Palazzo Massimo alle Terme
The "Discobolus" is a copy of a Greek statue c. 5th century BC. It represents an ancient Olympic discus thrower

The ancient Olympics were as much a religious festival as an athletic event. The games were held in honor of the Greek god Zeus, and on the middle day of the games, 100 oxen would be sacrificed to him.[12] Over time Olympia, the site of the games, became a central spot for the worship of the head of the Greek pantheon and a temple, built by the Greek architect Libon, was erected on the mountaintop. The temple was one of the largest Doric temples in Greece.[12] The sculptor Pheidias created a statue of the god made of gold and ivory. It stood 42 feet (13 m) tall. It was placed on a throne in the temple. The statue became one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.[12] As the historian Strabo put it,

... the glory of the temple persisted ... on account both of the festal assembly and of the Olympian Games, in which the prize was a crown and which were regarded as sacred, the greatest games in the world. The temple was adorned by its numerous offerings, which were dedicated there from all parts of Greece.[12]

Artistic expression was a major part of the games. Sculptors, poets, painters and other artisans would come to the games to display their works in what became an artistic competition. Sculptors created works like Myron's Diskobolos or Discus Thrower. Their aim was to highlight natural human movement and the shape of muscles and the body. Poets would be commissioned to write poems in praise of the Olympic victors. Such victory songs or epinicians, were passed on from generation to generation and many of them have lasted far longer than any other honor made for the same purpose.[32] Pierre de Coubertin, one of the founders of the modern Olympic Games, wanted to fully imitate the ancient Olympics in every way. Included in his vision was an artistic competition modeled on the ancient Olympics and held every four years, during the celebration of the Olympic Games.[33] His desire came to fruition at the Olympics held in Athens in 1896.[34]


Attica 06-13 Athens 35 Parthenon
The Parthenon in Athens, one of the leading city-states of the ancient world

Power in ancient Greece became centered around the city-state in the 8th century BC.[35] The city-state was a population center organized into a self-contained political entity.[36] These city-states often lived in close proximity to each other, which created competition for limited resources. Though conflict between the city-states was ubiquitous, it was also in their self-interest to engage in trade, military alliances and cultural interaction.[37] The city-states had a dichotomous relationship with each other: on one hand, they relied on their neighbors for political and military alliances, while on the other they competed fiercely with those same neighbors for vital resources.[38] The Olympic Games were established in this political context and served as a venue for representatives of the city-states to peacefully compete against each other.[39]

In the first 200 years of the games' existence, they only had regional religious importance. Only Greeks in proximity to the mountain competed in these early games. This is evidenced by the dominance of Peloponnesian athletes in the victors' rolls.[40] The spread of Greek colonies in the 5th and 6th centuries BC is repeatedly linked to successful Olympic athletes. For example, Pausanias recounts that Cyrene was founded c. 630 BC by settlers from Thera with Spartan support. The support Sparta gave was primarily the loan of three-time Olympic champion Chionis. The appeal of settling with an Olympic champion helped to populate the colonies and maintain cultural and political ties with the city-states near Olympia. Thus, Hellenic culture and the games spread while the primacy of Olympia persisted.[41]

The games faced a serious challenge during the Peloponnesian War, which primarily pitted Athens against Sparta, but, in reality, touched nearly every Hellenic city-state.[42] The Olympics were used during this time to announce alliances and offer sacrifices to the gods for victory.[12][43]

During the Olympic Games, a truce, or ekecheiria was observed. Three runners, known as spondophoroi, were sent from Elis to the participant cities at each set of games to announce the beginning of the truce.[44] During this period, armies were forbidden from entering Olympia; and legal disputes, and the use of the death penalty, were forbidden. The truce — primarily designed to allow athletes and visitors to travel safely to the games — was, for the most part, observed.[44] Thucydides wrote of a situation when the Spartans were forbidden from attending the games, and the violators of the truce were fined 2,000 minae for assaulting the city of Lepreum during the period of the ekecheiria. The Spartans disputed the fine and claimed that the truce had not yet taken hold.[43][45]

While a martial truce was observed by all participating city-states, no such reprieve from conflict existed in the political arena. The Olympic Games evolved the most influential athletic and cultural stage in ancient Greece, and arguably in the ancient world.[46] As such the games became a vehicle for city-states to promote themselves. The result was political intrigue and controversy. For example, Pausanias, a Greek historian, explains the situation of the athlete Sotades,

Sotades at the ninety-ninth Festival was victorious in the long race and proclaimed a Cretan, as in fact he was. But at the next Festival he made himself an Ephesian, being bribed to do so by the Ephesian people. For this act he was banished by the Cretans.[12]


Three runners BM GR 1856.10-1.1
Three runners featured on an Attic black-figured Panathenaic prize amphora.
332-333 BC, British Museum
Events at the Olympics
Olympiad Year Event first introduced
1st 776 BC Stade
14th 724 BC Diaulos
15th 720 BC Long distance race (Dolichos)
18th 708 BC Pentathlon, Wrestling
23rd 688 BC Boxing (pygmachia)
25th 680 BC Four horse chariot race (tethrippon)
33rd 648 BC Horse race (keles), Pankration
37th 632 BC Boys stade and wrestling
38th 628 BC Boys pentathlon
41st 616 BC Boys boxing
65th 520 BC Hoplite race (hoplitodromos)
70th 500 BC Mule-cart race (apene)
93rd 408 BC Two horse chariot race (synoris)
96th 396 BC Competition for heralds and trumpeters
99th 384 BC Tethrippon for horse over one year
128th 266 BC Chariot for horse over one year
131st 256 BC Race for horses older than one year
145th 200 BC Pankration for boys

Apparently starting with just a single foot race, the program gradually increased to twenty-three contests, although no more than twenty featured at any one Olympiad.[47] Participation in most events was limited to male athletes except for women who were allowed to take part by entering horses in the equestrian events. Youth events are recorded as starting in 632 BC. Our knowledge of how the events were performed primarily derives from the paintings of athletes found on many vases, particularly those of the Archaic and Classical periods.[48]


Ancient Olympic Starting Line
A section of the stone starting line at Olympia, which has a groove for each foot

The only event recorded at the first thirteen games was the stade, a straight-line sprint of just over 192 metres.[49] The diaulos (lit. "double pipe"), or two-stade race, is recorded as being introduced at the 14th Olympiad in 724 BC. It is thought that competitors ran in lanes marked out with lime or gypsum for the length of a stade then turned around separate posts (kampteres), before returning to the start line.[50] Xenophanes wrote that "Victory by speed of foot is honored above all."

A third foot race, the dolichos ("long race"), was introduced in the next Olympiad. Accounts of the race's distance differ, it seems to have been from twenty to twenty-four laps of the track, around 7.5 km to 9 km, although it may have been lengths rather than laps and thus half as far.[51][52]

The last running event added to the Olympic program was the hoplitodromos, or "Hoplite race", introduced in 520 BC and traditionally run as the last race of the games. Competitors ran either a single or double diaulos (approximately 400 or 800 metres) in full military armour.[53] The hoplitodromos was based on a war tactic of soldiers running in full armor to surprise the enemy.


Foul pankration at Kylix by the Foundry Painter BM VaseE78
Pankration scene: the pankriatiast on the right tries to gouge his opponent's eye; the umpire is about to strike him for this foul.
Detail from an Attic red-figure kylix c. 490-480 BC, British Museum

Wrestling (pale) is recorded as being introduced at the 18th Olympiad. Three throws were necessary for a win. A throw was counted if the body, hip, back or shoulder (and possibly knee) touched the ground. If both competitors fell nothing was counted. Unlike its modern counterpart Greco-Roman wrestling, it is likely that tripping was allowed.[54]

Boxing (pygmachia) was first listed in 688 BC,[55] the boys event sixty years later. The laws of boxing were ascribed to the first Olympic champion Onomastus of Smyrna.[54] It appears body-blows were either not permitted or not practised.[54][56] The Spartans, who claimed to have invented boxing, quickly abandoned it and did not take part in boxing competitions.[54] At first the boxers wore himantes (sing. himas), long leather strips which were wrapped around their hands.[55]

The pankration was introduced in the 33rd Olympiad (648 BC).[57] Boys' pankration became an Olympic event in 200 BC, in the 145th Olympiad.[58] As well as techniques from boxing and wrestling, athletes used kicks,[59] locks, and chokes on the ground. Although the only prohibitions were against biting and gouging, the pankration was regarded as less dangerous than boxing.[60]

It was one of the most popular events: Pindar wrote eight odes praising victors of the pankration.[54] A famous event in the sport was the posthumous victory of Arrhichion of Phigaleia who "expired at the very moment when his opponent acknowledged himself beaten."[54][54]


The pentathlon was a competition made up of five events: running, long jump, discus throw, javelin throw and wrestling.[54] The pentathlon is said to have first appeared at the 18th Olympiad in 708 BC.[61] The competition was held on a single day,[62] but it is not known how the victor was decided,[63][64] or in what order the events occurred,[54] except that it finished with the wrestling.[65]


Horse racing and chariot racing were the most prestigious competitions in the games, due to only the wealthy being able to afford the maintenance and transportation of horses. These races consisted of different events: the four-horse chariot race, the two-horse chariot race, and the horse with rider race, the rider being hand picked by the owner. The four-horse chariot race was the first equestrian event to feature in the Olympics, being introduced in 680 BC. It consisted of two horses that were harnessed under a Yoke in the middle, and two outer horses that were attached with a rope.[66] The two-horse chariot was introduced in 408 BC.[67] The horse with rider competition on the other hand, was introduced in 648 BC. In this race, Greeks didn't use saddles or stirrups, so they required good grip and balance.[68]

In AD 67, the Roman Emperor Nero competed in the chariot race at Olympia. He was thrown from his chariot and was thus unable to finish the race. Nevertheless, he was declared the winner on the basis that he would have won if he had finished the race.[69]

Famous athletes

Olympic victors on Papyrus 1185
Ancient list of Olympic victors of the 75th to the 78th, and from the 81st to the 83rd Olympiads (480–468 BC, 456–448 BC)

Olympic festivals in other places

Athletic festivals under the name of "Olympic games", named in imitation of the original festival at Olympia, were established over time in various places all over the Greek world. Some of these are only known to us by inscriptions and coins; but others, as the Olympic festival at Antioch, obtained great celebrity. After these Olympic festivals had been established in several places, the great Olympic festival itself was sometimes designated in inscriptions by the addition of Pisa.[78]

See also


  1. ^ Ὀλύμπια. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; An Intermediate Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
  2. ^ "15-04-16 Χαιρετισμός των Υπουργών Ν.Φίλη και Α.Μπαλτά για την Παγκόσμια Ημέρα Μνημείων και Τοποθεσιών". Greek ministry of Education Research and Religious affairs. Archived from the original on 24 September 2016. Πανελλήνια συμμετοχή είχαν: τα Ολύμπια, που διεξάγονταν κάθε τέσσερα χρόνια στην Αρχαία Ολυμπία προς τιμήν του Διός
  3. ^ Francis Edward Jackson VALPY (1832). Second Greek Delectus; or, new Analecta Minora ... With English notes, and a copious Greek and English lexicon, etc. p. 1. Archived from the original on 15 November 2017.
  4. ^ a b Grieksch leesboek voor eerstbeginnenden: ingerigt ten dienste der Hollandsche jeugd. H.C.A. Thieme. 1811. p. 248. Archived from the original on 15 November 2017.
  5. ^ a b Henry Cary (1843). A Lexicon to Herodotus, Greek and English, Adapted to the Text of Grisford and Bachr. J. Vincent and. p. 279. Archived from the original on 15 November 2017.
  6. ^ a b Fridericus Gulielmus Sturz (1818). Etymologicum graciae linguae Gudianum et alia grammaticorum scripta e codicibus manuscriptis nunc primum edita Accedunt notae ad Aymologicion magnum ineditae E. H. Barkeri, Innr. Bekkeri, Lud. Kulencampii, Amad. Peyronialiorumque. Weigel. p. 371. Archived from the original on 23 December 2016.
  7. ^ Ὀλυμπιάς in Middle Liddell and Scott.
  8. ^ "History". Olympic Games. Archived from the original on 9 August 2016. Retrieved 11 August 2016.
  9. ^ David Sansone, Ancient Greek civilization, Wiley-Blackwell, 2003, p.32
  10. ^ Robert Malcolm Errington, A history of Macedonia, University of California Press, 1990, p.3
  11. ^ Joseph Roisman, Ian Worthington, A Companion to Ancient Macedonia, Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, p.16
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  13. ^ Kyle, 1999, p.101
  14. ^ Kyle, 1999, pp.101–102
  15. ^ Kyle, 1999, p.102
  16. ^ Spivey, 2005, pp.225–226
  17. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5.7.6-9
  18. ^ Spivey, 2005, p.226
  19. ^ Kyle, 1999, pp.102–103
  20. ^ Kyle, 1999, p.102–104
  21. ^ Wendy J. Raschke (15 June 1988). Archaeology Of The Olympics: The Olympics & Other Festivals In Antiquity. Univ of Wisconsin Press. pp. 22–. ISBN 978-0-299-11334-6. Archived from the original on 12 October 2013. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
  22. ^ Patay-Horváth, András (2015). The Origins of the Olympic Games. Budapest: Archaeolingua. ISBN 978-963-9911-72-7.
  23. ^ "The Ancient Olympic Games". HickokSports. 4 February 2005. Archived from the original on 22 February 2002. Retrieved 13 May 2007.
  24. ^ Plutarch, Numa Pompilius 1.4
  25. ^ Dionysius, 1.74-1-3. Little remains of Eratosthenes' Chronographiae, but its academic influence is clearly demonstrated here in the Roman Antiquities by Dionysius of Halicarnassus.
  26. ^ Denis Feeney in Caesar's Calendar: Ancient Time and the Beginnings of History. (Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press, 2007), 84.
  27. ^ "The Athletics of the Ancient Olympics: A Summary and Research Tool" by Kotynski, p.3 (Quote used with permission). For the calculation of the date, see Kotynski footnote 6.
  28. ^ See, for example, Alfred Mallwitz's article "Cult and Competition Locations at Olympia" p.101 in which he argues that the games may not have started until about 704 BC. Hugh Lee, on the other hand, in his article "The 'First' Olympic Games of 776 B.C.E" p.112, follows an ancient source that claims that there were twenty-seven Olympiads before the first one was recorded in 776. There are no records of Olympic victors extant from earlier than the fifth century BC.
  29. ^ Yalouris, N. 1976. The Olympic Games-through the ages. Print
  30. ^ David C. Young (15 April 2008). A Brief History of the Olympic Games. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 135–. ISBN 978-0-470-77775-6. Archived from the original on 3 January 2014. Retrieved 1 April 2013.
  31. ^ Tony Perrottet (8 June 2004). The Naked Olympics: The True Story of the Ancient Games. Random House Digital, Inc. pp. 190–. ISBN 978-1-58836-382-4. Archived from the original on 12 June 2013. Retrieved 1 April 2013.
  32. ^ Golden, Mark, p. 77 Archived 4 May 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  33. ^ Stanton, 2000, pp.3–4
  34. ^ Stanton, 2000, p. 17
  35. ^ Hansen, 2006, p. 9
  36. ^ Hansen, 2006, pp.9–10
  37. ^ Hansen, 2006, p.10
  38. ^ Hansen, 2006, p.114
  39. ^ Raschke, 1988, p. 23
  40. ^ Spivey, 2005, p.172
  41. ^ Spivey, 2005, pp.182–183
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  44. ^ a b Swaddling, 1999, p.11
  45. ^ Strassler & Hanson, 1996, pp. 332–333
  46. ^ Kyle, 2007, p. 8
  47. ^ Crowther
  48. ^ Young, p. 18
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  63. ^ Young, p. 19
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  69. ^ "Olympic Games We No Longer Play". 4 August 2016. Archived from the original on 5 August 2016. Retrieved 4 August 2016.
  70. ^ Gibson, Sean (10 August 2016). "Michael Phelps beats 2,168-year-old Olympic record held by Leonidas of Rhodes". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 16 October 2016. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  71. ^ Bull, Andy (12 August 2016). "Phelps claims 200m individual medley gold for fourth straight Olympics". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 12 August 2016. Phelps has now overtaken Leonidas of Rhodes as the most decorated Olympian of this, that, and every era. Leonidas, as every self-respecting sports fan knows, did the sprint triple in the stadion, the diaulos, and the hoplitodromos, at four Olympics in a row between 164 and 152 BC. Or 2,168 years ago.
  72. ^ Kelly, Jon (12 August 2016). "Who, What, Why: Who was Leonidas of Rhodes? - BBC News". BBC News. Retrieved 14 August 2016.
  73. ^ Young, David C. (15 April 2008). A Brief History of the Olympic Games. ISBN 9780470777756. Retrieved 16 April 2015.
  74. ^ "The History of Herodotus, parallel English/Greek: Book 5: Terpsichore: 20". p. 22. Archived from the original on 15 May 2016. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  75. ^ The Anabasis of Alexander/Book II/Chapter XIV/Alexander’s Treatment of the Captured Greek Ambassadors.—Submission of Byblus and Sidon. - Arrian
  76. ^ Tiberius, AD 1 (or earlier) – cf. Ehrenberg & Jones, Documents Illustrating the Reigns of Augustus and Tiberius [Oxford 1955] p. 73 (n.78)
  77. ^ 369 according to Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece by Nigel Wilson, 2006, Routledge (UK) or 385 according to Classical Weekly by Classical Association of the Atlantic States
  78. ^ William Smith, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, Archived 6 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine


Further reading

  • Christesen, Paul. 2007. Olympic Victor Lists and Ancient Greek History. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.
  • Lee, Hugh M. 2001. The Program and Schedule of the Ancient Olympic Games. Nikephoros Beihefte 6. Hildesheim, Germany: Weidmann.
  • Nielsen, Thomas Heine. 2007. Olympia and the Classical Hellenic City-State Culture. Historisk-filosofiske Meddeleser 96. Copenhagen: Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters.
  • Sinn, Ulrich. 2000. Olympia: Cult, Sport, and Ancient Festival. Princeton, NJ: M. Wiener.
  • Valavanis, Panos. 2004. Games and Sanctuaries in Ancient Greece: Olympia, Delphi, Isthmia, Nemea, Athens. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum.

External links

Ancient Olympic pentathlon

The Ancient Olympic pentathlon (Greek: πένταθλον) was an athletic contest at the Ancient Olympic Games, and other Panhellenic Games of Ancient Greece. The name derives from Greek, combining the words pente (five) and athlon (competition). Five events were contested over one day, starting with the stadion (a short foot race) followed by the Javelin throw, Discus throw, Long jump (the order of these three events is still unclear), and ending with wrestling. While Pentathletes were considered to be inferior to the specialized athletes in a certain event, they were superior in overall development and were some of the most well balanced of all the athletes. Their training was often part of military service—each of the five events was thought to be useful in battle.

Asterix at the Olympic Games (film)

Asterix at the Olympic Games (French: Astérix aux Jeux Olympiques) is a 2008 French fantasy comedy film directed by Frédéric Forestier and Thomas Langmann, and written by Langmann, Alexandre Charlot, and Frank Magnier, based on characters from René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo's Astérix comic series. It was filmed primarily in Spain over the course of the year 2006.

At the time of its release, it was the most expensive French and non English-speaking film of all time. The film has been poorly received by critics, but performed well at several European box offices, topping charts in Poland, Spain, and France. In May 2008, it received the "Gérard du cinéma" (French equivalent of the Razzie Awards) for "Worst French film made in 2007".

Chronicon (Eusebius)

The Chronicon or Chronicle (Greek: Παντοδαπὴ ἱστορία Pantodape historia, "Universal history") was a work in two books by Eusebius of Caesarea. It seems to have been compiled in the early 4th century. It contained a world chronicle from Abraham until the vicennalia of Constantine I in A.D. 325. Book 1 contained sets of extracts from earlier writers; book 2 contained a technically innovative list of dates and events in tabular format.

The original Greek text is lost, although substantial quotations exist in later chronographers. Both books are mostly preserved in an Armenian translation. Book 2 is entirely preserved in the Latin translation by Jerome. Portions also exist in quotation in later Syriac writers such as the fragments by James of Edessa and, following him, Michael the Syrian.

The Chronicle as preserved extends to the year 325, and was written before the "Church History".

Coroebus of Elis

Coroebus of Elis, commonly spelled Koroibos (Greek: Κόροιβος Ἠλεῖος), was a Greek cook, baker and athlete from Elis, who won the stadion race in the first recorded Ancient Olympic Games in 776 BC.

Desmon of Corinth

Desmon of Corinth was an ancient Greek athlete from Corinth who won the stadion race of the 14th Ancient Olympic Games in 724 BC. These were the first Olympic Games that also saw a double race, i.e. a race with a distance of 2 stadia = 2 x 192 m, called Diaulos (δίαυλος); this double race was won by Hypenus of Elis.

Diocles of Corinth

Diocles of Corinth (Greek: Διοκλῆς ὁ Κορίνθιος) was an ancient Greek athlete from Corinth who won the stadion race of the 13th Ancient Olympic Games in 728 BC. The stadion race (about 180 meters) was the only competition in the first 13 Olympiads.

Diocles is said to have been the lover of Philolaos of the Bacchiadae family who became a Nomothete (lawmaker) in Thebes. Diocles then left Corinth to live with Philolaos in Thebes. They lived together for the rest of their lives and were buried in adjoining tombs.


The Hellanodikai (Ancient Greek: Ἑλλανοδίκαι, literally meaning Judges of the Greeks; sing. Ἑλλανοδίκας ) were the judges of the Ancient Olympic Games, and the success of the games are attributed to their efforts. It was their sacred duty to maintain the standards and legacy of the games, as well as uphold the rules.

Hypenus of Elis

Hypenus of Elis was an ancient Greek athlete from Elis who won the double race (Diaulos) of the 14th Ancient Olympic Games in 724 BC. It was the first time that the double race, i.e. a race with a distance of 2 stadia = 2 x 192 m, was run at the Olympic Games.

Olive wreath

The Olive wreath also known as kotinos (Greek: κότινος), was the prize for the winner at the ancient Olympic Games. It was a branch of the wild olive tree Kallistefanos Elea (also referred to as Elaia Kallistephanos) that grew at Olympia, intertwined to form a circle or a horse-shoe. The branches of the sacred wild-olive tree near the temple of Zeus were cut by a “pais amfithalis” (a boy whose parents were both alive) with a pair of golden scissors. Then he took them to the temple of Hera and placed them on a gold-ivory table. From there, the Hellanodikai (the judges of the Olympic Games) would take them, make the wreaths and crown the winners of the Games.

Olympia, Greece

Olympia (Greek: Ὀλυμπία; Ancient Greek: [olympía]; Modern Greek: [oli(m)ˈbia] Olymbía), is a small town in Elis on the Peloponnese peninsula in Greece, famous for the nearby archaeological site of the same name, which was a major Panhellenic religious sanctuary of ancient Greece, where the ancient Olympic Games were held. The site was primarily dedicated to Zeus and drew visitors from all over the Greek world as one of a group of such "Panhellenic" centres which helped to build the identity of the ancient Greeks as a nation. Despite the name, it is nowhere near Mount Olympus in northern Greece, where the Twelve Olympians, the major deities of Ancient Greek religion, were believed to live.

The Olympic Games were held every four years throughout Classical antiquity, from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD.The archaeological site held over 70 significant buildings, and ruins of many of these survive, although the main Temple of Zeus survives only as stones on the ground. The site is a major tourist attraction, and has two museums, one devoted to the ancient and modern games.


An Olympiad (Greek: Ὀλυμπιάς, Olympiás) is a period of four years associated with the Olympic Games of the Ancient Greeks. Although the Ancient Olympic Games were established during Archaic Greece, it was not until the Hellenistic period, beginning with Ephorus, that the Olympiad was used as a calendar epoch. Converting to the modern BC/AD dating system the first Olympiad began in the summer of 776 BC and lasted until the summer of 772 BC, when the second Olympiad would begin with the commencement of the next games.

By extrapolation to the Gregorian calendar, the

3rd year of the 699th Olympiad will begin in (Northern-Hemisphere) mid-summer 2019.

A modern Olympiad refers to a four-year period beginning on the opening of the Olympic Games for the summer sports. The first modern Olympiad began in 1896, the second in 1900, and so on (the 31st began in 2016: see the Olympic Charter).

The ancient and modern Olympiads would have synchronised had there been a year zero between the Olympiad of 4 BC and the one of 4 AD. But as the Gregorian calendar goes directly from 1 BC to 1 AD, the ancient Olympic cycle now lags the modern cycle by one year.


A pentathlon is a contest featuring five events. The name is derived from Greek: combining the words pente (five) and -athlon (competition) (Greek: πένταθλον). The first pentathlon was documented in Ancient Greece and was part of the Ancient Olympic Games. Five events were contested over one day for the Ancient Olympic pentathlon, starting with the long jump, javelin throwing, and discus throwing, followed by the stadion (a short foot race) and wrestling. Pentathletes were considered to be among the most skilled athletes, and their training was often part of military service—each of the five events in the pentathlon was thought to be useful in war or battle.

With the revival of the Olympic Games in the modern era, the pentathlon returned in two formats. The athletics pentathlon was a modern variation on the original events, with a competition over five track and field events. The modern pentathlon, invented by Pierre de Coubertin (father of the Modern Olympics), was a variation on the military aspect of the Ancient pentathlon. It focused on the skills required by a late-19th-century soldier, with competitions in shooting, swimming, fencing, equestrianism, and cross country running.

A prominent aspect of modern pentathlons is the point system, whereby each competitor is awarded a certain number of points based on their performance in each specific event. The overall winner is the competitor with the highest point total at the end of the five pentathlon events.

Phlegon of Tralles

Phlegon of Tralles (Ancient Greek: Φλέγων ὁ Τραλλιανός) was a Greek writer and freedman of the emperor Hadrian, who lived in the 2nd century AD.


Phrynon of Athens (Greek: Φρύνων ο Αθηναίος; Athens; before 657 BC – Sigeum; c. 606 BC) was a general of ancient Athens, and a winner in ancient Olympic Games.

Sostratus of Pellene

Sostratus (Greek: Σώστρατος, Sostratos) was an Ancient Greek athlete from Pellene, Achaea. He won the footrace for boys at the Ancient Olympic Games. He was the first Achaean to win at the Olympics since Oebotas of Dyme. According to legend, Oebotas had cursed the Achaeans for not giving him a special prize after his Olympic victory, so that no Achaean should win at the Olympics. When the Achaeans had dedicated a statue to Oebotas in Olympia, the curse was broken and Sostratus could win.

Sprint (running)

Sprinting is running over a short distance in a limited period of time. It is used in many sports that incorporate running, typically as a way of quickly reaching a target or goal, or avoiding or catching an opponent. Human physiology dictates that a runner's near-top speed cannot be maintained for more than 30–35 seconds due to the depletion of phosphocreatine stores in muscles, and perhaps secondarily to excessive metabolic acidosis as a result of anaerobic glycolysis.In athletics and track and field, sprints (or dashes) are races over short distances. They are among the oldest running competitions, being recorded at the Ancient Olympic Games. Three sprints are currently held at the modern Summer Olympics and outdoor World Championships: the 100 metres, 200 metres, and 400 metres.

At the professional level, sprinters begin the race by assuming a crouching position in the starting blocks before leaning forward and gradually moving into an upright position as the race progresses and momentum is gained. The set position differs depending on the start. Body alignment is of key importance in producing the optimal amount of force. Ideally the athlete should begin in a 4-point stance and push off using both legs for maximum force production. Athletes remain in the same lane on the running track throughout all sprinting events, with the sole exception of the 400 m indoors. Races up to 100 m are largely focused upon acceleration to an athlete's maximum speed. All sprints beyond this distance increasingly incorporate an element of endurance.

Stadion (running race)

Stadion or stade (Ancient Greek: στάδιον) was an ancient running event, part of the Ancient Olympic Games and the other Panhellenic Games. It was one of the five major Pentathlon events. It was the premier event of the gymnikos agon (γυμνικὸς ἀγών "nude competition").

Stadium at Olympia

The stadium at the archaeological site of Olympia, Greece is located to the east of the sanctuary of Zeus. It was the location of many of the sporting events at the Ancient Olympic Games.


Wrestling is a combat sport involving grappling-type techniques such as clinch fighting, throws and takedowns, joint locks, pins and other grappling holds. The sport can either be theatrical for entertainment (see professional wrestling), or genuinely competitive. A wrestling bout is a physical competition, between two (occasionally more) competitors or sparring partners, who attempt to gain and maintain a superior position. There are a wide range of styles with varying rules with both traditional historic and modern styles. Wrestling techniques have been incorporated into other martial arts as well as military hand-to-hand combat systems.

The term wrestling is attested in late Old English, as wræstlunge (glossing palestram).

Ancient Olympic Games

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