Ancient Sports

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Man's interest in games and sports is as old as time immemorial. It comes as natural as the pleasure of playing by almost all animals around us. It is however yet to be clearly estalished on how Sports was introduced. Nor it is very clear what the earliest form of sport was. We are only certain that the earliest forms of sports were different from the ones played these days. True, entertainment was regarded as one of main driving forces for indulging in sports activities. But even people used to entertain themselves with those activities that would sharpen their skill in practical life.
The cave paintings of the ancient men bear certain evidence of some form of sport activities. For instance, one such painting display a group of men dancing around a fictitious animal with javelins in their hands. Though a mode of hunting spree, it basically reveals the ancient people in their sporting mood. With little of farming activity these men at the dawn of human civilization were basically hunters. Thus their sports and games were also influenced by this hunting habit. 
In ancient Egypt, pharaohs demonstrated their fitness to rule by prowess in the hunt 
and by exhibitions of strength and skill in archery. However, Egyptians, with less claim to divinity, jumped, wrestled, and engaged in ball games and stick fights of the sort that can still be observed in Egypt.
 The great epics of the world also anecdote the games of wrestling, chariot race, archery, hunting and certain other games related to war. Ancient Greece had all these. It is where sports had a significance unequaled anywhere before the rise of modern sports.
One such "sports report," is found in book 23 of Homer's Iliad in the form of funeral games for the dead Patroclus. These games were a part of cult and therefore, lacked the present days' spirit of sports. But the contests in the Odyssey are essentially secular. Odysseus was challenged by the Phaeacians to demonstrate his prowess as an athlete. 
In general, Greek culture included both cultic sports, 
such as the Olympic Games 
 honoring Zeus and secular contests.


 
Olympics:

 
It was started some 776 years before the birth of Christ. 
It can be said to be the time when human civilization was at its infancy. 
Olympics derived its name from the ancient Greek city of Olympia 
where the game show was founded as a part of a big festival. Olympia had a temple of Zeus. And the festival was used to be held in the honor of Zeus. The earth goddess Gaea was originally worshiped at Olympia. In the course of time, her importance reduced. 
And it was the sky god Zeus in whose honor priestly officials conducted quadrennial athletic contests. Sacred also were the games held at Delphi, in honor of Apollo, and at Corinth and Nemea. These four events were known as the periodos, and great athletes, such as Theagenes of Thasos, prided themselves on victories at all four sites. The athletic triumphs brought with it special prestige. Both in the form of statues of the victors and also material benefits. The festival witnessed the gathering of talents in different fields from different parts of the globe.


The great festival of Olympia earned so much of awe those days that even soldiers would lift no weapon during the festival. Its influence was so great that even the two warring states in Greece would announce a 'cease war' for the time being. 

All were eligible for taking part in the game show. Any independent Greek 
could take part in any event following a ten-month's training. And every state would vie for seeing their player clinching the title. Accordingly, Greeks would attach special attention to the physical culture of all boys since an early age. 

Some of the events those days included penthalon, pancresia, 
wrestling, discuss throwing, javelin throwing, running, chariot racing. 
The winner of each event was awarded a  crown made of green olive bough.

This apart, the winners were greeted with honors and a hero's welcome back home. Of all the events pancresian was the most challenging one. It was a play-until-dead type of game. The winner had to be highly skilled in multiple disciplines like wrestling, boxing, kicking.

On the other hand the winner of the penthalon had to be an expert in high jump, 
race, discuss and javelin throwing, and, the stand-up wrestling. 
Unlike the three categories found in modern boxing, 
ancient Olympics had no such category. 
Thus the heaviest weighted one would 
eventually wear the boxing crown. 
But Olympic was not only confined among the players, 
musicians, artists, poets - all would come 
to take part in events marked for them.

Since the Greeks were devoted to secular sports as well as to sacred games, no polis, or city-state, was considered a proper community if it lacked a gymnasium where, as the word gymnos indicates, naked male athletes trained and competed. Except at militaristic Sparta, Greek girls rarely participated in sports of any kind. Women were excluded from the Olympic Games even as spectators (except for the priestess of Demeter). Pausanias, the 2nd-century-AD traveler, wrote of races for girls at Olympia, 
but these events in honor of Hera were of minor importance.

Unfortunately the curtain fell on ancient Olympics game 
during the regime of the Roman emperor Theodosius. 
He had a strong dislike to all games and sports. 
He was driven by a credo that there should be no place 
for a barbarian game show like Olympics in the Christian civilization.

Not only he ended the tradition of Olympic games, but ordered the destruction of the Olympic temple and the stadium. And it was under his instruction the statue of Zeus was carried away to Constantinople. Later the statue was destroyed by a fire. Later his successor Theodosius II asked the destruction of all Greek temples including that of Zeus. Still, what was left out was wiped by flood and earthquake. Thus the ancient game came to an end.


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