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The Ancient Olympic Games Essay

1603 words - 6 pages

The tradition of the Olympic Games leads back into antiquity and spans across the centuries. The Greek poet Pindar claims that the Olympic Games were created by Herakles, the strongman hero of Greek mythology, and that it was in celebration of the success of one of his twelve labors. However, the games actually developed from funeral games that were held to honor the local heroes. The event was held in Olympia, a remote area that was easily accessible from the river Alpheios (Swaddling 7). The Games were a combination of athletic competition and religious celebration in honor of Zeus, the Greek father of the gods and goddesses. The date that is traditionally given for the first Olympic Games is 776 BCE, but it is evident that games were actually held unofficially many years before this date, and it is thought that there may have been twenty-seven Olympiads previous to 776 BCE. The first recorded winner at the Olympics was a man named Koroibos from the nearby city of Elis, who won the stade, a foot-race. For thirteen Olympic festivals the stadion race was the only event that existed. Eventually, many more events were added and the duration of the games lasted for five days (Lee 110 - 112). The Games were the spirit of ancient Greece and many people came from all over the country to either participate in or observe the festivities. The festival was extremely successful and spawned other festivals in the same spirit. The Olympic Games were a center for sacrifice, ritual, athletic competition and politics, and it was considered the largest event in Greek antiquity.The Games were extremely important to the Greeks. In fact, they were so important all warfare ceased while the Games were in progress and the masses were gathering from all over Greece. Each year three heralds were employed to announce the date of the festival, invite people to attend, and to announce the Olympic Truce. The Truce forbade any of the city-states participating in the Games to engage in warfare of any kind, and it lasted for three months to accommodate and protect visitors who came in from abroad. Anyone who violated the Truce was heavily fined (Swaddling 11).Sacrifice was a integral part of the celebrations. The festival always began with a great sacrifice of 100 oxen at the Great Altar of Zeus. The oxen were slaughtered and the legs of the animals were burned as an offering to Zeus believing that the smoke would give him sustenance. The rest of the animals remains were roasted for a great banquet that all of the poeple went to. There were many smaller sacrifices that were made all throughout the festival. The athletes believed that the gods were responsible for their victories and so, at a number of smaller altars, the athletes would pray for assistance in winning at the events, give thanks to the deities and make offerings. Sometimes, in order to see whether they would be victorious or not, the athletes would consult the innards of the animals. It is evident that sacrifices...

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