Today, the Olympic Games is one of the biggest sporting events in the world. However, the Olympics began way back in ancient Greece. The Greeks loved sport, just like we do, and enjoyed going to their own versions of the gymnasium.
However, the Olympic Games did not originally start out as just a sporting event. It began in the 8th century BC as a religious ceremony dedicated to the god Zeus. It only had a few events at the first games in 776 BC, but it quickly due in popularity.
The games were held once every four years, and thousands of people from across the ancient Greek world travelled to the city of Olympia to either spectate or take part.
To encourage people to take part in the ceremony and sporting event, a special religious truce was declared, known as the Olympic Truce. During the time of the Olympic Games, all Greek city-states were not allowed to be at war with each other. Surprisingly, it appears that most Greeks followed this law, which indicates how important and popular this event was to them.
Most of the sporting events at the Olympics were based around exercises that were meant to prepare people for battle. This included running, wrestling, chariot racing and boxing. People would train for years in preparation for the events, and it was considered to be one of the greatest honours to be a champion in an Olympic event. However, winners did not receive medals, as they do today. Instead, a victor was given a wreath made of leaves to place on their heads. It wasn't worth anything in monetary terms, but it was a rare prize that meant that they would be famous across Greece for the rest of their lives.
Unlike today, only men were allowed to compete in the ancient Olympic Games. Women could attend, but only as spectators. However, if women were married, they were even banned from watching the events.
However, many women still played a role in Olympic events as sponsors and trainers for athletes. One of the most famous chariot racing winners in ancient Greek history was actually owned by a woman.
While women could not participate in the Olympic Games, they actually had their own women-only festival at Olympia. It was called the Heraia, named after the goddess Hera, who was believed to be the wife of the god Zeus. However, married women were still banned from taking part.
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