Our thanks to the Ancient World
'The Olympics mean just as much to the competitors today as they did in 776 BC.'
Lucie Bultitude | 8 November 2015

Although many people fail to see the Ancient Greek influence in modern society, it is in fact all around us. Their impressive temples have inspired the architecture of world famous buildings such as the White House in Washington DC; their hypocaust under floor heating system has allowed us to have warm, cosy feet in our own homes; and their simple but crucial sports of running, boxing and throwing, have gradually developed into the modern-day Olympic Games.  

Every four years, the iconic Olympic Games are held, tickets are sold, and people from all around the world take part in a competition to apply for these tickets. It is an amazing life experience for anyone to have the opportunity to venture to a foreign, perhaps lesser known city, in exotic locations across the globe, in order to watch history unfold before their very eyes. It is clear that, without the Ancient Greeks, we would not have the chance today to witness and admire the amazing talent of all the sportsmen and women from around the world.

Historians have traced the first ever Olympic Games as far back as 776 BC, a spectacle dedicated to the Olympian gods and staged on the ancient lands of Olympia. The Olympic Games has continued to transform each century, stopping and starting through different eras, to be now held every four years, commonly regarded as the highlight of that year’s sporting calendar.

The Olympics in the Ancient world were based upon religious festivals, showing their respect to the King of the Gods, Zeus, considered the most important of all the gods. The original Greek myth which evolved into the idea of the Olympics, is the myth of Idaios Daktylos Herakles. It is believed that Zeus struggled against Cronus in a battle for the throne of the gods, and it was Herakles who staged the games in honour of Zeus, helping him conquer Elis when he went to war against Augeas. As a consequence, the Olympic Games were moulded, following the Latin motto of ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius,’ (faster, higher, stronger).

The Ancient World had developed simple level sports, where amateurs could go and compete in eight events: pentathlon, running, jumping, throwing, wrestling, boxing, equestrian events and pankration (a violent sport, combining boxing and wrestling). This is compared to today’s 28 sporting categories, 300 events and 10,000 athletes.

As we can clearly see, there are many aspects of the tournament that have remained the same, or have progressed to make the Olympic Games what they are today. In the Ancient World, married women were not allowed to watch the games, yet unmarried women were, a rule which has been altered in line with the modern attitudes of society, which I am sure we are all pleased about. Women, as well as men, now have the opportunity to be compete and be role models and inspirational figures for the younger generations and an encouragement for any prospective sportsperson to follow their dream. Such heroes also existed all that time ago, like Leonidas of Rhodes, one of the most famous runners of antiquity. Overall, Leonidas had 12 Olympic victory wreaths in four consecutive Olympiads (164-152 BC), winning the stade race, diaulos race and the armour race.

Despite the victory wreaths transforming to bronze, silver and gold medals, the sentimental value has not changed, as the Olympics mean just as much to the competitors today as they did in 776 BC. The Olympic Games continue to bring the world together by forgetting political issues, uniting all nations in the spirit of fair competition and helping to support one another. All this would not have been possible if the Ancient World had not first created the concept of the Olympics. It is truly amazing to still celebrate an event hundreds of years old, a demonstration of what an outstanding event the Olympic Games is.

We must not forget what the first Olympians have given us, and therefore we all give our thanks to the Ancient World.


Original image used

James Routledge 2016