Olympic Games: A Glance on Its Origin
Olympic Games came from the ancient Greece but it was uncertain when it was really first held and what led to these Olympic Games. What we know is that Olympic Games were results of the values, beliefs, and tradition of the Greeks. Greek really love physical fitness, mental discipline and believed that they could honor the greatest god of their gods, Zeus through games.
A legend was told about the beginnings of Olympic Games revolved around Zeus. It was when Zeus fought his father Kronos for the control of the world. They fought in a mountain in southwestern Greece. When Zeus overpowered his father a temple and a statue to honor Zeus were built in a valley below the mountain where Kronos and Zeus fought. The valley was then called Olympia and later religious celebrations were organized as people came to worship Zeus. These celebrations believed have led to the famed Olympic Games.
No clear records were found to the date Olympic Games really started and first played but the earliest document was in 776 B.C. with only one event: one-stade 630-foot race won by Coroebus, a cook. It was then, the start and the first Olympiad.
Athletic competition became significant event to the Greeks where Sparta was known for their strict military trainings that they waited until the games were finished before sending their men to the battles. Other places followed suit.
The first thirteen Olympic Games, the only event was the one-stade run race but new sports came in after some years. Hoplitodrome was a foot race where athletes ran with full armor. Pentathlon athletes competed in five events namely, jumping, sprint, discus, javelin, and wrestling and that was in 708 B.C. Pancration was presented in 648 BC where violent sports have no rules to follow and they were combined games of boxing and wrestling.
Then, more buildings and structures were built at Olympia to accommodate the increasing number of sports events and of athletes. Chariot races were first introduced in 680 BC were held in hippordrome. Adjacent to the gymnasium was the Palaestra where boxers and wrestlers were trained. It was in Leonidaion where athletes were accommodated.
At that time, only the free-born men and boys were allowed to join the Olympic Games and servants and slaves could take part in the horse races. Women were not allowed to join the games, not even to watch the games or the penalty was death. However, in 396 BC, a woman who hailed from Rhodes was successful in challenging the death penalty. It was when her husband died that she continued to train their son who was a boxer. She watched the Games in disguise of a man and was unrecognized until she shouted for joy when her son won. Her life was spared in respect to the facts that her father and brothers were Olympians.
Originally, the Olympic Games were restricted for the Greeks only until athletes from the entire Roman Empire, including the Mediterranean places, were allowed to join.
All athletes were then required to take oath that they must follow all the rules and standards set for the Games. In spite of the comfortable accommodations that the athletes enjoyed, they all had to stay as amateurs, which mean they had to pay their expenses and they would receive no financial rewards.
The winners of the Games were crowned with wreaths of olive leaves and announced as heroes, given material presents and a special entrance by cutting a wall in their home city and pass through & which was a symbol that its citizens felt safe with an Olympian Champion was among them.
Milo of Croton was considered as the greatest athlete of the old Games. He was a wrestler in 500 BC who won the wrestling competition for six times and was said to be very powerful that he could carry a bull on his shoulders.
The Decline of the Ancient Olympic Games
When Rome invaded Greece in 100 BC, the Olympic standards came to drop where competition for the common good was refused by the conquerors, who tried to use tricks or deceits just to win. In 67 AD, Emperor Nero brought along with him his cheering group and competed in the sports events himself. Although he dropped from his chariot during the race, he was still named as the champion. However, in 394 AD, Theodosius I, a Christian Roman Emperor believed the Games were pagan celebrations, ordered the stop of the Games. That was the start of the fall of Olympia. The statue of Zeus was transferred to Constantinople where it was destroyed in a fire and in 426, Roman Emperor Theodosius II ordered that all the temples must be destroyed. Then, earthquakes and flood finished what they started and the once-great city was buried.
It was in 1829 when German archaeologists started to revisited Olympia and today, the place of the old Olympic Games were just a shadow and a history of its previous glory. Some building foundations remained in site but only few walls and pillars were standing. The stadium where foot races were held is presently a broad barren ground.