Greek History- January 5th 2015

Posted on January 5th, 2015 by

ancientolympicgames(1)This morning we discovered that the ancient Greeks participated in the first Olympiad in 776 BC. This era was known to be home to the Homeric Greeks who believed in the predominate philosophy arête. Arête was the idea of a perfect mind, body, and spirit that was so worshipped and desired by the Homeric Greeks during this time period. However, not all were able to achieve arête but the Olympic games were designed to prove human excellence. They proved their excellence in physical intellectual, and spiritual manners in the presence of the Gods such as Zeus. In fact the games were in honor of Zeus in general. There were also activities known as Funeral Games. These games were activities to help fallen soldiers to move into an afterlife. They would hope that by playing the funeral games, the Gods would give them something back in return.

Talking about how the Olympics started and the purpose of them in class made us realize the purity of the games back in Greek history. The soul purpose was not only to prove to be a superior human because it was performed for the gods who transcend humans and their abilities. The Olympians did not see themselves as gods when they competed successfully in the games because they new that who they were competing for were ultimately superior. They were done more to show their respect for the gods rather than to show human superiority.

In class this morning we analyzed the different events of the ancient Olympics and how the games were structured.   Unlike the modern games, which stretch out for two full weeks, the ancient Olympics took place over the course of five days.  The first day of the ancient games consisted of a ceremony.  While there are some similarities between the ancient and modern ceremonies, the ancient games had many ceremonies of religious significance on the first day.  Also, on the first day were the contests for the heralds and for the boys.

After the first day, the main events began.  Chariots races consisted of twelve laps around the stadium track and covered a distance of approximately nine miles.  The different categories for chariot races were 2-horse chariot races, 4-horse chariot races, and races for chariots pulled by foals.  Also, on the first day were the riding races which were half the distance of the chariot races.  The pentathlon, a combination of discus, javelin, jumping, running and wrestling, was the third event on the first day of competition.

The third day featured a sacrifice to Zeus and the footraces.  The four types of footraces were the stadion (one length of the track), the diaulos (one full lap on the track), the dolichos (consisting of 18-24 laps), and the hoplitodromos (where participants raced while in full battle armor).  Next, boxing, wrestling, and pankration (a combination of boxing the wrestling) were all held on the fourth day of competition.  Prizes were awarded to all of the champions from throughout Greece on the fifth day.  Also on the fifth and final day ended the games by holding a feast.  One of the main goals of the feast was to give honor and thanks to Zeus.

At the last part of our first class session today we talked about how when the Roman Empire came into Greece and tried to continue on the Games for a while. They later abolished the Games due to their pagan roots. The temple of Zeus, which laid in ruins after an order of destruction in 426 AD, and the original field fell victim to nature; earthquakes and other natural occurrences rocked through territory. These events left the field buried for thousands of years until it was partially excavated in 1829 and then was more thoroughly excavated in 1875 when the cite was given to the Germans.

Lastly, we talked about our itinerary for when we go to Germany. We leave the US from Chicago and fly into Munich, connecting with a flight that will finally bring us to Berlin. Right away we will embark on our first tour around the city. After a long day of travel and adventure, we will conclude our day with dinner at our hotel and hopefully overcoming our jet lag.


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