Ancient Olympics

.. e athlete could grip it. Varying in weight, their main purpose was to increase the length of the jump. On one side of the fifty foot jumping pit, there was a fixed point called the bater. This was a point from where all jumps were measured. By swinging the halteres and getting a running start, the athlete would then jump and hold onto the weights until the end of his flight, then throw them backwards.

He then came down onto the soil with his feet together, with his jumped being measured with a wooden rod called a kanon. A good jumper needed quick acceleration within the limited runway. Coordination and power was essential in using the bater for proper spring in their jump. It all had to be put together for the proper execution of kicking, swinging the arms, and of throwing the weights in the air. A flute player was sometimes used in helping the athlete perform the proper rhythm and musical flow of the jump (FHWJ 1,2).

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The sport of running was the true ancient form of athletic competition. This sport is so ancient there is no true way to clarify the exact time or origin for the beginning of the sport of running. Running was an important part of childrens education as they learned of the techniques and philosophies. Runners began by wearing a loin cloth around their waist, then abandoned it and started running completely naked. One exception was a separate event in which the runners would race in complete armor, consisting of a shield, a helmet, and shin plates. A hysplex was also formed to ensure that all runners started at the same time.

There were three main kinds of foot-races being the stade, which was the length of one stade or two-hundred meters, the diaulos, which was the length of two stades or four-hundred meters, and the dolichos, which ranged between seven to twenty-four stades, or fourteen to eighteen hundred meters. All runners started at the hysplex at the same time under a specific word or command. There was an understanding code of honors between all the competitors of no hindering opponents physically, no bribery, and no magic spells. Being the most common form of exercise in ancient Greece, there was a surplus of good competition in this event with many athletes having the possession of great strength, speed and endurance (FHWR 1-2, LAO 3). According to tradition, the first equestrian event, (chariot race), was between Pelops and Oinomaos, the king of Pisa.

Homer also includes the chariot event as being organized by Achilles in honor of Patroclus. To be successful at driving the chariot, one had to have the ability to keep the chariot on a straight course which was difficult with four horses varying in strength leading the way. The Hippodrome, a wide open space with two pillars marking start and finish, was the site of the equestrian events. The horses ran in an area divided by a partition of stone or wood, measuring the distance of four stades, (seven-hundred sixty-nine meters). There were three different horse races held at Olympia. These races included the following: the keles, a race designed for a rider on a full grown horse, the kalpe, a race for the mares, and the race for the foals.

There were four main chariot races whose origin is influenced by the war-like manner of the Archaens. They are as follows: the tethrippon- four horse chariot, the apene- a chariot pulled by two mules, the synoris- chariot pulled by a pair of horses, as well as the tethrippon and the synoris for the foals. The standard war chariot was built for two men, and left open in the back. However, the chariot used in the two and four horse races only carried the charioteer. Many accidents were caused during these events because to gain an advantage you would strive for the inside of the hippodrome, which many did, causing congestion, leading to accidents.

Not to much information has been revealed as far as the exact ruling of the events but it is known that swerving in front of opponents was illegal, except for trying to avoid accidents. The perimeter of the race-course at Olympia was eight stades, one-thousand five-hundred thirty-eight meters (HTMCE 1-2, LAO 2). The pankration was added at the thirty-third Olympiad, in six-forty eight B.C. It is believed that pankration was founded by Theseus, who combined wrestling and boxing together to defeat the fierce Minotaur in the labryinth. According to Philostratos, it is an excellent way to train warriors because this was the primitive way to fight the enemy whether it be human or animal. With no equipment being used in this event, all wrestling holds and boxing blows were legal, with biting and eye gouging not being permitted.

The pankration was the toughest of all of the events having no regard to the dangers of the body or the life of either contestant. The pankration had two main forms: the kato pankration- allowed the contest to continue after both opponents fell to the ground, and the ano pankration- were the opponents had to remain standing. With pankratiasts not wearing the lead gloves that the boxers were allowed to wear, they were allowed to hold with one hand and punch with the other, unlike boxing. Different tactics such as the hyptiasmos (back fall), the apopternizein (heel trick), and the gastrizein (stomach kick) were used. The competitors with the advantage were the ones with such physical builds which allowed them to be the best boxers amongst the wrestlers and vice versa.

Courage, endurance, and psychological advantages were also key for success (HTMP 1, LAO 2). The first records of Olympic wrestling occurred in seven-hundred eight B.C. Being valued as an important military exercise without weapons, there were two distinct variations, differing in holds and methods. First was the orthia pale, were the object was to throw your opponent to the ground three times. The matches continued until someone was victorious and named triakter.

Second was the kato pale, were the wrestlers would compete until submission, which was indicated by the raising of ones right hand with the index finger pointed. The wrestlers were anointed with olive oil then dusted with powder to make them easier to grasp. Punching, tripping, biting, and eye gouging were not allowed and there was no weight distinction. The matches took place in the keroma, a muddy, sticky arena. Men with stout builds, agility, strength and skill were the most successful (HTMW 1, LAO 3).

Messengers and trumpeters, aside from athletes, were introduced in the 96th Olympics (three-ninety six B.C.). The winners of their events were honored with the privilege to trumpet and announce the athletes during the athletes (HTMM 1). When the Roman emperor Nero began his rule over Greece the glory of the Olympics dissolved into the personal gain of the champions who then began demanding money and gifts for their reward. The Roman soldiers then converted the stadium into amphitheaters. Instead of athletes from surrounding cities competing, slaves were brought in to compete for their lives in events usually against animals. The games continued until about three-ninety four A.D., when Theodosius I , the Roman emperor put a halt to the games feeling that they had pagan connotations (Anderson 11).

About thirty years later, Theodosius II ordered for the walls of the Olympic stadium to be leveled. Approximately one century later an earthquake had turned the historic site into ruins when the Alpheus River flowed across what was once the Olympic site (Kristy 31). The Greeks had made two attempts to restore the Olympics in Athens in eighteen-fifty nine and again in eighteen-seventy. It was not until the work of Frenchman Baron Pierre de Coubertin that the Olympics were revived in Athens on April 6, 1896 (Anderson 12). The true meaning of the Olympics has been somewhat upstaged by both the Summer Games and the Winter Games, which now seem to be more of a big business than a sport. Although certain traits of the ancient Olympics still exist.

The thrill of competition not just winning still exists along with representation of ones country. Opening and closing ceremonies still exist with the torch being lit which leads to flames burning during competition. Lastly, competitors are still inspired by the Olympic motto of Citius Altius-Fortius, words that translate from latin to, Faster-Higher-Stronger (Kristy 12). History Essays.