The Olympic Games began in 776 BC in Olympia, a valley near the city of Elis in Peloponnese, southwest Greece. They were part of a religious festival staged every four years in honor of Zeus, the king of all gods in ancient Greece. Besides the games, the visitors have a chance to see the colossal golden statue of Zeus in the temple in Olympia, six times bigger than a man, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
The games were named after Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece, where gods and goddesses lived. They were very important event and during the competitions all wars were stopped, so people have a chance in peace to visit Olympia and enjoy the festival. One month before the games have begun, messengers were sent to all Greek States as far as the Black Sea in the east and the Iberian Peninsula in the west, to declare peace and inform the people about the tournament. The athletes that take part were man or boys; girls had their own festival in honor of the wife of Zeus, Hera.
The first athletic event was the 600 feet long, foot race, from one to the other end of the stadium, recognized as the Stadion race. Koroibos, cook from Elis is the first known winner of the race. The other events included: throwing discus and throwing javelin (long spear), chariot racing, wrestling, long jump and boxing. One of the hardest disciplines was the hoplites race where runners wear armor and shields. Winners were awarded with a crown of olive branches and treated like heroes.
The marathon (40 kilometer race) was not part of the ancient Olympic games and was first introduced in 1896, Athens, Greece. The inspiration for the race is the ancient runner Philippides, who run from Marathon to Athens (a distance of 149 miles) after the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC, to deliver news of a Greece victory against the Persians.
The ancient Olympic Games were organized from 776 BC through 393 AD in Olympia, before being abolished by the Roman Emperor Theodosius |, after the conquest of Greece by Rome. The modern Olympic Games were established in 1896 in Athens, Greece, inspired from the ancient Olympic Games.