Worshipers, Rule-Breakers and Champions: Women and the Ancient Greek Olympics | Ancient Origins Members Site


Worshipers, Rule-Breakers and Champions: Women and the Ancient Greek Olympics

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A Quadriga, with woman riding in a triumphal chariot. France.

Worshipers, Rule-Breakers and Champions: Women and the Ancient Greek Olympics

One of the aspects of culture regarded as distinctive to the ancient Greeks was their pursuit of sport. Apart from its function as the act of worship to Zeus, athletic competition, particularly at the major Pan-Hellenic sites, was also a means for the ancient Greeks to promote and celebrate their ethic bonds. Historical records tend to give the approximate confirmation of the Olympic starting date as 776 BC, which would place the first Olympic as several decades before the use of the Greek alphabet and Homers Iliad. The Olympics took place every four years for more than a millennium.

Ancient Olympia, Greece.

Ancient Olympia, Greece. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

However, as important as this was to the Greeks, participation in the Olympics was open primarily to men and boys. In fact, one of the big themes of sport in ancient Greece was the separation of the genders and emphasizing the different traits between men and women. Women were discouraged to participate and extreme laws were in effect to stop married women from attending the Olympics. However, this did not stop the ladies from having their own athletic competitions, even competing against the men and winning.


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