The Olympic Games were held from 776 B.C. onwords every four years in honor of Zeus at Olympia. Iphitos king of Eleia, following an oracle of the Pythia at Delphi, organized these athletic games beloved of the gods at Eleia, which was neutral in the conflicts opposing the Greek cities. The Greeks used a calendar based on the Olympic Games, which started in 776 B.C. when the first stadium race was won by Koraibos, whose name was inscribed on stone.
In the earliest period the race in the 192.24 m. long stadium lasted only one day. As the time went on, interest in these games increased and all the Greek cities participated. During the month in which these games were held, there was a truce to all wars and quarrels. In 350 B.C. new regulations were adopted: only free citizens could compete, but slaves, criminals and those who had broken their oath were excluded. The participants spent the ten months before the Games in training at the nearby city of Elis. During the Games, tents were erected along the wall enclosing the temenos of the Temple of Zeus, creating an atmosphere like that of a fair. Concerts were held, sections of the Iliad and the Odyssey were recited, and philosophers and orators gave speeches.
The foot-races were lengthened to a double stadium, and then to 24 stadia. In 708 B.C. five sections were created: running, jumping, throwing the discus and the javelin and boxing.
Later the pentathlon, chariot race, and pancration were added. The participants had to swear even in the Temple of Zeus, that they would commit no trick. The athletes, whose order of entrance and passage in the arena was determined by lot, participated in the nude. Judges selcted the winners, whoc received as a prize and olive-branch or a wreath, and a herald announced the name and fatherland of the victors. Upon returning home, these successful athletes were met by a victory celebration. In the Altis of Elis status were erected and poets wrote praise those who had won. During the rest of their lives, winners of the Olympic Games enjoyed special respect and honors. as the time went on; the Olympic Games degenerated. In 393 A.D. Theodosius forbade the Games which were considered to be a symbol of paganism.
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