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Ceremonies, Symbols, and Traditions of the Ancient and Modern Olympics
Ancient Olympics
Ancient Olympics
Ancient Olympic Ceremonies
Ancient Olympic Symbols and Traditions
Father of Modern Olympics
Modern Olympics
Modern Olympic Ceremonies
Modern Olympic Symbols and Traditions
Olympic Extras!


The origins of the Olympic Games date back to ancient Greece. The Greeks were immensely religious and sports were a way for the people to honor their gods. The Panhellenic Games were four national festivals that were open to competitors in only the Greek regions and colonies. The four Panhellenic Games were the Pythian, the Nemean, the Isthmian, and the Olympics. The games alternated so that there was always a national athletic festival every year. By far the Olympic Games were the most famous of the four national festivals.

Ancient Olympia
The ruins of the exedra, or sitting area, are pictured here.

The Olympic Games date back to 776 B.C. The ancient Olympics were celebrated in the summer every four years at Olympia held in honor of the supreme Greek god, Zeus. Olympia is a remote religious sanctuary and has no town or city there. Olympia consists of many buildings, temples, altars, colonnades, and sport arenas.


Early in the year, envoys were sent throughout Greece to invite city-states to join in paying tribute to Zeus at the Olympic Games. The competitions were only open to men who had Greek descent. The majority of all Greek men were fierce competitors.


At every Olympic Games, tens of thousands of spectators flocked to Olympia to watch the fierce games and visit the temples to honor their Greek gods. It was ensured that the entire crowd was entertained by singers, dancers, magicians, public speakers, and poets. Outside of Olympia, food and flower sellers, peddlers, and bookmakers set up their tents and stalls.


The ancient Olympic reached its height of popularity during the 5th and 4th Centuries B.C. In about 393 AD, the Roman Emperor Theodosius I repressed them. In the late 1800s, the Olympic Games concept was revived.  


Model of Ancient Olympia
This is what Olympia would have looked like in about 100 B.C.

"Why did I restore the Olympic Games? To ennoble and strengthen sports, to ensure their independence and duration, and thus to enable them better to fulfill the educational role incumbent upon them in the modern world. For the glorification of the individual athlete, whose muscular activity is necessary for the community and whose prowess is necessary for the maintenance of the general spirit of the competition. (1984)"
-Baron Pierre de Coubertin