29 Ancient Greek Sports Facts For The Fitness Enthusiasts | Kidadl


29 Ancient Greek Sports Facts For The Fitness Enthusiasts

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Health is one of man's greatest treasures. You can lead a relatively healthy life if you put effort into staying fit and in shape. While exercise is a great option, staying fit by participating in a sport is a more fun method.

While playing sports helps you stay fit, that isn't the only advantage of participating in sports. Playing games and sports is a productive and exciting way to spend time. Sports keeps you active. Sports can teach you about equality and fair play. People who play sports deal with failures and hardships relatively more maturely, and they never give up. Taking up a team sport will teach you responsibility, improve your social and leadership skills, and help you make new friends. An athletic person also has better motor skills. Though there are a few drawbacks, like the chances of getting injured, the pros outweigh the cons. Our ancestors were not ignorant of this fact, so many ancient civilizations and cultures practiced sports. Ancient Greece was one such civilization.

If you are enjoying this article, check out our other recommendations: ancient Greek clothing facts and ancient Greek culture facts here on Kidadl.

Which was the main sport in ancient Greece?

People of ancient Greece made essential contributions to the world in various fields. Philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, literature, theatre, architecture, and sculpture are some aspects in which Greeks were famous.

Democracy in ancient Greece and the ancient Olympic games are the most notable features of ancient Greece. Ancient Greek Olympic games were a sporting event made up of sports played in Greece at that time. Modern Olympics has added hundreds of new sports over the years, though. The most famous sport of the ancient Greek world was running. The stadion foot race was the most common foot race with a 600 ft (approx. 200 m) long track. Other races were the diaulos which was 1312 ft (400 m) and a longer race called the dolichos. Jumping was another sport form played in Greece. In the jumping sport, athletes held weights until they were about to jump then threw them backward to increase forward propulsion. The ancient jumping sport can be called the long jump in modern times. The discus throw, similar to the modern freestyle discus throw, was also another one of the ancient games. The discus was initially made of stone and later was made of iron, bronze, or lead. Wrestling was one of the first combat sports on the planet. People of Greece participated in wrestling a lot, as it helped with war training. Boxing came later than wrestling into historical Greece but was no less popular.

Greek men played sports naked, but during boxing matches, they wrapped their hands in straps. Pentathlon was another popular Greek sport, meaning five competitions. The ancient pentathlon included five sports, just like its modern equivalent. The five games in ancient pentathlon were the long jump, the discus throw, the javelin throw, a series of short foot races, and wrestling. Another sport exclusive to ancient Greeks was Pankration, a combat sport with a mixture of wrestling and boxing techniques. Pankration is often described as brutal. Wealthy Greeks took part in equestrian sports like chariot races and horse races. These were the main games that were played in ancient Greece.

What did ancient Greeks do for sports?

People of ancient Greece loved sports, both to watch and to participate in. Greeks believed in staying fit and healthy. There were huge public gymnasiums in ancient Greece where people gathered to train and socialize. Boys and men practiced sport every day as recreation. Participating in sports was also considered good training for wars.

Ancient Greeks were extremely competitive people. It was believed that defeating every other player was the ultimate way to prove yourself and to gain honor. Ancient Greeks never played any team sports. Sports that Greeks often played were running, wrestling, boxing, jumping, discus, and javelin throw, and some sports that were combinations of these sports. Sports like the chariot race, the horseback race, and bull-leaping was also part of ancient Greece. Greek men taking part in Olympics would train rigorously for months with a trainer. Trainers were often previous Olympic winners. Though women were not authorized to compete in the Olympics, unmarried Spartan women participated in running, wrestling, and most other sports that men played. Women were able to participate in Heraean games, the female version of Olympic games, held to honor the goddess Hera, wife of Zeus.

Women of Sparta were more independent-minded and enjoyed more freedom than their counterparts from other Greek regions. They were allowed to gain formal education too.

Who invented Greek sports?

Greek soldiers were known for their impressive strength and combat skills. One of the factors that contributed to this outcome was their active participation in sports. Sports were a part of day-to-day life in ancient Greece. Most cities of ancient Greece had public gymnasiums where men worked out and socialized.

At first, spectator sporting events were associated with funeral rituals for fallen heroes. Greeks loved sport so much, though, that ancient Olympic games were invented. Ancient Olympics are said to have been invented as a part of a religious festival honoring the Greek god Zeus. Zeus is the god of the sky and also the leader of all other Greek gods. According to Greek mythology, the Greek god Heracles, son of Zeus, invented the Olympics to honor his father. Most sports that were part of the ancient Olympic games are believed to have been invented and practiced by ancient Greeks.

Along with Olympic games, other Panhellenic games, hosted at various cities to honor different gods, were also invented in Greece. Pythian games that included drama and singing contests were held at Delphi, honoring Apollo. Isthmian games were celebrated for Poseidon, and games at Nemea also honored Zeus. A special sporting event for unmarried women also took place in ancient Olympia, which honored the goddess Hera. All these events took place in intervals of two or four years.

Ancient Greek sports: what they were and how they were played?

Ancient Olympic Sports

Ancient Greeks were very religious people. They conducted various religious events and celebrated various festivals honoring various Greek gods and goddesses. Many temples for the deities can be found throughout Greece.

At Olympia, a coastal town in southern Greece, the festival of Zeus used to be celebrated every four years. A Zeus temple with a giant statue of the Greek god, which was once considered one of the seven wonders, is also located in Olympia. The giant statue depicts Zeus sitting on a grand throne embedded with precious stones. A sacred tree once stood behind the temple of Zeus and Hera. One of the events that were a part of the Zeus festival was the ancient Greek Olympics. The Olympic games went on to become one of the two central rituals of ancient Greece. The other one was a religious festival called Eleusinian Mysteries which were famous for their secretive conduct. The very first Olympic games began in 776 BC in Olympia to celebrate Zeus. The Olympic games were named after Mount Olympus. Greek people believed that gods lived on Mount Olympus, so they named the games after it. Unlike the modern games, ancient Olympics had fewer events. In fact, for the first 12 ancient games, the stadion foot race was the only event conducted. Gradually, the size of the ancient Greek Olympics increased. More sports events like wrestling, boxing, jumping, other running events, discus and javelin throw, chariot racing, horseback racing, and the pentathlon were added to the ancient Olympics over the years. Unlike the modern Olympics, ancient games had only one winner, so no gold, silver, or bronze medals were given. Instead, Olympic victors were crowned with a wreath made of olive leaves. The Olympic champion was also presented with an olive branch from the sacred tree that grew behind the Zeus temple. The real prize of the competition was the glory and the honor that victors received. Renowned sculptors built statues in their honor, and famous poets wrote and sang odes for the Olympic winners. They will forever be recognized with glory in the history of the Olympics.

Only men were allowed to participate in ancient Olympics. The participants had to arrive at Olympia a month prior to the event and had to have trained for the previous 10 months. Spectators came from all regions of mainland Greece and neighboring islands. For the peaceful conduct of this religious event, an Olympic truce was declared among the Greek city-states. No wars were allowed, no arms were to be carried into Elis, and no one was allowed to hinder the movement of spectators and athletes coming to Olympia. Nearly 45,000 spectators are believed to have come to watch the ancient Olympics each time. Married women were not allowed as spectators, as male athletes competed naked. During the Olympic festival, the sanctuary of Olympia and the city of Elis must have been bustling with a mass crowd of diverse people. Food vendors, artisans, and merchants flocked to Olympia to sell their wares to the huge population present at the Olympic games. The ancient Olympic sports lasted for more than a 1,000 years. In 393 AD, the Roman emperor Theodosius put a stop to all pagan celebrations, effectively ending the legacy of ancient Olympic games. Fortunately, after a 1,600 year hiatus, the Olympic games started again in 1896 in Athens, Greece. A French Baron named Pierre De Coubertin was the visionary and founder of the modern Olympic games. After a successful restart, the Olympics kept growing with each Olympiad. A large number of new games have been included, and opportunities are being given to men and women, including the specially-abled, without any bias. Now, it is one of the most loved and anticipated sporting events in the world.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for ancient Greek sports facts, then why not take a look at ancient Greek food facts or ancient Greek temples facts.

Written By
Sridevi Tolety

<p>With a Master's degree in clinical research from Manipal University and a PG Diploma in journalism from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Sridevi has cultivated her passion for writing across various domains. She has authored a wide range of articles, blogs, travelogues, creative content, and short stories that have been published in leading magazines, newspapers, and websites. Sridevi is fluent in four languages and enjoys spending her spare time with loved ones. Her hobbies include reading, traveling, cooking, painting, and listening to music.</p>

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