Ancient Olympic Events

Philadelphia MS2444
Side A: trainer watching wrestlers
Photograph by Maria Daniels, courtesy of The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

The ancient Olympics were rather different from the modern Games. There were fewer events, and only free men who spoke Greek could compete, instead of athletes from any country. Also, the games were always held at Olympia instead of moving around to different sites every time.

Tampa 86.35
Shoulder: chariot race
Photograph by Maria Daniels, courtesy of the Tampa Museum of Art

Like our Olympics, though, winning athletes were heroes who put their home towns on the map. One young Athenian nobleman defended his political reputation by mentioning how he entered seven chariots in the Olympic chariot-race. This high number of entries made both the aristocrat and Athens look very wealthy and powerful.

To read more about these topics, see Further Resources.

Click on any of the event names to see a description of a particular sport:

This exhibit is a subset of materials from the Perseus Project database and is copyrighted. Please send us your comments.