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History of the Ancient Olympic Games

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Andrew Blue

Mrs. Harris

18 March 2005

World History 1

History of the Ancient Olympic Games

The Ancient Greek Olympics were not only sporting events, it was a celebration to honor the great and powerful Zeus. The Ancient Olympics were held every four years at the famous Olympia, a district of Elis, here all free Greek men were allowed to compete. The first record of the Olympic Games was held in 776 B.C. The main sports were the Pentathlon, the Equestrian Events, Pankration, and Boxing.

The Pentathlon was the name for the five events in Greek gymnastics: running, jumping, wrestling, discus throwing, and javelin throwing which began with the 18th Olympiad. In the wrestling event, wrestlers were anointed with oil, dusted with powder, and forbidden to bite or gouge one another. Wrestling was looked upon as a weapon-free military exercise. Since there was no weapons wrestlers that competed used their weight and strength as an advantage especially since there were no weight categories. The Javelin was thrown in the same form back in ancient times as it is thrown today. The first recorded Olympic Games had one event, a race, called the stade which is a measure of the distance of the length of the track. By 724 B.C. a two-length race was added and by 700 B.C. there were longer distance races. By 720 B.C., men participated naked, except in the foot race in armor that weighed between fifty to sixty pounds. The outfit included a helmet, greaves, and a shield that helped young men build speed and stamina in preparation for war. The Pentathlon included three running events such as the Stade, the Diaulos, and the Dolichos. The Stade was a 200 yard foot race, was the first and only Olympic event for 13 Games. The dolichos was a variable length foot race averaging twenty stades or four thousand yards for the fifteenth Olympiad. The Diaulos was a four hundred yard foot race that was instituted for the next Olympic Games. The discus was considered by ancient Greeks, an event of rhythm, precision, and finesse of a competitor to throw the discus was as important as his strength. The discus was made of stone, iron, bronze, or lead, and was shaped like a flying saucer. The Sizes were different for the boys' division, since the boys were not expected to throw the same weighted discus as the men. The athletes who competed in the jump event used lead or stone jump weights called halteres shaped like telephone receivers to increase the length of their jump. The halteres were held in front of the athlete during his way up, and forcibly thrust behind his back and dropped during his descent to help propel his body further. The Jump weights also doubled as weight lifting equipment during training to help the competitor jump further.

The Equestrian Events included Chariot racing and Riding added to the Olympiad in 648 B.C. In The Chariot races there were both two horse chariot and four horse chariot races. There were separate races for chariots drawn by foals. Another race was between carts drawn by a team of 2 mules. The course was 12 laps around the stadium track which was nine miles long. The Riding event had separate races for full-grown horses and foals. Jockeys rode without stirrups. Only the wealthy upper class people could afford to pay for the equipment, training, and feed of both the driver or jockey and the horses. As a result, the owner received the olive wreath of victory instead of the jockey. The course they navigated was six laps around the track which was 4.5 miles.

Boxing was added to the Olympics in 688 B.C. It was held to honor Patroklos, the slain companion of Achilles. Originally the boxing gloves were thongs wrapped around the hands and arms, but evolved into less time consuming oxen pre-wrapped thongs known as himantes, held in place by leather straps wrapped around the forearm.

The Pankration was a punishing combination of boxing and wrestling. It was a battle where Punches were allowed, although the fighters did not wrap their hands with the boxing gloves called himantes. The only rules outlawed



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