Ancient Olympic Games - Thin Runner
A runner athlete participating at the Olympic Games.
Hand-Made Bronze Sculpture with Quality Guarantee. Traditionally made with the method of casting bronze and with a museum-like oxidization.
To the Greeks, it was important to root the Olympic Games in mythology. During the time of the ancient games their origins were attributed to the gods, and competing legends persisted as to who actually was responsible for the genesis of the games. These origin of traditions have become nearly impossible to untangle, yet a chronology and patterns have arisen that help people understand the story behind the games.
The earliest myths regarding the origin of the games are recounted by the Greek historian, Pausanias. According to the story, the dactyl Herakles (not to be confused with the son of Zeus) and four of his brothers, Paeonaeus, Epimedes, Iasius and Idas, raced at Olympia to entertain the newborn Zeus. He crowned the victor with an olive tree wreath, (which thus became a peace symbol) which also explains the four year interval, bringing the games around every fifth year (counting inclusively). The other Olympian gods (so named because they lived permanently on Mount Olympus), would also engage in wrestling, jumping and running contests.
Another myth of the origin of the games is the story of Pelops, a local Olympian hero. The story of Pelops begins with Oenomaus, the king of Pisa, Greece, who had a beautiful daughter named Hippodamia. According to an oracle, the king would be killed by her husband. Therefore, he decreed that any young man who wanted to marry his daughter was required to drive away with her in his chariot, and Oenomaus would follow in another chariot and spear the suitor if he caught up with them. Now, the king's chariot horses were a present from the god Poseidon and were therefore supernaturally fast. Pelops was a very handsome young man and the king's daughter fell in love with him. Before the race, she persuaded her father's charioteer Myrtilus to replace the bronze axle pins of the king's chariot with wax ones. Naturally, during the race the wax melted and the king fell from his chariot and was killed. At the same time the king's palace was struck by lightning and reduced to ashes, save for one wooden pillar that was revered in the Altis for centuries, and stood near what was to be the site of the temple of Zeus. Pelops was proclaimed the winner and married Hippodamia. After his victory, Pelops organized chariot races as thanksgiving to the gods and as funeral games in honor of King Oenomaus, in order to be purified of his death. It was from this funeral race held at Olympia that the beginnings of the Olympic Games were inspired. Pelops became a great king, a local hero, and gave his name to the Peloponnese.
Another myth, this one occurring after the aforementioned myth, is attributed to Pindar. He claims the festival at Olympia involved Herakles, the son of Zeus. The story goes that after completing his labors, Herakles established an athletic festival to honor his father.
The games of previous millennia were discontinued and then revived by Lycurgus of Sparta, Iphitos of Elis, and Cleoisthenes of Pisa at the behest of the Oracle of Delphi who claimed that the people had strayed from the gods, which had caused a plague and constant war. Restoration of the games would end the plague, usher in a time of peace, and signal a return to a more traditional lifestyle. The patterns that emerge from these myths are that the Greeks believed the games had their roots in religion, that athletic competition was tied to worship of the gods, and the revival of the ancient games was intended to bring peace, harmony and a return to the origins of Greek life. Since these myths were documented by historians like Pausanias, who lived during the reign of Marcus Aurelius in the 160s AD, it is likely that these stories are more fable than fact. The games were abolished in 393 CE by Emperor Theodosius.
The origins of many aspects of the Olympics date to funeral games of the Mycenean period and later. Early examples are known such as those held for Patroclus by Achilles, described by Homer and in Book 5 of Virgil's Aeneid, in which Aeneas organizes athletic contests on the anniversary of his father's death.
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