The First Ancient Olympics and Its Significance Today
The Ancient Olympics was one of the most important cultural forums of the Greeks and allowed them to display all their achievements and accomplishments in the full view of Mediterranean civilization. The most vital and integral part of the Olympics throughout its evolution from its earliest days is the religion that was tied to it. The Olympic’s religious roots as a festival honoring Zeus are clearly carried through its entirety adopting new societal ideas and political importance. As the games grew this cultural evolution was a tangible mixing and intertwining of different aspects greek society and way of life, beginning with religion but branching off into athletic, societal, and political values.
The most important aspect of the Ancient Olympics was the religion because that was what the festival was originally rooted in and was therefore was the predecessor of the Importance of the Olympics to the Greeks. The first official Olympic games was held in 776 BCE but this first festival did not come about spontaneously. Although the recording of events in ancient fables or of kings is highly obscured in Greek legend archaeological finding paint a picture of what the origins of the Olympics like. The sanctuary, also called the sacrarium, was of sacred importance to those living in and around it that time however at the time Olympia did not hold the monuments and city buildings that we view the ruins of today.
Archaeological evidence of jars and bronze caste of animals in honor of the gods suggest that the people settled in this area were mostly farmers.1 They placed their sanctuary in fertile land first in honor of the goddess Gaia among others, for abundant and plentiful harvests. However as conflicts and battles began to arise surrounding the towns near Olympia the local people began turning to Zeus in to aid them in their war. The sacrarium became a certain place of trust and reverence to the gods for aid in fighting as new people began visiting from outside of Olympia.
The Sanctuary was not only a place of sacred worship and reverence to Zeus along with other Gods and Goddess’s, but it also a place of gathering for feasts together and ceremonial worship. These events were most likely the beginnings of the cult festival. In these festivals there was singing and dancing, eating, but most pertinent to the Olympics, athletic competitions. Although these competitions cannot be described as olympic competition they were the basis of Greek athletic culture that grew into official athletic event.
Once the Olympics were fully established it is vital be aware of the lasting relationship between Religion and Athletics. The very basis for the Olympics was as festival to honor the strength and power of Zeus by exhibiting the strongest and most powerful men in all of Greece. The sanctuary still remained an integral part of these affairs as many would visit to pray for and give thanks for victory along with simply sightseeing this sacred ground.” Once the Olympic Games were held on a regular basis the concept of Athletics became a prominent value in Greek history. Not only were the Athletes of the Olympics, in particular the victors, glorified but athletic ability in general among the Polis’ in particular staying in good shape was viewed highly not only due to the rising importance of masculinity but also because of the belief that exercise would allow you to think more clearly and live a healthier lifestyle. Gyms in ancient greece were also very popular and considered at the time necessary in order to be considered a polis.