The Origin of the Olympic Games

The Origin of the Olympic Games Vase painting. Chariot Race - 6th Century BC (Louvre, Paris)

According to tradition the first Olympics took place in 776 BC. While one legends claims the games were established by Heracles (Hercules), who brought a sacred olive tree to Olympia, an alternative myth has the hero Pelops (from which the name of the Peloponnese region of Greece originates) establish the festival after defeating King Oenomaus in a chariot race.

Whatever the precise origin of the games, they became a central aspect of Greek culture very early on and in many ways were the most important factor uniting the Greeks, except for their language and mythology.

Over time the site of Olympia, in southern Greece, became famous for its temples and monuments. The gold and ivory Statue of Zeus that sat upon his throne in the high temple was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

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