The Olympic Games began over 2,700 years ago in Olympia, in southwest Greece. The Games were part of a religious festival. The Greek Olympics, thought to have begun in 776 BC, inspired the modern Olympic Games (begun in 1896) The Games were held in honor of Zeus, king of the gods, and were staged every four years at Olympia. The first modern Olympics took place in 1896 in Athens, and featured 280 participants from 13 nations, competing in 43 events.
Birth of the Olympics:
At the first one-day Olympic Games, the only event was a short sprint from one end of the stadium to the other. Gradually more events were added to make four days of competitions. They included wrestling, boxing, long jump, throwing the javelin and discus, and chariot racing. In the pentathlon, there were five events: running, wrestling, javelin, discus and long jump. One of the toughest events was the race for hoplites, men wearing armor and carrying shields.
Winners were given a wreath of leaves, and a hero’s welcome back home. Winners might marry rich women, enjoy free meals, invitations to parties, and the best seats in the theater.
List of Events for more information:
The Athlete: 10 of the Greatest Ancient Athletes
All free male Greek citizens were entitled to participate in the ancient Olympic Games, regardless of their social status.