The Gift From The Greeks The Gift from the Greeks The first Olympic Games were held at Olympia, in the Peloponnes. The most famous are the games that were held in Olympia in honor of Zeus every four years from August 6th to September 19th. Olympics have been a symbol of the camaraderie and harmony possible on a global scale. The gathering of athletic representatives from participating governments, even throughout the recent Cold War period, is proof that world unity is possible. It was a gift from the Ancient Greece The Pentathlon consisted of five events; the long jump, javelin throw, discus throw, foot race, and wrestling.
The Pentathlons, especially the successful ones, were often treated and even worshipped like gods. Because of their exquisite physiques, they were used as the models for statues of the Greek Gods. The superior athletic ability of these athletes affects the games even today. The twisting and throwing method of the discus throw, which originated in Ancient Greece, is still used today. The original events were even more challenging than those of today. The modern discus weighs in at just 5 pounds, one-third of the original weight, and the long jumps were done with the contestant carrying a five pound weight in each hand. The pit to be traversed in this jump allowed for a 50 foot jump, compared to just over 29 feet in our modern Olympics. Apparently, the carried weights, used correctly, could create momentum to carry the athlete further.
Legend has it that one Olympian cleared the entire pit by approximately 5 feet, breaking both legs as he landed. These legends, for all their blood, sweat, and tears, were awarded an olive branch from the tree behind the alter of Zeus when they won. Fortunately, the regions they represented were usually somewhat more grateful for bringing honor home. It was not uncommon for the victors to receive free food for life, money, or other valuable offers. They were often worshipped as gods and sometimes their sweat was preserved and sold as a magical potion.
In the later years of the games, an additional event was added which signaled the end of the games and the return to the war ridden life of ancient history. Soldiers, adorned with a full body of armor weighing upwards of 50 pounds, would compete in a foot race. Unfortunately, even the apparent athletic ability of these soldiers could not prevent the fall of Greece to Rome in the middle of the second century BC. Under Roman rule, the Olympics began to lose its fervor until it was abolished in 393 AD by the Christian Roman emperor Theodosius I who most likely objected to the pagan rites associated with the Olympics. Some historians believe that even after the official abolishment of the Olympics, it may have survived for an additional 120 years. Its subsequent revival in 1896 was brought about by the discovery of the ancient stadium.
Since that time, it has been held every four years, in accordance with tradition, being interrupted only for the two world wars. The competition of the nations in these events represents the age old competitive spirit of man. The need for people to take pride in something larger than themselves and feel as if they are part of a greater good. The Olympics, today as well as 3,000 years ago, offers a non-combative environment to do so.