Facts about the ancient Olympic games

  • The Olympic Games were part of a religious festival in honor of Zeus, king of the gods. Every four years, 20,000 people flocked to Olympia to watch athletes run, boxing, wrestling and race chariots. The hardest event of all was the pentathlon. Contestants had to take part in five different sports- the long jump, running, wrestling, throwing discuss and throwing the Javeline.
  • Winning at the Olympics was a great honor, just as it today. But there were no medals in the ancient games. Instead, the winners got crowns of wool, silk or linen to make into clothes.
  • In 490 BC, the Greeks won a battle at Marathon, about 42 kilometers from Athens. A Greek soldier called Pheidippides ran all the way to Athens to tell the people the good news. Sadly, his long run exhausted him, and the poor man collapsed and died.
  • There was no marathon race in the ancient games, but there is today. It measures 42 kilometers- exactly the same distance that poor Pheidippides ran 2,500 years ago.
  • Women were banned from the Olympics. They held their own games, in honor of Hera –queen of the gods. The women’s games had only one event, which was running.
  • Greek boxers did not wear padded gloves like boxers today. They simply wrapped strips of leather around their fists.


Some important points


*The early Greeks held major athletics events. They were called the Pan-Hellenic games.

*The four pan- Hellenic games were the Olympic, Phythian, isthmian and Nemean games.


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