Τετάρτη, 3 Αυγούστου 2016

The Olympic Games in Greek Antiquity : The most important Panhellenic athletic events

Olympic Games (Olympia, "the Olympics") were a series of athletic competitions among representatives of city-states and one of the Panhellenic Games of Ancient Greece. They were held in honor of Zeus, and the Greeks gave them a mythological origin. The first Olympics is traditionally dated to 776 BC. They continued to be celebrated when Greece came under Roman rule, until the emperor Theodosius I suppressed them in 393 AD as part of the campaign to impose Christianity as the State religion of Rome. The games were held every four years, or olympiad, which became a unit of time in historical chronologies. During the celebration of the games, an Olympic Truce was enacted so that athletes could travel from their cities to the games in safety. The prizes for the victors were olive leaf wreaths or crowns. The games became a political tool used by city-states to assert dominance over their rivals. Politicians would announce political alliances at the games, and in times of war, priests would offer sacrifices to the gods for victory. The games were also used to help spread Hellenistic culture throughout the Mediterranean. The Olympics also featured religious celebrations and artistic competitions. The statue of Zeus at Olympia was counted as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Sculptors and poets would congregate each olympiad to display their works of art to would-be patrons. The ancient Olympics had fewer events than the modern games, and only freeborn Greek men were allowed to participate, although a woman, Bilistiche, is also mentioned as a winning chariot owner. As long as they met the entrance criteria, athletes from any Greek city-state and kingdom were allowed to participate, although the Hellanodikai, the officials in charge, allowed king Alexander I to participate in the games only after he had proven his Greek ancestry. The games were always held at Olympia rather than moving between different locations as is the practice with the modern Olympic Games. Victors at the Olympics were honored, and their feats chronicled for future generations. The earliest myths regarding the origin of the games are recounted by the Greek historian, Pausanias. According to the story, the dactyl Herakles (not the son of Zeus) and four of his brothers, Paeonaeus, Epimedes, Iasius and Idas, raced at Olympia to entertain the newborn Zeus. He crowned the victor with an olive tree wreath (became a peace symbol), which also explains the four year interval, bringing the games around every fifth year (counting inclusively). The other Olympian gods lived permanently on Mount Olympus) would also engage in wrestling, jumping and running contests. One other myth, this one occurring after the aforementioned myth, is attributed to Pindar. He claims the festival at Olympia involved Herakles, the son of Zeus. The story goes that after completing his labors, Herakles established an athletic festival to honor his father. The games of previous millennia were discontinued and then revived by Lycurgus of Sparta, Iphitos of Elis, and Cleisthenes of Pisa at the behest of the Oracle of Delphi who claimed that the people had strayed from the gods, which had caused a plague and constant war. Restoration of the games would end the plague, usher in a time of peace, and signal a return to a more traditional lifestyle. The patterns that emerge from these myths are that the Greeks believed the games had their roots in religion, that athletic competition was tied to worship of the gods, and the revival of the ancient games was intended to bring peace, harmony and a return to the origins of Greek life. The Greek tradition of athletic nudity (gymnos) was introduced in 720 BC, either by the Spartans or by the Megarian Orsippus, and this was adopted early in the Olympics as well. Several groups fought over control of the sanctuary at Olympia, and hence the games, for prestige and political advantage. Pausanias later writes that in 668 BC, Pheidon of Argos was commissioned by the town of Pisa to capture the sanctuary from the town of Elis, which he did and then personally controlled the games for that year. The next year, Elis regained control. The Olympic Games were part of the Panhellenic Games, four separate games held at two- or four-year intervals, but arranged so that there was at least one set of games every year. The Olympic Games were more important and more prestigious than the Pythian, Nemean, and Isthmian Games. The games were in decline for many years but continued past 385 AD, by which time flooding and earthquakes had damaged the buildings and invasions by barbarians had reached Olympia. In 394 Theodosius I banned all pagan festivals, but archeological evidence indicates that some games were still held. Only free men who spoke Greek were allowed to participate in the Ancient Games of classical times. They were to some extent "international", in the sense that they included athletes from the various Greek city-states. Additionally, participants eventually came from Greek colonies as well, extending the range of the games to far shores of the Mediterranean and of the Black Sea. To be in the games, the athletes had to qualify and have their names written in the lists. It seems that only young people were allowed to participate, as the Greek writer Plutarch relates that one young man was rejected for seeming overmature, and only after his lover, who presumably vouched for his youth, interceded with the King of Sparta, was he permitted to participate. Before being able to participate, every participant had to take an oath in front of the statue of Zeus, saying that he had been in training for ten months. At first, the Olympic Games lasted only one day, but eventually grew to five days. The Olympic Games originally contained one event: the stadion ( "stade") race, a short sprint measuring between 180 and 240 metres, or the length of the stadium. The diaulos, or two-stade race, was introduced in 724 BC, during the 14th Olympic games. The race was a single lap of the stadium, approximately 400 metres. The last running event added to the Olympic program was the hoplitodromos, or "Hoplite race", introduced in 520 BC and traditionally run as the last race of the Olympic Games. The runners would run either a single or double diaulos in full or partial armour, carrying a shield and additionally equipped either with greaves or a helmet. As the armour weighed 27 kg, the hoplitodromos emulated the speed and stamina needed for warfare. Due to the weight of the armour, it was easy for runners to drop their shields or trip over fallen competitors. In a vase painting depicting the event, some runners are shown leaping over fallen shields. The course they used for these runs were made out of clay, with sand over the clay. Over the years, more events were added: boxing (pygme/pygmachia), wrestling (pale) in 708 BC, and pankration, a fighting competition combining both elements. Wrestling was also the final decisive event in the ancient pentathlon. Boxing became increasingly brutal over the centuries. Initially, soft leather covered their fingers, but eventually, hard leather with metal sometimes was used. The fights had no rest periods and no rules against hitting a man while he was down. Bouts continued until one man either surrendered or died - however, the dead boxer was automatically declared the winner. Other events include chariot racing, as well as a pentathlon, consisting of wrestling, stadion, long jump, javelin throw, and discus throw (the latter three were not separate events). In the chariot racing event, it was not the rider, but the owner of the chariot and team who was considered to be the competitor, so one owner could win more than one of the top spots. The addition of events meant the festival grew from one day to five days, three of which were used for competition. The other two days were dedicated to religious rituals. On the final day, there was a banquet for all the participants, consisting of 100 oxen that had been sacrificed to Zeus on the first day.
Πηγή: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Olympic_Games

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