A Brief History of the Olympic Games

I love the Olympics.  I do not answer the phone during the Olympics and people are lucky if I even get out of the house.  My family is like that and we get really into the most random sports, like curling.  Oh I love curling.  It is ridiculous in a great way. 

There was more than one form of the sports festival in ancient Greece!  True story!  There were at six different ones that were held.  Each one was dedicated to a different deity.  Most of the time women were not allowed to compete at these games and the men competed in the nude.  However!  Back in ancient Greece, it was the owner of the horse, not person riding or competing with the horse, that was considered the victor.  As such, women could be victors without competing.  There are, of course, a couple of exceptions to this.  We will get to those momentarily.  Of the six games there were two that were stand-alone game.  These were the Panathenaic Games that were held in Athens to honour Athena.  The Heraean Games were held at the stadium of Olympia.  These particular games are one of the exceptions to that rule thing I was talking about earlier.  These games were to honour Hera, the wife of Zeus, and were the first games to be recorded that had most, if not all, competitors as women.  The other four games are collectively called the Panhellenic Games.  These four are the forerunners to our modern games and as such, today’s Fun Fact Friday will be talking about them.

The biggest and most well-known of the Panhellenic Games is the direct “ancestor” of our modern games.  The Olympic Games were dedicated to Zeus and take their name from where they were held, Olympia.  The prize for winning your event at these games were called the Kotinos, the olive wreath, and these were given out at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.  Way back when, they would have been either garlands or wreaths for the head.  These games, like today’s Olympic Games, were held every four years.  This is where the term Olympiad come from.  No, Olympiad does not refer to the games themselves.  Rather, it refers to the four year cycle that the games are held.

The Olympic Games were not the only one of the Panhellenic Games that were held on a four year cycle.  The Pythian games held in Delphi were as well.  These games that honour Apollōn were held every two years after the Olympic Games, or every third year of the Olympiad.  Sound like a familiar schedule?  Our modern games are done that way.  Four year cycles with every other year that the games are to be held alternating between Winter Olympics and Summer Olympics.  Winning at the Pythian games earned you a bay laurel garland, a plant sacred to Apollōn.  These particular games not oly included athletic events, but also featured music, acting, and other art competitions.  This was because Apollōn was the deity associated with music and the arts.

To honour Poseidon, every second and fourth year of the Olympiad, the Greeks held the Isthmian Games.  You would have received a garland of pine for winning an event at these games.  These games, like the Pythian Games, also had a musical competition.  Poetical contests were also held and women may have competed in these!  The Isthmian Games were named after the Isthmus of Corinth where they were held.

The Fifth Doctor from Doctor Who was not the first person to wear celery as a piece of their clothing!  Victors at the Nemean Games, games honouring both their “founder” Heracles and Zeus, were given a crown of wild celery.  These games, that women could win for their horses winning the equestrian events, were held every two years like the Isthmian Games.  While the Isthmian Games were held on the Isthmus of Corinth region, these games were held in their namesake city of Nemea.  Nemea being in the area of Corinthia that is connected to the Greek mainland by the isthmus.  Maybe the Doctor visited them in his adventures.