Olympic Games 776 B.C.E. - 394 C.E THE OLYMPIC GAMES
776 B.C.E.-- King Iphitos of Elis, acting on the instructions of the Delphic oracle, proclaimed the first Olympic Games. The festival, dedicated to Zeus, is offered to appease the gods and combat a plague that had been devastating Greece. The one and only event, a running race, was won by an Elian cook named Coroibos. • 570 B.C.E.--The city of Elias gained control over the Olympian sanctuary against the competing claims of the nearby Pisatans. The events of the game were expanded. • 476 B.C.E.--Olympic Games celebrated Greek Freedom after Persian defeats. This consolidated the prestige of the festival to Zeus. A major building program started including the erection of the massive new Temple of Zeus, completed in 459 B.C. E. • 420 B.C.E.--Phidias finishes a massive statue of Zeus. • 40 foot high--one of the seven wonders of the ancient world • Volunteer guides showing the temple were push & verbose • One pilgrim left a prayer “Zeus, protect me from your guides at Olympia • Material from Tony Perrottet’s The Naked Olympics, 2004
364 B.C.E.--Olympia embroiled in Greek in-fighting; Elians and Arcadians fight a pitched battle in the sanctuary in the middle of the Olympic Games. c. 100 C.E.--Second Golden Age of Olympic Games. Emperor Hadrian lavished Olympia with gifts and buildings. C 150 C.E. water system 394 C.E.--The Emperor Theodosius I banned all pagan festivals. The Olympics were officially disbanded--archaelogists suggest that they were kept going in some form, perhaps in Christian guise. Phidias’ great statue of Zeus was packed up and transported to Constantinople for display in the Emperor’s palace. 475 C.E.--A palace fire in Constantinople destroyed the statue of Zeus. 522 C.E.--The first of several devastating earthquakes hit Olympia. In future centuries, the nearby rivers regularly flooded, burying Olympia under fifteen to twenty feet of yellow silt.
OLYMPIC PROGRAM: DAY ONE: A.M. Opening Ceremonies: Swearing in of athletes, trainers, and Olympic judges before a statue of Zeus wielding a thunderbolt. Contests for heralds and trumpeters in Echo Colonnade. Athletes make their private sacrifices to the gods at one of the site’s altars and consult oracles. P.M. Free time for art lovers to explore Sacred Grove of Zeus, one of Greece’s most spectacular collections of statuary and paintings. Literary events: poets recite their works, philosophers expound, historians present new work. Less edifying pursuits available at carnival-style festival fringe. DAY TWO: A.M. Equestrian Events: Chariot and horse races. The popular four horse chariot race opens the celebration followed by bareback races. P.M. pentathlon in the Stadium--a grueling event for all-rounders that combined discus, javelin, long-jump, running, and wrestling. LATE Celebrations: victory parades, choral hymns, banquets for champions.
DAY THREE: A.M. The Games’ central religious ritual, coinciding with the full moon: an official procession to the Great Altar of Zeus, followed by the sacrifice of one hundred oxen. P.M. Boys’ events (wrestling, running, boxing) LATE Public banquet of sacrificed meat DAY FOUR: A.M. Running races: 200, 400 and 3600 meters P.M. Contact sports: wrestling, boxing and pankration (mixture of wrestling & kickboxing to force opponent to concede--anything went) LATE Race in armor DAY FIVE: Closing ceremonies: Wreaths are presented; victory processions; champions showed with leaves. Prestigious dinner for champions and officials, followed by general celebrations.