Olympic Games in Ancient Greece

by Alfred Tamarin
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Give an overview of the genesis and development of the ancient Greek Olympics, and explore in which ways sports mixed with politics. Remember to focus on our period of study (i.e., do not go in to the later, Roman period nor the modern Olympics).

The Olympics began around 2,700 years ago in the Greek city of Olympia. They took place every four years and were played in front of about 50,000 fans. The Olympics were, by far, the biggest sporting event in ancient Greece. In fact, the games were such a big deal that messengers were sent out before the game to call for an end to any wars going on in the country. This was done so that the athletes could make it to Olympia without any issue. The games were always played in honor of Zeus. Politics have been tied closely to the Olympics since their inception. One example of this is the messengers who were sent out to call for a truce to wars so that the games could continue in peace.

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The Olympics begin around 2,700 years ago in the Greek city of Olympia. They took place every four years and were played in front of about 50,000 fans. The Olympics were, by far, the biggest sporting event in ancient Greece. In fact, the games were such a big deal that...

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The Olympics begin around 2,700 years ago in the Greek city of Olympia. They took place every four years and were played in front of about 50,000 fans. The Olympics were, by far, the biggest sporting event in ancient Greece. In fact, the games were such a big deal that messengers were sent out before the game to call for an end to any wars going on in the country. This was done so that the athletes could make it to Olympia without any issue. The games were always played in honor of Zeus.

Politics have been tied closely to the Olympics since their inception. One example of this is the messengers who were sent out to call for a truce to wars so that the games could continue in peace. For example, Pantarces of Elis was honored at one iteration of the games both for winning the horse races and agreeing to a deal with the Achaeans and the Eleans to release both sides' prisoners of war. During another Olympic Games, Thucydides signed a one hundred-year military treaty with the Athenians, Argives, Mantineans, and Eleans.

These are just a few examples of the myriad of ways that politics were tied together with the Olympics in ancient Greece. The event was a chance for leaders from warring regions to come together in a neutral location. While there, they were in a celebratory, joyous mood and were more willing to discuss treaties and politics with their enemies than they would have been willing to do in other settings. Your prompt says not to focus on the Roman period or modern Olympics. So I'll just note that this is a trend that has persisted throughout history, all the way to our modern time.

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