Ancient Greece

Olympic Games Part 2

Events at the Games

At the first one-day Olympic Games, the only event was a short sprint from one end of the stadium to the other. Gradually more events were added to make four days of competitions. They included wrestling, boxing, long jump, throwing the javelin and discus, and chariot racing.


In the pentathlon, there were five events: running, wrestling, javelin, discus and long jump. One of the toughest events was the race for hoplites, men wearing armour and carrying shields.Winners were given a wreath of leaves, and a hero's welcome back home. Winners might marry rich women, enjoy free meals, invitations to parties, and the best seats in the theatre. The running track was much wider than a modern one. Twenty people could run at once.

Spectators

About 50,000 people could sit in the stadium. Away from the arena, most spectators had to find somewhere to pitch their tents or sleep rough, but important visitors and athletes had hotel rooms. It was hot and overcrowded, and the water supply was poor, at first not even a proper drinking fountain.


The Games ended with a feast. Lots of oxen were roasted in a giant barbecue. Traders came to do business, entertainers such as jugglers and acrobats performed, and politicians made speeches to the crowds.

The Nastiest Event

The nastiest event was probably the pankration or all-in wrestling was the nastiest event. There were hardly any rules. Biting and poking people's eyes were officially banned, but some competitors did both! While it does not seem very sporting to us, all-in wrestling was very popular.


Boxing was tough too. The fighters wore leather gloves and a boxer was allowed to go on hitting his opponent even after he'd knocked him to the ground!


However, cheating was punished. Anyone caught cheating, trying to bribe an athlete for instance, had to pay for a bronze statue of Zeus, as a punishment.

Women at Olympia

Only men, boys and unmarried girls were allowed to attend the Olympic Games. Married women were not allowed into the Olympic Games. Any women caught sneaking in were punished! Women could own horses in the chariot race though.


Unmarried women had their own festival at Olympia every four years. This was the Heraia, held in honour of Hera, wife of Zeus. Women could compete in running races, though only unmarried girls took part. Winners were awarded crowns of sacred olive branches, the same as men. As a rule Greek women did not go in for sport, unless they were Spartans.

By Herbie Sage