The ancient Olympic Games were arguably the most significant event in the ancient world. Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not? Ultimately, what did the Games mean to the ancient Greeks? What can we learn about their world by examining the Games? What event(s) today compared to it? Why? Be sure to use evidence and examples to support your argument(s).
The Ancient Olympic games were very inspirational to today’s civilization and probably
the most immense contribution to ancient history. Numerous successful lives emerged from the
triumphs of Greek citizens. Difficult conditions endured the lives of many people as the
eye-catching festival hooked people to an entertainment event so large. It meant a lot to the
Ancient Greeks and played an influence on Greek culture that expanded throughout the western
world. The Ancient Greeks inspired the modern world to become what it is today.
Many Greeks rose to fame during the Olympics. Glory was a status symbol in Ancient
Greece as it rewarded fame, honor, and wealth to the best athletes of the events. The rewards for
emerging victorious in the ancient Olympics were a special feast with luxurious food (at no cost),
prize money, honors from several fans, and even a monument of the athletes (Perrottet, 54).
Achieving glory was no easy task, and anything less than first place meant nothing. Athletes who
could not reach the glory would suffer from mental health, or worse, kill themselves (Perrottet,
54). Therefore many athletes and coaches would have the “go for the gold” attitude.
The ancient Greeks had a massive promotion of fitness. Citizens would train every day at
several facilities ranging from gymnasiums to courtyards. Each facility had a unique method of
athletic training—some for athletic competitions, others for combat, or staying in shape. Athletes
would also devote their lives to a proper diet. For instance, protein became the staple of a
successful Olympic athlete’s diet when one athlete emerged victorious in two Olympic foot races
(Perrottet, 19). It was not affordable for most athletes, since many luxurious types of meat were
costly. Training for the Olympics had to be taken seriously as only athletes at the zenith of the
ranking tower could qualify.
Athletes had to take the games seriously as there can be consequences for false actions.
The effects were harsh and painful during ancient times (especially in ancient Greece). One of
the most significant impacts was thrashing for any violation of the competition rules (Perrottet,
55). Some of those rule violations include committing a false start in a racing event like the
210-yard sprint, a foul throw in the javelin, or using an illegal tactic in a combat sport. Arguing
against this punishment was strictly prohibited, and doing so resulted in an instant
disqualification from the Olympics (Perrottet, 55). In a time where capital punishment and
significant violence was allowed, athletes had to be brave.
Over 40 thousand people attended the Olympics. But traveling to Olympia was a difficult
challenge. One record Perrottet illustrates in The Naked Olympics was Socrates measuring how
long it would take to travel to Olympia from Athens (60). The distance between Athens and
Olympia is 210 miles, and many travelers left a few weeks in advance for layovers (Perrottet,
60). Inclimate weather had to be endured on this treacherous hike as a heatwave roasted Ancient
Greece. Other travelers (including international travelers from Western Europe and countries
around the Black Sea) sailed to Olympia on long shipping routes (Perrottet, 8). Sailing was also
risky as people could have died from being struck by lightning, drowning, or a shipwreck. But
missing out on the Olympics was not an option for the Greeks as they considered it bad luck to
never go to Olympia in their lifetime (Perrottet, 10).
Attending the Olympics was also uncomfortable. The games were played in the harsh
sunlight during a drought. Just like the hiking journey from Athens (or regions at least 200 miles
away) to Olympia, there was no source of shade in the stadium. There was not much water due to
the drought. Water in Olympia was unsanitary and not potable as the riverbeds were
contaminated with urine (Perrottet, 8). Lucian reports that some people have suffered from
heatstroke and dehydration (Perrottet, 69) as a result of this heatwave. It was also a very crowded
environment in the stadium. About 40 thousand spectators attended the ancient Olympics on
average (Perrottet, 6). According to Tony Perrottet, spectators would jam up the stands in the
stadium like a can of sardines (6). Bodies piled up on top of one another and faces made a face to
face contact with each other, there was no elbow room to spare. The scent was also not very
pleasant. There were baths at the sanctuary, but they were only reserved for the athletes and VIP
guests (Perrottet, 69). Most guests had to settle with going to the Olympics dirty. Crowded
bodies of smelling spectators resulted in air pollution of body odor in and out of the stadium.
Although spectators were physically uncomfortable at the Olympics, much as the spectators
endured the physical discomfort of the games, they would have had a better experience without
it. But a catastrophic experience at the Olympics was better than no experience at all.
The Olympics also promoted peace to the modern world. Although Greeks hated people
that were outsiders, the Olympics was the major event for bringing wars to a halt. Perrottet’s
comparison between the Ancient Olympics and British Soccer fans illustrates that people went
there to get away from fighting (153). People and tribes who violated the Peace Truce (like the
Spartans did) were banned from competing. The Olympics brought people from many different
parts of Greece (and Countries) together in amity, and it also helped people of different
backgrounds get to know each other. That led to the idea of the modern Olympic movement to
help make countries around the world unite.
The Super Bowl, the World Cup, the Grey Cup, the PDC World Darts Championship, the
AFL grand final, and so many other major sporting events around the world we look forward to
watching (the list is endless). Many people tune in to these events on tv or live in-person, which
results in a broad audience. Although sellout crowds are less crowded in these championships,
we still have audiences of a large population. Just like the Ancient Greeks missing out on the
Olympics, we find all significant titles, international, or popular sporting events to be very
important to us. We even recognize athletes for winning championships and awards. Teams who
won those championships in the United States were sometimes rewarded with a visit to the
White House (even though most of the athletes did not attend during the Trump Administration).
Most successful athletes became well known to everybody, some of which have become movie
actors (Michael Jordan in Space Jam and LeBron James in Smallfoot ).
Some sports today were derived from Ancient Greek Olympic events. MMA fighting,
English boxing, and wrestling were all based on the Ancient Greek versions of combat sports.
They are less violent today compared to the ancient times (where fighters kept fighting until one
could no longer continue). Track and field events were also derived from their ancient
counterparts. Some of those events were the javelin, long jump, discus, shot put, and sprinting
events. Other events, such as the hammer throw and triple jump, were inspired by events that
took place in the Ancient Olympics.
The Olympics built a sturdy foundation to Ancient Civilization and played an immense
factor in shaping our modern world. So many people striv