Olympics History: Impact of Religion on Olympics in Ancient Greece

Olympics History: Impact of Religion on Olympics in Ancient Greece

The Tokyo Olympics 2021 has begun with 11,656 competitors participate in this year’s games according to the lineup of sportsmen on the Olympic website. But When did the Olympics start and what is the Impact of Religion on the Olympics in Ancient Greece?

It is traditionally said that the Olympic Games began in Olympia around 776 BC, when Homer was born. But before that, for centuries, Olympia was a place of worship for Zeus, a special place along the Elf River, considered sacred away from the human population, that could be seen from the hill.

But what happened when people began to respect Zeus through athletics instead of offering sacrifices? It seems to have been driven by a number of factors. One of them was the rise of the Greek police or city-state.

As the number of civil states increased in different places, each of them needed to prove their supremacy, so they started sending their representatives to Olympia so that they could excel in physical competitions.

The development of military training is also linked to this. Sports were also an attractive way to keep men fit. The second element was the traditional Greek theory that the gods were with the conqueror, so by holding a contest in which the highest conqueror was created, they were proving the power and influence of their supreme god Zeus over human beings.

When did the Olympics start (Impact of Religion on Olympics)

Here are some of the notable things to learn when did the Olympics start and what is the Impact of Religion on the Olympics in ancient Greece..

The first race of the Olympic

There was only one competition in the first 13 Olympics, and that was the stadium race.

The race was the same length as the stadium. One can only speculate about how long the race was because the 192-meter-long Olympia stadium we see now did not exist at the time.

First Race of Olympic (Courtesy: Olympics.com)

In 724 BC, the long race Diolus was introduced, and four years later came the long-distance race Dolichos, which was probably a 12 laps ground race. The idea behind running in the early years of the Olympics was that only fit and healthy soldiers could run.

Boxing, wrestling, and pentathlon (a race in which all sorts of physical attacks were performed) were followed by pentathlon and then charitable races. In 520 BC, a new race was introduced with armoured vehicles, but also a mule race (it was not generally popular in 500 BC).

So innovation has always been brought to the Olympics, although the ancient Greeks if they saw some of our modern ‘sports’, would probably reject them.

Religion and Politics at the Start of Olympics

Religion was a major factor and had a powerful impact in the ancient Olympics. Zeus was believed to see competitors, support some, and defeat others. If an athlete was fined for cheating or taking a bribe, any money raised would be used to make a statue of Zeus.

During the Games, 100 bulls were sacrificed to please Zeus. Olympia was one of the most important places in Greece where divination was sought from the gods. One of them was the oracle for Zeus, which had an altar with burnt offerings.

When these offerings were burned, a priest would examine them and announce the Oracle, a secret and often vague prophecy about the future. Athletes turned to Oracle to find out their potential in sports.

The Greeks tried to keep some aspects of politics away from the Olympics, but their efforts were not very successful. The Olympic ceasefire was intended to reduce hostilities across Greece, allowing all competitors to travel and participate safely, but this has not always been the case.

The great historian of the Aleppo War, Thucydides, tells of how the Spartans violated the peace by attacking a fort in 420 BC and were banned from participating in sports.

But one of the Spartans’ leading figures, Lichas, found another way to participate. He joined the chariot race to represent Boeotian. However, when his true nationality was discovered, he was publicly flogged at Olympia.

A winning athlete was a great honour for his hometown. In the sixth century, the Athenian politician Solan promoted athletics by financially rewarding Athenian winners. The winner of the Olympics was given 500 drachmas (at that time a sheep cost about one drachma).

Thucydides represented the Athenian leader Elsebedez as he sought political support in 415 BC, boasting of his previous Olympic achievements.

Nudity and Women in Ancient Olympics

The start of the Olympics was with nudity. Homer’s contemporary poet Hesswood says, “Sow the seed bare, plough bare, reap the harvest bare.”

They may have said, “Take part in sports naked,” because in the ancient Greeks it was generally considered standard practice. Some people disagree, although there is evidence of this in the form of pictures taken on vases. Athletes are usually seen playing naked, and all sorts of other people can be seen without clothes.

Runners and boxers can also be seen wearing lowers on some vases, and Thucydides says athletes stopped wearing such clothes shortly before their time. Another argument is that it will be difficult to compete naked. However, it is generally believed that male athletes competed naked in sports competitions.

Women did not participate in the Central Olympic Festival. In honour of the goddess Heera, she had her own games where she ran for one-fifth or one-sixth of the total length of the stadium and was considered inferior in the men’s world. There are conflicting opinions on whether women could watch the festival.

Perhaps only women who were ‘unmarried’, sexually or maternally ‘clean’ could see the religious purity of the occasion. This is also called an impact of religion in ancient Greece. Festivals and funerals were limited occasions in which women, especially virgins, or parthenos had a public role. In sports, unmarried girls not only helped organize the festival but also chose the right husband for their future.

Great Athlete of Olympics

In southern Italy, Croton’s Melo was considered by all to be a great athlete. He was a six-time Olympic champion in men’s wrestling in the sixth century. Winning the Olympics once in boys’ wrestling and seven victories in the Python Games. He is said to have brought his statue, even an ox, to the Olympic arena.

Among them was Leonidas of Rhodes, who won all three of the three consecutive races at the four Olympics in the second century BC. Another great Rhodian athlete was Diagorus, who won all four major sports in the fifth century BC (Olympic, Python, Namyan and Asthma). His three sons and two grandsons were also Olympic champions.

Supernatural heavyweights were given special attention. Fifth-century Olympic boxing champion Cleomides was disqualified for killing his opponent in a bout. He went mad with rage and broke into a school.

You may think this is insanity and it cannot be appreciated. But the Greeks often described these extraordinary deeds and mental states. In such a way that some divine power came into such people. Some of their gods themselves entered into them, and Cleomedis was lined up as a similar hero.

Athletics Fans and Haters

Not all Greeks liked athletics and athletes at the start of the Olympics. Xenophanes wrote in the sixth or fifth century BC that it is not right to compare power with good wisdom. He said that just because someone has won the Olympics does not mean they can improve the city. no.

Euripides has expressed similar sentiments in his play Autolix, of which only a few are now children.

He describes how athletes are slaves to their stomachs, but they can’t take care of themselves and although they shine like statues at their height (youth), they look like old carpets torn in old age.

Galen, a first-century physician and polymath, also called athletics unnatural and excessive. He thought that athletes eat too much, sleep too much and put their bodies in too much danger.

Olympics History: Impact of Religion on Olympics in Ancient Greece

The 15 people who appreciated the Olympics the most were from Thebes, located between Delphi and Athens. Fifteen wrote songs for Olympic and other sports winners in the fifth century BC and compared their achievements to those of the great heroes of the past, Hercules or Achilles. In this way, he brought them almost to the divine level.

He said that although he was mortal, the supernatural manifestations of his power temporarily relocated him and gave him a taste of unparalleled bliss.


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