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Lesson 21

The Ancient Olympic Games

Lessons >>> Lesson 21

The first written accounts of the Olympic Games date from 776 BC, although it is sure that these Games were not the first ones to be held. The Games, like all Greek Games, were an intrinsic part of a religious festival held in honor of Zeus (supreme among the gods) in Olympia, a worshipping place for the Greek gods near the town of Elis. Here the Greeks erected statues and built temples dedicated to Zeus. The greatest shrine was an ivory and gold statue of Zeus created by the Greek sculptor Phidias. The beauty of the statue was considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

The Olympic Games were held in four-year intervals, and later the Greek method of counting the years even referred to these Games, using the term Olympiad for the period between two Games. The Games took place during the first full moon after the summer solstice.

When it was time for the games, the rulers of Elis sent out messengers all over Greece and to the Greek colonies around the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. They declared a truce throughout the Greek world for a month. No matter who you had a war with, you had to stop the war and let their athletes and performers go through your city-state safely to get to the Olympic Games.

According to Hippias of Elis, who compiled a list of Olympic victors c.400 BC, at first the only Olympic event was the stadion race, a race over about 190 meters, measured after the feet of Hercules. The word stadium is derived from this foot race. This was the only event until 724 BC, when a two-stadium race was added.

Over the years, other events were added: boxing, wrestling, pankration (combination of boxing and wrestling), horse and chariot racing, several other running events (the hippios, dolichos, and hoplitodromos), as well as a pentathlon, consisting of wrestling, running, long jump, javelin throw and discus throw (the latter three were not separate events). The addition of these events meant the festival grew from 1 day to 5 days, 3 of which were used for competition. The other 2 days were dedicated to religious rituals.

Only freeborn male Greek citizens not accused of murder or sacrilege were eligible to participate. Training began as early as one year before the games in the athlete's home city. A month before the games, the athletes were the obligated to move to Elis or Olympia for their final training. It was here that the athletes were taught the rules of fair play and honorable competition.

Athletes usually competed nude. They originally wore shorts but, according to one ancient writer, Pausanias, a competitor deliberately lost his shorts so that he could run more freely during the race in 720 BC, and clothing was then abolished.

Spectators also abided by strict rules. Only free men not convicted of any sacrileges could attend. Women were not allowed to watch the games, but that had nothing to do with the nudity of the male athletes. Rather, it was because Olympia was dedicated to Zeus and was therefore a sacred area for men. Punishment for breaking the rules was an automatic death sentence by being thrown off Mt. Typeo.

The first day of the games began with sacrifices to the gods, for the games were meant as religious tributes. At the great altar of Zeus, the athletes vowed that they were eligible to participate in the games and that they would obey the Olympic rules while competing. Judges, trainers, and even the athlete's parents all had to make a similar vow.

On the final fifth day, there was a banquet for all of the participants, consisting of 100 oxen that had been sacrificed to Zeus on the first day. It started with a procession to the Temple of Zeus, referred to by the Greeks as the Altis, where each winner received his wreath of live branches from olives. Then crowds showered them with flowers.

The victors of the Olympic games were hailed as heroes. Statues were built in their honor around the magnificent Temple of Zeus and the stadium of Olympia. Parades with chariots, songs, and poems written in their honor were given in their hometowns. Other special privileges awarded to the athletes were choice seats at all public spectacles; statues carved in their image were placed in prominent locations in the city, and they were also exempt from paying taxes. Cash rewards were common. In some Greek cities, part of a wall was torn and victorious athlete was led in though the opening. This ritual signified that any city with strong citizens had no need to defend itself with a wall from its enemies.

In 146 BC, the Romans gained control of Greece and, therefore, of the Olympic games. In 85 BC, the Roman general Sulla plundered the sanctuary to finance his campaign against Mithridates. Sulla also moved the 175th Olympiad (80 BC) to Rome.

The ancient Olympic Games were abandoned in AD 394 by the Roman emperor Theodosius I, who considered the Games to be a savage celebration.

Centuries of earthquakes and floods buried Olympia and the Temple of Zeus until 1870 when German excavations unearthed the beauty and magnificent statues of the classical Greek Games. These archeological findings in the sacred ground of Olympia fascinated French historian and educator Baron Pierre de Coubertin so much that he was inspired to conceive the idea of reviving the modern Olympic Games. On June 23, 1894, speaking at the Sorbonne in Paris to a gathering of international sports leaders from nine nations proposed that the ancient Games be revived on an international scale. The idea was enthusiastically received and the Modern Olympics, as we know them, were born.

Source: www.northpark.edu & Internet
      
Vocabulary
1. account - описание, разказ
2. to hold - провеждам, организирам
3. intrinsic - присъщ, свойствен (to); съществен
4. supreme - най-висш, върховен
5. worshipping - уважаван, почитан; култов
6. to erect - издигам, построявам, изграждам
7. temple - храм
8. to dedicate - посвещавам
9. shrine - гробница на светец; олтар/параклис, посветен на светец 2. прен. олтар; светилище
10. ivory - 1. слонова кост; 2. бивник (на слон, морж и пр.); 3. attr от слонова кост; с цвят на слонова кост
11. solstice - астр. слънцестоене; summer/winter ~ лятно/зимно слънцестоене
12. the Mediterranean - Средиземно море; Средиземноморието
13. truce - временно прекратяване на огъня, примирие
14. race - надбягване
15. wrestling - (състезание по) борба
16. chariot - 1. ист. колесница; 2. поет. каляска
17. pentathlon - сn. петобой
18. javelin - копие (за хвърляне) (и сп.)
19. discus - диск
20. freeborn - свободен по рождение
21. to accuse - обвинявам, виня
22. sacrilege - светотатство, кощунство
23. eligible - 1. избираем (to за); 2. приемлив, с необходимите качества
24. to obligate - обик. pass задължавам, вменявам в дълг на
25. fair play - честна игра/отношение, справедливост
26. deliberately - съзнателно, преднамерено
27. to abolish - отменявам, премахвам, анулирам
28. spectator - зрител; наблюдател
29. to abid - търпя, понасям
30. to convict - намирам за виновен, осъждам (of за)
31. sacred - свещен, свят
32. sacrifice - жертвоприношение
33. to mean - предназначавам, (предварително) определям, предопределям (for за)
34. to obey - подчинявам се, покорявам се (на)
35. to compete - състезавам се, съревновавам се
36. ox (pl oxen) - вол
37. wreath - венец; гирлянда
38. olive - маслина
39. to hail - поздравявам, приветствувам
40. to award - присъждам, отсъждам (награда, дял, наказание), награждавам (with)
41. to carve - изрязвам, дьлбая (с длето и пр.) (дьрво, камьк, мрамор и пр.), to ~ in/on marble издълбавам върху мрамор; 2. издялвам, извайвам (статуя и пр.) (out of от)
42. prominent - виден, бележит, знаменит
43. to exempt - освобождавам (от задължение) (from)
44. enemy - неприятел, враг, противник
45. to plunder - грабя, плячкосвам; крада, обирам, ограбвам;
46. sanctuary - светилище; храм, олтар
47. abandoned - изоставен, напуснат
48. savage - див, дивашки (и прен.)
49. earthquake - земетресение
50. flood - наводнение; потоп; порой
51. to bury - 1.заравям, заривам; погребвам; 2. покривам, скривам
52. excavation - археол. разкопки
53. to unearth - 1. изравям, изкопавам; 2. разг. откривам, намирам след дълго търсене;
54. to conceive - 1. зачевам, забременявам; 2. поражда се у мен;
55. to revive - съживявам (се) (и прен.); възкресявам, връщам към живот (и прен.); възраждам (се); подновявам; възстановявам
 Eligible or illegible

Zeus

Test it out!

Fill the gaps in the sentences, using the words below:

sacred, stadion, abided, hailed, chariot, sacrifices, solstice, wreath, conceive, sacrilege, worshipping, obligated, excavations, truce, Mediterranean, abandoned, convicted, obey

1. The Games began as a religious, sporting and cultural festival in honour of Zeus (supreme among the gods) in Olympia, a place for the Greek gods near the town of Elis.
2. The greatest was an ivory and gold statue of Zeus created by the Greek sculptor Phidias.
3. The Games took place during the first full moon after the summer .
4. When it was time for the games, the rulers of Elis sent out messengers all over Greece and to the Greek colonies around the Black Sea and the .
5. They declared a throughout the Greek world for a month.
6. According to Hippias of Elis, who compiled a list of Olympic victors c.400 BC, at first the only Olympic event was the race, a race over about 190 meters, measured after the feet of Hercules.
7. Over the years, other events were added: boxing, wrestling, pankration (combination of boxing and wrestling), horse and racing, several other running events (the hippios, dolichos, and hoplitodromos), as well as a pentathlon, consisting of wrestling, stadion, long jump, javelin throw and discus throw (the latter three were not separate events).
8. Only freeborn male Greek citizens not accused of murder or were eligible to participate.
9. A month before the games, the athletes were to move to Elis or Olympia for their final training.
10. Spectators also by strict rules.
11. Only free men not of any sacrileges could attend.
12. Women were not allowed to watch the games, but that had nothing to do with the nudity of the male athletes. Rather, it was because Olympia was dedicated to Zeus and was therefore a for men.
13. The first day of the games began with to the gods, for the games were meant as religious tributes.
14. At the great altar of Zeus, the athletes vowed that they were eligible to participate in the games and that they would the Olympic rules while competing.
15. On the final fifth day, there was a banquet for all of the participants, consisting of 100 oxen that had been sacrificed to Zeus on the first day. It started with a procession to the Temple of Zeus, referred to by the Greeks as the Altis, where each winner received his of live branches from olives.
16. The victors of the Olympic games were as heroes.
17. The ancient Olympic Games were in AD 394 by the Roman emperor Theodosius I, who considered the Games to be a savage celebration.
18. Centuries earthquakes and floods of buried Olympia and the Temple of Zeus until 1870 when German unearthed the beauty and magnificent statues of the classical Greek Games.
19. These archeological findings in the sacred ground of Olympia fascinated French historian and educator Baron Pierre de Coubertin so much that he was inspired to the idea of reviving the modern Olympic Games.



Myths and the Olympic Games

There are several Greek myths about how the games were started. The most common myth was the story of the hero Pelops, after whom the Peloponnese is named ("Pelops’ isle"). The story of Pelops was displayed prominently on the east pedimental sculptures of the Temple of Zeus. Pelops was a prince from Lydia in Asia Minor who sought the hand of Hippodamia, the daughter of King Oinomaos of Pisa. Oinomaos challenged his daughter's suitors to a chariot race under the guarantee that any young man who won the chariot race could have Hippodamia as a wife. Any young man who lost the race would be beheaded, and the heads would be used as decoration for the palace of Oinomaos. With the help of his charioteer Myrtilos, Pelops devised a plan to beat Oinomaos in the chariot race. Pelops and Myrtilos secretly replaced the bronze linchpins of the King's chariot with linchpins made of wax. When Oinomaos was about to pass Pelops in the chariot race, the wax melted and Oinomaos was thrown to his death. Pelops married Hippodamia and instituted the Olympic games to celebrate his victory. A different version of the myth refers to the Olympic games as funeral games in the memory of Oinomaos.

Another myth about the origin of the Olympic Games comes from the Tenth Olympian Ode of the poet Pindar. He tells the story of how Herakles (Hercules), on his fifth labor, had to clean the stables of King Augeas of Elis. Herakles approached Augeas and promised to clean the stables for the price of one-tenth of the king's cattle. Augeas agreed, and Herakles rerouted the Kladeos and Alpheos rivers to flow through the stables. Augeas did not fulfill his promise, however, and after Herakles had finished his labors he returned to Elis and waged war on Augeas. Herakles sacked the city of Elis and instituted the Olympic Games in honor of his father, Zeus. It is said that Herakles taught men how to wrestle and measured out the stadium, or the length of the footrace.

Source: All About Olympic Games

pedimental - арх. 1. фронтон; 2. корниз над прозорец/врата
to behead - обезглавявам
suitor - поклонник, ухажор, кандидат
to devise - измислям, съчинявам
linchpins - чивия на ос
wax - восък
to melt - топя (се), стопявам (се), разтопявам (се)
labor=labour (am.) - труд; усилия; тежка работа; Herculean labors - Херкулесови подвизи
stable - конюшня, обор; the Augean stables, the stables of Augeas - авгиевите обори
to wage - водя (война), провеждам (кампания и пр.)
to sack - грабя, плячкосвам


 The Olympic Games - More Facts and Figures

In ancient Greece, sport constituted an inseparable part of every man's education. The Olympic spirit is the culmination of the ideal of education in ancient Greece, since it combined physical training, spiritual promotion, moral worth, democratic equality, and human brotherhood. It was here, in Greece, that the harmonious development of a man's body, mind and soul formed the ultimate ideal of human life.
Despite miles and miles of beautiful coastline, water sports such as swimming were never a part of the ancient Olympic Games.
The first of the modern Summer Games on Sunday, March 24, 1896, in Athens, Greece where an estimated 245 athletes (all men) from 14 nations competed in the ancient stadium Panathenaicon.
Four years later at the Olympic games of 1900, women were finally recognised as official competitors. This came after the Games were scheduled at the same time as the World Exhibition in Paris. There was some confusion over which sporting events were Olympics or World Exhibition events and consequently, seven female athletes took advantage of the disorder. These women competed in Ballooning, Croquet, Golf, Yachting, Equestrian and Tennis.
The first gold medallists were Helen de Pourtales (Switzerland) in the mixed yachting event and Charlotte Cooper (Great Britain) in the individual tennis event.
A special edition for winter sports, the Winter Olympic Games, was established in 1924. Since 1994 these are no longer held in the same year as the Games of the Olympiad.
Since 1896 the summer Olympic Games have been held every four years, with the exception of 1916, 1940 and 1944, when World Wars I and II forced the Games' cancellation. In 1948 they resumed in London, because it was the only major city that was still intact after World War II. At these games, Alice Coachman became the first African-American woman to win a gold medal.
The modern marathon is one event which originated in these Ancient Games. Legend has it that Miltiades, a Greek General with an Athenian army, fought and won a battle against the Persians. He called for an Athenian runner and asked him to carry the victorious news back to Athens. The runner's journey was 24 miles but he entered the streets of Athens and shouted 'Rejoice! We conquer!' He then dropped dead. Although the accuracy of this tale is questionable, the first Modern Olympic Games in 1896, included the marathon to commemorate this legend.
The five interlocking rings of the Olympic flag symbolize the five continents of the world (Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and the Americas) "linked together in friendship." Olympics founder Pierre de Coubertin claimed that at least one of the rings' colors (blue, yellow, black, green, and red, along with the white background) was present in each country's national flag.
   Links:
The Ancient Olympics - A special Exhibit of the Perseous Digital Library Project
The Ancient Olympic Games Virtual Museum
Gateway to the Summer Games
Olympic Games (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Games for Girls
Brief History of the Olympic Games
Greek Olympics
Myths about the Olympic Games
Mythology in the Classroom
Herakles (Hercules)
The Greek World (Miscellanous information about the Greek myths)


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