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The ancient Olympic Games were initially a one-day event until 684 BC, when they were extended to three days. In the 5th century B.C., the Games were extended again to cover five days. The ancient Games included running, long jump, shot put, javelin, boxing, pankration and equestrian events.

Pentathlon

The Pentathlon became an Olympic sport with the addition of wrestling in 708 B.C., and included the following:

Running / Jumping / Discus Throw

Running

Running contests included:
the stade race, which was the pre-eminent test of speed, covering the Olympia track from one end to the other (200m foot race),
the diaulos (two stades - 400m foot race),
dolichos (ranging between 7 and 24 stades).

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Jumping

Athletes used stone or lead weights called halteres to increase the distance of a jump. They held onto the weights until the end of their flight, and then jettisoned them backwards.

Discus throw

The discus was originally made of stone and later of iron, lead or bronze. The technique was very similar to today's freestyle discus throw.

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Wrestling

This was highly valued as a form of military exercise without weapons. It ended only when one of the contestants admitted defeat.

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Boxing

Boxers wrapped straps (himantes) around their hands to strengthen their wrists and steady their fingers. Initially, these straps were soft but, as time progressed, boxers started using hard leather straps, often causing disfigurement of their opponent's face.

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Pankration

This was a primitive form of martial art combining wrestling and boxing, and was considered to be one of the toughest sports. Greeks believed that it was founded by Theseus when he defeated the fierce Minotaur in the labyrinth.

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Equestrian events

These included horse races and chariot races and took place in the Hippodrome, a wide, flat, open space.

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Welcome to the ancient olympic games

From boxing contests with no weight classifications or point scoring to chariot racing where danger lurked on every corner, it is easy to see why the Ancient Games enthralled the Greeks for so long. Here, we give you the essential lowdown, highlight our favourite facts and preview the upcoming features.

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History

As a sacred place used regularly in religious ceremonies, as well as playing host to the Ancient Games, Olympia was at the centre of Greek civilisation. Renowned expert Paul Christesen gives Olympic.org a unique insight into Olympia and how the site changed as the Games grew.

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All time greats of the olympic games

A magical collection of characters light up the accounts of almost 12 centuries of action at the Ancient Games. Huge, heroic men caught the attention with the stars of the combat sports particularly adored. Their physique, love of a challenge and extraordinary appetites chimed with a public brought up on the immortal heroes of Greek mythology. Here, we pick out the best of the best.

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Spectators

Ancient Olympic Games expert Paul Christesen reveals what life would have been like for the spectators at Olympia. From taking advantage of the Olympic truce to hearing the latest works from the famous historian Herodotus and enjoying a giant, 24-hour BBQ, it is easy to see why the Games were a key date in the diary for Greeks everywhere.

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