Ancient Olympic Games

The Ancient Olympic Games were a series of athletic competitions held between the city-states of Ancient Greece. They used to be called the Olympic Games (Greek: Ολυμπιακοί Αγώνες; Olympiakoi Agones) until the modern day Olympic Games started. The Ancient Olympic Games began in 776 BC in Olympia, Greece.[1] Prizes at the games were olive wreaths, palm branches and woollen ribbons. The ancient Olympics were played in the honour of the God Zeus.

There is no agreement on when the Games officially ended, but many historians think it is 393 AD, when the Christian Roman emperor Theodosius I declared that all Pagan religious practices should end.[2] Another date might be 426 AD, when the next emperor Theodosius II ordered the destruction of all Greek temples.[3] The stadium in Olympia got buried by landslides and other natural disasters. After the Olympics stopped, they were not held again until the modern Olympic Games were started in 1896 in Athens.

Women were not allowed to compete, or even watch most events. According to Pausanias, any woman found on the site had to be thrown off the rock of Typhaion.[4] This only applied to married women (gunaikes), the only exception was the priestess of Demeter.[5] Unmarried women were allowed as spectators. It seems that only one woman was ever found, Kallipateira, a widow, who disguised as the person training her son. She was found when she jumped into the air when her son won.[6] She was spared the fate, but to avoid this happening again, all people competing, and the people training them had to be naked. Nevertheless, unmarried women attending as spectators was improbable.

An exception to this were the equestrian events. Women were allowed to enter horses. Those contorolling the horses or chariots still had to be male. The chariot races also saw the first woman to win an Olympic event. The winner was deemed to be the wealthy benefactor or trainer that funded the team rather than those controlling the chariot (who could only be male). This allowed for horse trainer and Spartan princess Cynisca to be the first female Olympic victor.[7]

Because the winner was the benefactor, it was also possible for a particularly wealthy person to improve their odds by bringing multiple teams to the races. According to Plutarch, the record belongs to Alcibiades, who brought seven chariots to a single competition, winning the first, second, and either the third or fourth place at once.[8]

In 67, the Roman Emperor Nero competed in the chariot race at Olympia. He was thrown from his chariot and was thus unable to finish the race. Nevertheless, he was declared the winner on the basis that he would have won if he had finished the race.[9]

Famous athletes

The Bases of Zanes were paid for by fines taken from people who cheated at the Games

Here are athletes that competed at the Games:

Ancient Olympic Games Media

Related pages


  1. "Ancient Olympic Games". Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2006. Microsoft Corporation. June 20, 1997. Archived from the original on May 4, 2006. Retrieved December 27, 2006.
  2. However, Theodosius' decree contains no specific reference to Olympia (Crowther (2007), p. 54).
  3. Crowther (2007), p. 54
  4. Pausanias, V, 6, 7 and V, 13, 10
  5. Pausanias, VI, 20, 9.
  6. Pausanias, VI, 7, 2
  7. Millender, Ellen G., "Spartan Women" p. 500-525. In A Companion to Sparta, edited by Anton Powell, Vol. 1 of A Companion to Sparta. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley Blackwell, 2018.
  8. Plutarch, The Life of Alcibiades
  9. "Olympic Games We No Longer Play". 4 August 2016. Archived from the original on 5 August 2016. Retrieved 4 August 2016.
  10. Tiberius, AD 1 or earlier - cf. Ehrenberg & Jones, Documents Illustrating the Reigns of Augustus and Tiberius [Oxford 1955] p. 73 (n.78)
  11. 369 according to Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece by Nigel Wilson, 2006, Routledge (UK) or 385 according to Classical Weekly by Classical Association of the Atlantic States

Other websites

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Games in italics will be held in the future, and those in (brackets) were cancelled because of war. See also: Ancient Olympic Games

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Summer Games: 2010, 2014, 2018
Winter Games: 2012, 2016
Singapore 2010Innsbruck 2012Nanjing 2014