The ancient Greek culture was rich in many ways, and one of its enduring gifts to history was the creation of the Olympiad. The first Olympiad was held on the Olympian plain on the island of Peloponnese in 776 BC to honor the greatest god in the Greek pantheon, Zeus, and Pelops, the mythical founder of the Olympic games. The Olympian plain was dotted with shrines and temples dedicated to Zeus, Hera, and other gods; it was also the center for the cult dedicated to Pelops where the ancient Greeks offered sacrifices and feasted on his sacred days. The last Olympiad occurred right before 400 AD according to the Biblical Timeline with World History.
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Greeks were the only ones allowed to compete in the event. It was held only in Greece until 80 BC when Sulla transferred the location of the 175th Olympiad to Rome. It was brought back to Greece during the time of Augustus except for a brief moment during the reign of Nero. The Olympics were held every four years and initially included two events: foot race and wrestling. As the years went by, events such as pentathlon, chariot race, boxing, and others were added to the competition. By 471 BC, sacrifices and feasts for Pelops and others gods were held along with the competitions.
The Olympiad continued for many centuries until its abolition under Theodosius I between 393 and 394 AD. The prohibition was a way to eliminate pagan worship which was a part of Theodosius’ campaign to unify the Roman Empire under Nicene Christianity. It was not until 1896 that the Olympic games were revived, and the competitions were held in Athens instead of the Peloponnese peninsula.
Picture By Matěj Baťha – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2793007
Lenardon, Robert J., Michael Sham, and Mark P. O. Morford. A Companion to Classical Mythology. White Plains, NY: Longman, 1997.
“Olympia (Site).” Perseus Digital Library. Accessed June 22, 2016. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/artifact?name=Olympia&object=site.
“Olympia.” Olympia. Accessed June 21, 2016. http://www.pantheon.org/articles/o/olympia.html.
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