Facts about ancient Olympic Games

15 Interesting Facts About Ancient Olympic Games

The ancient Olympic Games were invented by the Greeks several thousand years ago. Since then, they flourished, fell into decay, were forgotten for many years, and then revived again. Nowadays, the Games are the most significant sporting event in the world.

Amazing facts about the ancient Olympics

  • The ancient Olympic Games were invented a long time ago, back in the VIII century BC, about 2800 years ago. They were held regularly for almost 12 centuries and then were forgotten for more than 1600 years.
  • In Ancient Greece, the essence of the Olympic Games was sports. Despite this, the event itself was primarily of religious significance.
  • Professional sports are dangerous, and even nowadays, athletes are injured at competitions sometimes. But in Ancient Greece, during the Olympic Games, there were often deaths that did not even surprise anyone.
  • The biggest bet in the history of the ancient Olympic Games was an entire kingdom. However, that game wasn’t very fair: King Endymion put his kingdom on the line, but he allowed only his sons to compete. Thus, he simply chose an heir among them.
  • The end of the ancient Olympic Games came after Greece fell under the control of the Roman Empire, and the Romans made Christianity the state religion. Emperor Theodosius banned them as a pagan event.
Ancient Olympic Games
Athletes at the Olympic Games have always competed naked, but nowadays they are depicted dressed for reasons of decency
  • In total, the ancient Olympic Games were held 293 times. More precisely, 292 and a half, since the decree banning them was issued when the 293rd Games had just begun.
  • There was a lot of talk about equality in Ancient Greece, but it only applied to the Hellenic Greeks. Only they were allowed to participate in the Olympic Games, and disenfranchised citizens were equated with barbarians, who were only allowed to be spectators.
  • Nowadays, one of the Olympic sports is the long jump. In ancient Greece, the long jump was also always included in the competition program, but the jumpers held massive metal weights in their hands, so they could fly a greater distance by inertia due to the greater mass.
  • Only men could participate in the ancient Olympic Games. Moreover, women were not even allowed to attend them! An exception was made only for the priestesses of Demeter, the ancient Greek goddess of agriculture and fertility.
  • Despite the above, sometimes rich women took part in the chariot race in absentia, the most long-awaited stage of the ancient Olympic Games. To do this, they simply have been sending their chariot, which participated in the race.

  • In all types of competitions of the Olympic Games of Ancient Greece, athletes competed naked, with the exception being made only for horse racing. There were also competitions in running in full armor, but armor did not count as clothing.
  • One of the competitions at the ancient Olympic Games was a fistfight, which had a minimum number of rules-it was forbidden to kick, take the opponent in the grip and use the footrests. In this sport, participants were killed from time to time.
  • Pankration, hand-to-hand combat, was also a mandatory part of the ancient Greek Olympic Games. Back then, there were far fewer rules than there are now – it was only forbidden to gouge out the opponent’s eyes and to bite, but everything else was allowed.
  • The most spectacular and anticipated part of the Games was the chariot race. However, the winners were not the charioteers, who were at great risk, but the owners of chariots and horses.
  • In 508 BC, two and a half millennia ago, a horse without a rider won the race. As follows from the chronicles, a rider named Pheidol from Corinth flew out of the saddle at the very beginning of the race. Nevertheless, the horse continued to run further and eventually came first (of course –  there was no rider on it!). However, according to the rules of the Olympic Games of Ancient Greece, the victory was awarded to Feidol, although he probably wasn’t so happy about it.

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