Olympic History – Ancient Olympics

How many children know the history of the Olympic Games and that they originated at Olympia in Greece.  To help them learn we have published a show The Ancient Olympics – The Legend of Callipateira so that your children can understand why they came about.

It is thought the Olympic Games they originated at Olympia in Greece around the 13th century BC and they were first recorded in 776BC.

There are several legends that exist in reference to the origins of the Olympic Games, these include the Hercules legend. In this, Hercules won a race at Olympia, which was a valley near the city of Elis. He then pronounced that the race should be re-run every four years. Another legend stated that Zeus founded the games after defeating his father, Cronus, in a battle to decide who controlled the world. Another suggests that the guardians of an infant Zeus held the first race.

However, it is more likely that the Olympic Games were originally a local religious festival until 884 BC, which the King of Elis then decided to turn into a festival for the whole of Greece.

The Olympics were first and foremost a religious event in celebration of the Ancient Greek gods, in particular Zeus. There were other major Greek festivals such as the Pythian, the Nemean and the Isthmain, but by 572 BC the Olympics had become the most important. Athletic games however, were an important part of many Greek festivals, so the Olympics were no different in this respect.

The Olympics were held every four years. Each one marked the start of a four year period known as an Olympiad. The festival was reorganised to coincide with the start of this cycle, and 776 BC is considered as the start of the first Olympiad.

 Taken from the fact sheet of The Ancient Olympics – The Legend of Callipateira written by Daniel Dalton

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