History of the Ancient Olympic Games

The modern Olympic Games have a solid place in any current sports review. Olympic athletes feature prominently in virtually any online sportsbook. The modern Olympic Games trace their origin to the ancient Olympic Games held in Greece. The valley of Olympia was the setting of the first ancient Olympic Games. This venue was the home of temples, shrines, and coliseums. The purpose of the ancient Olympic Games was to pay tribute to the Greek god Zeus. With a strong emphasis on athleticism and sporting, the Greeks enjoyed physical competition. The Greeks also valued victory ceremonies to honor the winning athletes.

Mythologies of the Ancient Olympic Games

A number of ancient myths have connections with the ancient Olympic Games. Zeus is mostly widely recognized and connected with the Olympics. The Greeks worshiped Zeus as a god of fertility and one who would protect families. One mythical tale tells of Zeus triumphing over Cronus to assume the throne of the gods. Herakles arranged a series of games in Olympia to honor Zeus' success. The Olympic Games were formulated around these myths as a way to honor Zeus.

Sporting Events of the Ancient Olympic Games

The Ancient Olympic Games originally lasted only one day, but they were eventually extended to last for five days. A number of events were held during the games. Track and field contests included running, jumping, and discus throw. Hand-to-hand combat sports included wrestling, boxing, and pankration, a mix of both. Equestrian events included both chariot races and horse races. Finally, the pentathlon was a combination event that included running, jumping, discus throw, and wrestling.

  • Archery: The sport of archery is one of the oldest games that is still practiced in modern day Olympic games. Starting in 1200 BC, the Hittites and Assyrians made bows out of bones and horns and shot arrows at their enemies. However, the Egyptian pharaohs were the first to start recording archery tournaments around 1500 BC.
  • Boxing: The sport of boxing was less restricted in ancient Greece. Boxers fought without rounds until one of them was knocked unconscious or admitted defeat.
  • Equestrian Events: As many as 40 chariots would race at one time in the equestrian events of the ancient Olympic Games.
  • Chariot Racing: Chariot racing was a dangerous sport in ancient Greece. In 684 B.C., horses began participating in Olympic chariot racing.
  • Riding: Horses and riders took six laps around the track during the ancient Olympic Games, which totaled 4.5 miles.
  • Pankration: This hand-to-hand sport combined boxing and wrestling in a grueling contest that featured few rules or limitations.
  • Pentathlon: The pentathlon included the sports of discus throwing, javelin throwing, the long jump, a foot race, and close-combat wrestling.
  • Discus Throw: The discus used in the ancient Olympic Games was made out of metal or stone.
  • Javelin: The javelins thrown by Olympic competitors were six feet long and about the diameter of the thrower's thumb.
  • Long Jump: Olympic athletes competing in the long jump during ancient times carried weights in each hand, called "halteres," which were thought to increase their momentum.
  • Running: On the third and fourth days of the ancient Olympic Games, competitors engaged in foot races.
  • Wrestling: Wrestling was the deciding sport of the pentathlon.

Miscellaneous Olympic Information