The Olympic Games in the ancient world (Part 1)

The history of sports is considered as a part of our cultural history. The oldest document of sporting contests of the Greeks is found in Homer’s Iliad. Here, games are described, which have been held in honour of the murdered Patroclus from the royal leaders of the Greek army. But the most spreaded theory of why the Olympic Games were held is, to honour the Greek gods Zeus and Hera. Many myths do exist, why the Olympic Games were founded, but the real reason still remains in the dark. According to Greek tradition, the first Olympic Games took place in 776 BC. The runner Koroibos of Elis was the first Olympic champion in history, according to the conveyed winners’ list.


The organisation of the festival was controversial between Pisatae and Eleans, in the first hundreds of years. After several changes of membership, the Eleans had assured the games for them 570 BC. In the early years, the Games had only a local meaning. The evidence for this is, that for the first 15 Olympics, only the winners are listed, which were from Peloponnese. In the 6th century BC, the Olympic Games became a nationwide event, which the German ancient historian Hermann Bengtson called a “manifestation of the Greek national feeling”.

picture: the ancient olympic stadium today

Through Greeces’ success in the Persian War, Greece went through a florescence, which influenced arts, literature, architecture and sports as well. Athletes came from the whole country to participate in the Games. This era was ended up by the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC) and the Games were degraded to be local again. Therefore, they lost a lot of their Panhellenic glory.

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Welcome to my Blog!

Hello Readers,

Welcome to my Blog! When my lecturer announced that everyone of my sports-journalism class has to write a Blog, I began to think about the diversity of sports topics. Many questions appeared, like: Where are the origins of sports? How was it understood in different eras? How does psychology, sociology and cultural studies think about it? If you are curious about these topics, like me – Join me on my journey to sports history and what it means for our society. So, what I will do in this Blog is to introduce you to different topics around sports and give you some key words to spark your interest for further research.

Comments and recommendations are very welcome. Cheers! Stefanie

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