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Ancient Greek Sports

Festivals and Sports
The ancient Greeks believed that strong healthy citizens helped strengthen the city-state. They often included sporting events in the festivals they held to honor their gods. The most famous sports festival was the Olympic games, held every four years. Records of Olympics winners started in 776 B.C. At first, the festival lasted only one day and had only one contest, a race called the stade. Later, many other events were added, including a long-distance race, wrestling, the long jump, the javelin, and the discus throw. The Olympics was expanded to five days in 472 B.C.

Women’s Sports
Women had their own sports festival in ancient Greece. It was the festival devoted to Hera, the wife of Zeus. Like the Olympics, the Hera festival was held every four years. One of the main events was a foot race for unmarried women.

Discus Thrower
Ancient athletes, such as this discus thrower, would be considered amateurs today because they received no pay for competing. However, they trained rigorously for months at a time. Victors were given lavish gifts and were hailed as heroes. Many athletes competed full-time

Mount Olympus
The ancient Olympics honored Zeus, the father of all Greek gods and goddesses. According to legend, Zeus hurled a thunderbolt from Mount Olympus at a spot in rural Greece. An altar for Zeus was built on that spot. Eventually, many buildings were erected around the altar. This area was called Olympia and became the site for the Olympic games.

1. Evaluating Decisions Do you think it was a good decision for the Greeks to add more sporting events to the Olympics? Explain.

2. Comparing and Contrasting How are today’s Olympics similar to and different from the Olympics in ancient Greece?

Stearns, Peter N., Donald R. Schwartz, and Barry K. Beyer. World History: Traditions and New Directions. Menlo Park, CA: Addison-Wesley, 1991. Print.


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