What Were the Olympics Like in Ancient Greece?

The Olympics Games are a widely celebrated event today, but did you know that the origins of the Olympics can be traced back to ancient Greece? The ancient Greeks held the Olympic Games every four years in Olympia, a small town in the western part of the Peloponnese peninsula. In this article, we will explore what the Olympics were like in ancient Greece.

Ancient Greek Olympics: A Brief History

The Olympic Games were first held in 776 BCE and continued until 393 CE when they were abolished by Emperor Theodosius I, who considered them as a pagan ritual. The games were revived in modern times in 1896 and have been held every four years since then.

The Venue

The ancient Greeks believed that Zeus, king of the gods, lived on Mount Olympus. Olympia was chosen as the site for the games because it was close to Mount Olympus and was considered a sacred place. The games were held in a stadium that could seat up to 45,000 spectators.

The Athletes

Only free men who spoke Greek could participate in the games. Women were not allowed to compete or even attend the games. Athletes had to train for months before the games and had to swear an oath that they had trained for at least ten months before participating.

The Events

The ancient Olympic Games consisted of only a few events compared to today’s modern Olympics. There were foot races such as sprints and long-distance races, jumping events such as long jump and high jump, throwing events such as discus and javelin, and combat sports such as boxing and wrestling.

The Prizes

Winning an event at Olympia was considered one of the highest honors an athlete could achieve. There were no gold medals or trophies like we have today.

Instead, winners received olive wreaths made from branches of the sacred olive tree. They also received a hero’s welcome when they returned to their hometowns.

The Spirit of the Games

The ancient Olympics were more than just a sporting event. The games were a celebration of Greek culture and religion, and athletes competed in honor of Zeus.

The Olympics also served as a way to promote peace and unity among the Greek city-states. During the games, wars were suspended, and athletes were allowed to travel safely across enemy lines.


The ancient Greek Olympics may have been different from today’s modern Olympics, but they continue to inspire us with their spirit of competition, honor, and unity. From humble beginnings in Olympia to the grand spectacle we see today, the Olympic Games remain an enduring symbol of human achievement.