Ancient Olympics Games of the Ancient Olympics The Olympics began in ancient Olympia Greece, which lies 10km east of Pirgos, in a valley between Mt. Kronos, the Alfios river, and the Kladeos. This area was inhabited by the Pisans, whose King was Oinomaus. His daughter Hippodameia had married Pelops, and it has been said that the first games were held in their honor around 1000 B.C. Through the years the games began to attract interest in nearby towns. In 776 B.C.
, the leader of the Eleians, Iphitos, rededicated the games to the honor of Zeus, (the most important god in the ancient Greek pantheon). As a result of the religious nature of the games, all wars would cease during the contests. The original games only consisted of one race, one day with a cook, Coroibus of Elis, being the first winner. Later in time the powerful Spartans influenced the games by adding roughly ten new events to the agenda (Carlos 1). In contrast to modern olympics, there were fewer events, women were barred rights of participation, and the games were always held at Olympia instead of moving to different sites.
The winners would be rewarded with a simple olive tree branch, which was cut with a gold-handled knife, from a wild olive tree, as well as being known as heroes for putting their hometown on the map (Library Advanced Org. [LAO], 1). While the exact amount of spectators that attended the Olympics is unknown, the tiers of the Olympic stadium were built to accommodate around forty-five to fifty thousand. As the games grew, royalty began to compete for personal gain, mainly in the chariot events. Humans and gods were glorified as well as many winners erecting statues around the arena to deify themselves (Carlos 1,2).
The pentathlon was added in 708 B.C. in the 18th Olympiad consisting of five events: discus, javelin, long jump, running and wrestling. The pentathlon was said to be invented by Jason, who combined the five events and awarded the first prize to a friend, Peleus, who placed second in everything except for wrestling, which he placed first. The pentathlon was a combination of light events: jumping, running, javelin and heavy events: discus and wrestling. While it remains unknown how the decision of the winner was made, it is believed that the last two winners confronted each other in wrestling, with the winner declared pentathlon victor.
Speed, strength, skill, and endurance are all qualities necessary to participate in the pentathlon. A quote from Aristotle, The pentathletes are the best, because they are naturally endowed with both strength and speed (Foundation of the Hellenic World [FHW], 1). Boxing, added in 688 B.C., was first mentioned in Homeric poems, and was held in honor of Patroclus. It is said that Apollo, who defeated and killed Phorbus, was the inventor of the boxing event. The ancient boxing differed in many ways from the modern boxing that we are used to. While having no time limit to the fight, opponents fought until one raised his hand in defeat, or fell knocked out or dead. An effective tactic of ancient boxing was positioning your opponent to face the sun, blinding him with the glare.
When a match would stalemate, the contestants had the option of klimax, which meant both men stood still and allowed his opponent a blow without making an attempt to avoid it. For wrist and hand support, the boxers would wrap himantes, or straps of soft ox-hide around the first knuckles of the fingers, then ran diagonally across the palm onto the back of the hand, leaving the thumb uncovered. Because himantes were time consuming, boxers later started using oxies himantes which had hard leather straps with a layer of wool to protect the hand. The Romans later invented the caestus, which was a boxing glove reinforced with iron and lead, transforming the art of boxing into a deadly contest. Philostratos claims that a good boxer should have long strong arms, a high neck and powerful flexible wrists.
It is also important that the boxer has persistence, patience, endurance, as well as great will power and strength. A popular boxing match that was recorded in ancient mythology was a battle between Polydeukes and Amykos, king of Bebrykes. The king challenged all travelers through his country, and he would kill them in the match. He then proceeded to challenge Polydeukes who was too tough of a competitor for the king, and he made the king swear to leave all travelors alone from there on in (FHWB 1-2, LAO 1). The discus is one of the competitions that does not relate to any military or farming action.
Homers description of the event dates back to when Achilles held events in honor of Patroclus. Through archeological discoveries, vase paintings indicate that the discuss was at first made of stone, then later made of iron, lead, or bronze. The discuss ranged from 17 to 32 cm in diameter, and weighed from 1.3 to 6.6 kilograms with two curves that had a large circumference. In order to be a successful discuss thrower it was required to have rhythm, precision, and power. To throw the discuss, the athlete would hold the discuss high with one hand and support it with the other swinging it forcefully down and forward or from the side and forward.
Shoulders muscles, chest and ribs are all used in this motion. In Greek mythology, it is said that Apollo accidentally killed his friend Hyakinthios with the discus, when the Zephyr blew it off its course. However unlike mythology, there is no proof of any accidental deaths during the competition because the spectators sat on embankments (FHWD 1). With war and hunting being connected to everyday life, the javelin event had no shortage of competitors. Homer mentions this event as one of the games Achilles held to honor his friend Patroclus.
It is uncertain whether javelin had a metal head, or if it was just simply pointed, but it was wooden and about as long as a mans height. A javelin with the pointed head was necessary for target practice while one with a rounded blunt head was used for a smooth, steady flight. In ancient javelin throwing a leather strap that formed a loop, called a thong, was used to increase the power of the throw because it made the grip more secure. With a rotating motion in its axis that stabilized the javelin in flight, it helped to achieve greater distance. There were two forms to the javelin event which were: throwing the javelin for distance, and throwing it at a predetermined target.
When throwing the javelin for distance, the athlete stood at the starting line of the stadium, which enabled room for a couple of steps before throwing. There was an area marked off where the javelin had to land or it was considered invalid. Throwing for distance was a highly skilled sequence of events that started with the athlete first tying the thong tight, and putting his middle index fingers into the loop of the thong. He then pushed the javelin back with his left hand to tighten the thong and to grip the fingers of his right hand. Then, while holding the javelin close to his head, the body turns in the direction of the throw and the run-up starts.
He took a few steps before the starting line, pulled his right arm back and turned his body and head to the right. He crossed his right foot in front of the left and drew his left arm back to help the turn. Then bending at the knees slightly, the left leg is stretched out in front of him to stop his movement so he could remain behind the line. The javelin is then thrown over the head in the final position, similar to that of todays athlete. When throwing at a target, the athlete is usually on horseback.
While the horse is galloping the rider had to throw the javelin when it was a certain distance from the target. Being on horseback made for an unsteady hand, making this event difficult. A steady eye, a strong hand , and experience on a horse were necessary to succeed in this event (FHWJ 1,2). Linking to the rough Greek countryside and warfare, the soldiers had the advantage in the jumping event. In order to move quickly in battle, long jumping was crucial in the countryside with many ravines. Mainly being an event in the decathlon, the jumping contest was rarely used as a separate event.
The earliest equipment used in jumping events were stone or lead weights called halteres. They were made in various shapes and sizes so that th …