Athletics and Polis

From the 8th century BC onwards, the emergence of the first city-states (poleis) influenced the evolution in athletics. Various systems of gymnastics were set up in each city-state, which included gymnastic exercises, musical training, reading and writing. As long as aristocrats were in power, training aimed at the supremacy of the young members of the noble families. The education of the young people aimed at helping them to develop both their body and mind and achieve harmony. Physical exercise was accompanied by music. Music, dance and athletics, all helped to achieve a harmonious balance between the body and the mind.

A plethora of local festivals were organized by the emergent city-states in the 8th century BC. They provided a variety of competitive contexts in which most of the citizens of the city-states had the opportunity to demonstrate openly their virtues and fight for excellence. Gradually, music and athletic contests evolved into organized regional festivals of a repetitive nature. Such contests were directly connected to the cults of gods and heroes, thus stressing out their religious character.

During the games, athletes from various places gathered to demonstrate their physical and moral virtues in honor of the local deity or hero. By demonstrating the strength of his body, the athlete pleased the gathered crowd, gained recognition and made his city-state famous henceforth. The athlete's victory was celebrated by making offerings to the local god, such as tripods and figurines indicating the significance of the victory for the athlete and his homeland.


Short description of the monuments at ancient Olympia

3D reconstructions:
Some of the most important buildings in ancient Olympia rendered in three-dimensions.

3D reconstruction of the Temple of Zeus in ancient Olympia.

Other games:
Short reference on other famous contests in ancient Greece

In the first person:
Young Ariston shares his experience in the Olympic Games

Olympic victors:
Database of the ancient Olympic victors based on each athletic event and each Olympiad

Specimen sources