Ancient Olympics The first Olympic Games that historians can document took place in 776 BC in Greece.
Participants • Males were the only participants in the early games. Women were not even allowed to watch because the men competed in the nude. • Athletes usually came from wealthy families because they had to pay their own expenses and were required to spend ten months in rigorous training.
Events • The earliest recorded Olympics lasted only one day and contained only one race, the stade, a sprint one length of the track. • In later years the Olympics added additional events including the diaulos, the dolichos, the hoplite, pancratium, throwing games and the pentathlon.
Winning • Each winner was crowned with a wreath of wild olive branches, the symbol of victory, and then returned home to a hero’s welcome. • Townspeople would knock down a section of the city’s walls so the hero could drive his chariot through a parade of fans bearing food, gifts & money.
Roman Invasion • After the Roman Empire conquered Greece, the Olympic Games changed. Religious ceremony and admiration for speed, strength, skill and sportsmanship were replaced with values more important to the Romans. • By 393 AD, the Empire embraced Christianity and viewed the Olympic Games as a disgusting display of bad sportsmanship and dishonor.
The End of the Ancient Olympic Games • Roman Emperor Theodosius I ordered the destruction of Olympic Stadium. • Earthquakes and a flood completed the destruction of the stadium, and the noble spirit of the early Olympic Games faded to a memory.