Based on records of stade-length races, the ancient Olympic games started in 776 B.C.E. But that era is not well-documented, so the actual date of the first Olympic Game is still contested.
The ancient Greeks told conflicting stories of the origins of the ancient Olympics. The stories were interlaced with mythology and history.
One Olympic origins story involved one of the members of the House of Atreus.
Pelops was desperate to win in a chariot race against King Oinomaos of Pisa because he wanted to marry the king's daughter, Hippodamia. So Pelops replaced the king's chariot's lynch-pins with ones made of wax, and during the race, the pins melted, throwing the king from his chariot and killing him. Pelops then married Hippodamia and commemorated his victory by holding the first Olympic Games.
Another theory attributes the Olympic games to the Greek hero Hercules.
Hercules held the games to honour his father, Zeus after Hercules took revenge on King Augeas of Elis for not keeping to his promise.
Pausanias says the Olympic origins stem from Zeus' victory over Cronus.
A common thread in the origin stories of the Olympic games is that the games came about because of a personal or competitive victory that was supposed to honour the gods.
The Ancient Greeks held the Olympics every four years, known as an Olympiad. The Olympics were a religious event for the Greeks. A temple dedicated to Zeus stood on the site of Olympia.
Representatives of each city-state could attend the ancient Olympics. Cities considered Olympic victors as heroes. Poets attended the games and wrote victory odes for the winners.
All free Greek men could be potential participants in the Olympics. By the Hellenistic Period, professional athletes competed.
Olympic sporting events included boxing, discus, equestrian events, javelin, jumping, pankration, pentathlon, running, and wrestling. Olympic winners were crowned with an olive wreath and had their names inscribed in the official Olympic records.
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