*Includes ancient accounts about the Games.
*Includes a bibliography for further reading.
*Includes a table of contents.
“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”- Epictetus
“Many are the sights to be seen in Greece, and many are the wonders to be heard; but on nothing does Heaven bestow more care than on the Eleusinian rites and the Olympic games.” - Pausanias
While they are still well-known, the Olympic Games of Ancient Greece are more relevant today than most people know, and the ways in which athletic sports pervade contemporary culture is comparable only to the spirit of athleticism in Hellenic Greece. Today, a large section of the media industry is devoted exclusively to sports, and in some nations, sports even figures as a critical component of their identity. In America, the Super Bowl could be considered a holiday of sorts, and of course, today’s Olympic Games capture the attention of millions and millions of people around the world for two weeks.
The Ancient Olympic Games were all these things and then some. It was a ritualized spectacle of great cultural importance in Greece, as well as an international communion that celebrated both diversity and unity, but most importantly, it was an ode to the strength of the human body and a paean to the vigor of the human spirit. For over a thousand years, from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD, competitors and spectators traveled from all over Europe and Asia Minor to attend the legendary contests, bringing with them not only their passion for athletics but also their poetry, music, arts, and ideas. The ancient historian Strabo captured the spirit well when he described the Olympics: “... the glory of the temple persisted ... on account both of the festal assembly and of the Olympian Games, in which the prize was a crown and which were regarded as sacred, the greatest games in the world. The temple was adorned by its numerous offerings, which were dedicated there from all parts of Greece."
Despite their international character, the Ancient Olympic Games belonged exclusively to the Greeks, even though prior to Alexander the Great, Ancient Greece consisted mostly of small city-states that warred constantly with each other. The Olympic Games served to assemble them and allow them to appreciate the commonality of their customs, gods, language, and other cultural characteristics, the very things that made them Greek. The historian Pausanias explained just how important the games were to the Greeks and their sense of pride by discussing one of the Olympics’ best athletes: “Sotades at the ninety-ninth Festival was victorious in the long race and proclaimed a Cretan, as in fact he was. But at the next Festival he made himself an Ephesian, being bribed to do so by the Ephesian people. For this act he was banished by the Cretans."
The Ancient Olympic Games: The History and Legacy of Antiquity’s Most Famous Sports Competitions examines the origins of the games, highlights the competitions, and looks at the history and legacy of the events that spawned today’s modern Olympics. Along with pictures depicting important people, places, and events, you will learn about the Ancient Olympics like never before, in no time at all.