The Ancient Olympic Games / by Nigel B. Crowther

Crowther, Nigel B.

Edited by The Olympic Studies Centre - 2024

This article examines the ancient Olympic Games, from their traditionally accepted beginnings in the eighth century BC to the fifth century AD. Even though they were a conservative festival, there were numerous changes over their one-thousand-year history. The Olympics became the largest cultural gathering in Greece of any kind, as sports permeated all levels of society. The article uses a wide range of sources, namely literature in the original Greek and Latin, archaeology, art, and epigraphy. Yet the amount of evidence available is sparse when contrasted with the rich vein of material available for the modern Games. The article tries to avoid, as best as possible, using the modern Olympics and preconceived notions to interpret the ancient festival, while pointing out the most important ancient and modern parallels and contrasts. It discusses, therefore, from the revisionist point of view, the sources, the foundation myths, qualifying, eligibility, the training period, the sacred truce, visitors, the facilities, the contests, the winners, the rewards, the organisation, the Roman period, other relevant festivals, and the last years of the Games. It also examines the ancient Olympics from the point of view of both athletes and spectators.

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