How Many Olympic Games Were There in Ancient Greece?

In ancient Greece, the Olympic Games were one of the most significant athletic events. They began in 776 BC and continued until 393 AD. The games were held every four years in Olympia, a small town in the Peloponnese region of Greece.

The History of the Olympic Games

The ancient Olympic Games were held to honor the Greek god Zeus. The games were also a way to promote peace between rival city-states and to celebrate Greek culture. The first recorded Olympic Games took place in 776 BC, and from then on, they were held every four years.

The games continued for almost 1,200 years until Emperor Theodosius I declared them illegal in 393 AD as part of his efforts to suppress all pagan cults.

The Number of Ancient Olympic Games

There were a total of 293 ancient Olympic Games held over the course of nearly twelve centuries. These games were divided into Olympiads, which are periods of four years between two consecutive celebrations of the Olympic Games.

Each Olympiad was numbered, beginning with the first one that started with the first historical games in 776 BC. The last Olympiad was number 293 which began in AD 392 and ended with the last recorded ancient Olympics game in AD 396.

Athletic Events at Ancient Olympics

The ancient Olympic Games featured various athletic events that tested strength, agility, and skill. Some of these events included:

  • Running races: There were various running races such as stadion (a short foot race), diaulos (a double-stadion race), dolichos (a long-distance race).
  • Combat sports: Boxing and wrestling were two popular combat sports.
  • Pentathlon: This involved five different events – discus throw, javelin throw, long jump, running, and wrestling.
  • Equestrian events: Chariot racing was one of the most popular equestrian events in the ancient Olympics.

Athletes at Ancient Olympics

Only men were allowed to compete in the ancient Olympic Games. The athletes had to go through rigorous training for months before the games. They had to be free-born Greek citizens who spoke Greek and not convicted of any crimes.


The ancient Olympics were a significant part of Greek culture and history. The games brought together people from all over Greece, promoting peace and brotherhood among rival city-states. Though there were only 293 ancient Olympic games, their impact on world culture has lasted for more than two thousand years.