Ancient Olympics

The name “Olympics”

originates from where they were played.

Olympia was a sanctuary of ancient Greece near the city of Elis, a fertile country in the northwest of the Peloponnese. It featured temples, sporting grounds, and accommodations for the athletes. The inhabitants of Elis were responsible for organizing the games every four years.

The stadium at Olympia seated no less than 45 thousand, and the publicity for the winners was immense. These games were some of the most significant events of antiquity, even causing wars to be suspended for their duration. The classical Olympics date back to at least 776 BC.

The first recorded winner of the Olympic Games was Coroebus, from the city-state of Elis, who won a foot race. 

The Olympic Games

were part of the Panhellenic Games

The origins of the first games are believed to have been a foot race that occurred annually between young women who competed to become the priestess for the goddess Hera.

The first recorded competition for women in the Olympic Stadium was the Heraean Games in the 6th century BC, which consisted of foot races for both men and women. By the 5th and 4th centuries BC, the games were restricted to male participants only.

Kyniska of Sparta

first woman Olympic winner

Kyniska, daughter of King Archidamosof Sparta, was the first woman to be listed as an Olympic victor in Antiquity. Her chariot won in the four-horse chariot race in the 96th and 97th Olympiads, (396 B.C. and 392 B.C. respectively). In the Olympic Games, it was forbidden for women to be present and Kyniskabroke with tradition, since, in the equestrian events, the victory wreath, or kotinos, was won by the owner, not the rider, of the horse.


the modern Olympic Games

the ancient Games did not change location and the participants did not come from throughout the world. The Games organized at Olympia led to the development of the Panhellenic Games.

The Olympic Games were more important and more prestigious than the Pythian, Nemean, and Isthmian Games.

Panhellenic Games

Nemea, Delphi, Corinth & Sikyon, Olympia

Pythian Games (Delphi)

From 582 BC.
Pythian Games, in ancient Greece, various athletic and musical competitions held in honourof Apollo, chiefly those at Delphi. They were held two years after each Olympic Games, and between each Nemean and Isthmian Games.

Isthmian Games (Corinth & Sicyon)

From 580 BC.
Festival of athletic and musical competitions in honourof the sea god Poseidon, held in the spring of the second and fourth years of each Olympiad at his sanctuary on the Isthmus of Corinth. After the destruction of Corinth in 146 BC, the Isthmian Games were moved to Sicyon.

Nemean Games (Nemea)

From 573 BC.
Nemean Games, in ancient Greece, athletic and musical competitions held in honourof Zeus, in July, at the great Temple of Zeus at Nemea, in Argolis.

Olympic games (Olympia)

From 776 BC.
Were in decline for many years but continued past AD 385, 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.