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The first Olympics are thought to have begun in 776 BC. They were held
every four years in honor of Zeus at Olympia. The games were part of a
religious festival in honor of Zeus. The religious festival lasted for 5 days.
People from all over Greece came to watch and or participate.
Greek society idealized mental discipline and physical strength. They
believed that excellence in both of these things honored Zeus. Zeus was
believed to be the most powerful God and ruler of the gods and humans.
The first known event was called a STADION race, which was a foot race 600
feet long. Some believe that this was the only event of the games for the first
13 Olympic events.
Koroibos, (also spelled Coroebus) who was a cook from the nearby town of
Elis, won the very first Olympics.
Only freeborn men and boys could take part in the games. Although they
allowed servants and slaves to participate only in the horse races. Women
were not allowed to even see the games. The penalty if caught, was death.
The games were held in Olympia for 12 centuries.
In the beginning, the games were strictly for Greek citizens. Eventually
athletes from all over the Roman Empire were allowed to join.
Athletes were required to take an oath that they would observe all of the
rules and standards.
All athletes had to pay their own expenses, and could not receive any
monetary awards.
Winners were crowned with wreaths of olive leaves and hailed as a hero.
People showered them with material gifts. Sometimes a special entrance was
cut into the wall surrounding their home city just for them to pass through.
The ancient Olympic games also honored Artists. Like the athletic champions,
artistic champions were also awarded olive wreaths and great acclaim.
There were only 23 events for the first 1200 years of the Olympics.
Unmarried women had their own festival at Olympia every four years. This
was the Heraia, held in honor of Hera wife of Zeus.
As a rule Greek women did not go in for sport unless they were Spartans.
Horse races involved falling off a lot because there were no stirrups. It was
easier to drive a chariot.
All the competitors at the Ancient Olympic games were naked.
THE SACRED TRUCE- lasted for one month before the Olympic Games began.
The city-states were often at war, the sacred truce allowed for safe travel to
The Olympic Games were more important than wars.
Anyone caught cheating, trying to bribe an athlete for instance, had to pay for
a bronze statue of Zeus as punishment.
For the first thirteen Olympic Games the only event was the stadion race.