OLYMPIC GAMES

Why are Olympics named like that? Origin and meaning

Everything about the emergence and the importance of the Panhellenic festival honored the principal Greek god and was held every fourth year.

Why are Olympics named like that? Origin and meaning

The Olympic Games, which emerged in ancient Greece some 3,000 years ago, then again revived in the late 19th century to become the world's leading sporting competition. From the 8th century B.C. to the 4th century A.D., the Games were held every four years in Olympia, in a small town in Elis on the Peloponnese peninsula, honoring the Greek god Zeus.

The first written records of the ancient Olympic Games dated to 776 B.C. when a cook named Koroibos of Elis won the only event; a 192-meter footrace called the stade (the origin of the modern "stadium") – to become the first Olympic champion. Every victor was recorded, and each Olympiad was named after them, giving us the first accurate chronology of the ancient Greek world. However, it is generally believed that the Games had been going on for many years by that time. Legend has it that Heracles, semi-god son of Zeus and the mortal woman Alcmene, founded the Games, which by the end of the 6th century B.C had become the most famous of all Greek sporting festivals. The ancient Olympics were held every four years between August 6 and September 19 during a religious celebration honoring Zeus. The Games were named for their location at Olympia, a sacred site located near the western coast of the Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece. The sacred precinct was primarily dedicated to Zeus, although other gods were worshiped there.

Despite the name, it is nowhere near Mount Olympus in northern Greece, where the Twelve Olympians, the principal deities of Ancient Greek religion, were believed to live. Later, other games would be organized at other sacred sites such as Delphi, Isthmia, and Nemea but the Olympian Games would remain the most prestigious.

The Games started with a procession that went from the host town of Elis to Olympia, led by the Hellanodikai (judges). On arrival at Olympia, all athletes and officials swore an oath to follow the competitions' established rules and compete with honor and respect. The most important religious ceremony of the event was the sacrifice of 100 oxen, known as the hecatomb, at the altar of Zeus, carried out when the sporting events were over.

The influence of the Olympic Games was so significant that ancient historians began to measure time by the four-year increments in between, which were known as Olympiads.