Monday, 4 Dec 2023

The Ancient Olympic Games

ancient Olympic GamesMost people know a little of the olympic games history: specifically, that they originated in ancient Greece. Many of the sports included today, such as the javelin and discuss throw, were performed in Olympia thousands of years ago. Other sports included pankration, a form of martial art combining wrestling and boxing, and chariot racing. The ancient olympic games began in 776 BC, after which they occurred at every year for 12 centuries. They were part of a religious festival in honour of Zeus, the father of all the Greek gods and godesses. We actually don’t know all that much for sure more about their origin: but we do have a lot of olympic legends.

Olympics Origin Myths

The most fascinating parts of olympics mythology are the origin myths of the games. Fact and fiction blur when it comes to olympic games history, and the origin myths are one of the most interesting ways you can see this.

Pelops And Princess Hippodameia

There are many olympic legends about how the games came into being. The most popular is that surrounding Pelops, the founder of the games. Pelops was a local hero of Olympia and said to be a very handsome man. This piece of olympics mythology features the princess Hippodameia, daughter of king Oinomaos of Pisa. There was a prophecy that said Oinomaos would be killed by his daughter’s husband. The king thus decided that any man wanting to marry his daughter must drive away with her in his chariot. The king would follow, and spear the suitor if he caught up with him. King Oinomaos was certain of the success of his plan: after all, his chariot was driven by supernaturally fast horses, given to him by Poseidon.

But Hippodameia fell in love with Pelops as soon as she saw him. She bribed her father’s charioteer to replace the bronze axle pins of the king’s chariot with wax. The wax melted during the chase, and the king fell off his chariot and died. The two lovebirds married, but Pelops was plagued with guilt. In order to purify himself, he organized chariot races to thank the gods, and honour king Oinomaos. These were the first ever olympic games.

Heracles’ Punishment

ancient Olympic mythsThe above story is the most popular of the olympic legends, but there are many others in the world of olympics mythology. A very interesting one involves Heracles (commonly known as Hercules), son of Zeus. Heracles was a demigod, so he was a human but with supernatural strength. However, he also had a raging hot temper. Over the years, he killed several people due to his fits of rage. When Heracles killed one of his own children, the gods stepped in. As punishment, he was told to serve the king of Mycenae for 12 years. Over these years, he was given 12 extremely difficult tasks, including slay a nine-headed sea monster and steal apples of immortality from the goddess Hera. It is said that after performing the 5th task, a particularly humiliating one, Heracles set up the olympic games to celebrate. He wanted all men to be able to show their strength and speed.

The More Things Change…

The olympic games history is full of legends and myths. The ancient olympic games, whether instituted by a demigod or not, were very different to our modern olympics. However, the aura of mystery surrounding the players, and the air of excitement and joy in physical activity remains the same. Even betting on the outcome of the games occurred then, as it does now. But while today we have the best betting sites, betting on the ancient olympics was a lot more risky.