12 Greatest Ancient Greece Olympic Sports

The Olympics is the world’s leading sports event where athletes worldwide come together and participate in various sports. It has more than 200 nations participating. But this event was inspired by ancient Greece’s Olympic Games. 

The Greeks used to hold various sports competitions in Olympia, Greece, from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD.

In ancient Greece, Olympic sports were the religious and athletic festivals held in the sanctuary of Zeus every four years.

It featured athletic and combat sports, which were more of a religious thing. 

Ancient Greece Olympic sports
Ancient Greece Olympic sports (Source: Flickr.com)

This ancient custom gave birth to the present-day Olympics. However, most of the sports that athletes compete in now are different.

Few sports competitions have continued, while most ancient games have been discontinued.

Therefore, we have prepared a list of some of the most fantastic ancient Greece Olympic sports.

Let us take time to travel to the past and learn about some of the most extraordinary sports events in which the ancient Greeks participated.

12 Greatest Ancient Greece Olympic Sports 2022

We have prepared this list with the help of various sources like Worldhistory, Olympics, etc.

But before diving into the details, let us take a quick preview of the list below.

Olympic SportsDate in BCE (Before Common Era)
12. Competition for trumpeters and heralds396 BCE
11. Synoris408 BCE
10. Keles648 BCE
9. Hoplitodromos520 BCE
8. Tethrippon680 BCE
7. Pentathlon780 BCE
6. Pankration648 BCE
5. Boxing688 BCE
4. Wrestling708 BCE
3. Discus Throw776 BCE
2. Long Jump780 BCE
1. Running776 BCE to 728 BCE

12. Competitions for Trumpeters and Heralds

We are starting our list with an unlikely event many might not see as a sport. Ancient Greece had competitions for trumpeters and heralds.

Yes, you saw this right, and yes, it was a sports event in ancient Greece.

Grecians added the competitions for trumpeters and heralds only in 396 BCE.

However, initially, the trumpeters and heralds were only for organizational functions.

Competition for trumpeters and heralds
Competition for trumpeters and heralds (Source: Wikimedia.org)

The competition was held on the first day. The one whose sound was louder and clearer was the event’s winner.

When the game was first introduced, both competitions were won by the locals of Elis.

The trumpeters and heralds continued to compete in the ancient Olympic games just as the athletic participants did.

The competition winners were honored to announce the victors on the final day at the official prize-giving event.

11. Synoris

Ancient Greece had a lot of sports competitions that involved horses and chariots. It was because horse racing was patronized almost exclusively by royalty and aristocrats.

Among them, Synoris was one of the competitions that involved two horses and a chariot.  

Two-horse chariot race, Synoris
Two-horse chariot race, Synoris (Source: Pinterest)

The sports competition started in 408 BCE. However, an earlier version of using foals over three circuits was added in 268 BCE.

10. Keles

On our number 10 of the ancient Greece Olympic sports is Keles. It is also a sport related to a horse that started in 648 BCE.

In 256 BCE, there was an earlier version of the sport for foals.

Ancient Greece game, Keles
Ancient Greece game, Keles (Source: Flickr.com)

The game ran over six circuits. Many historians assume that the first winner of the Keles contest was from Thessaly.

The region lay in northern Greece and was renowned for horse breeding.

9. Hoplitodromos

The Hoplitodromos was a form of an ancient foot race. The English translation of the word is “race of the Hoplites.”

The sport was added in 520 BCE and was the last foot race to be added to Olympics.

The participants had to race in hoplite armor, including helmets, shields, and spears, hence the name Hoplitodromos.

The armors were made of heavy materials and weighed at least six kilograms.

Hoplitodromos , an ancient Greece Olympic game
Hoplitodromos, an ancient Greece Olympic game (Source: Wikimedia.org)

The sport tested the muscular strength of the participant more than their endurance.

It was one of the shorter foot races that ran between two and four stadium lengths.

Hoplitodromos was a military training exercise in addition to it being an athletic contest. It was usually the last event of the Olympic games.

8. Tethrippon

Another horse chariot race sport is number 8 of ancient Greece’s Olympic sports. Tethrippon was a four-horse chariot race.

The game was established in 680 BCE. The chariot racer would have to run over ten or twelve circuits of the hippodrome.

A four-horse chariot race, Tethrippon
A four-horse chariot race, Tethrippon (Source: Wikimedia.org)

Chariot racing also had an earlier version of using foals and running over eight circuits. The earlier version of the race started in 384 BCE.

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7. Pentathlon

Next up, we have a sport that features five events. The word combines two words, pente meaning five and Athlon meaning competition.

The game was established in 708 BCE. The sports event took place on a single day.

It included the sports in order of jumping, discus throwing, stadion, javelin, and wrestling.

Pentathlon depiction by ancient Greece
Pentathlon depiction by ancient Greece (Source: Wikimedia.org)

The athletes participating in the sports event were the Pentathletes. Moreover, they were considered to be the most skilled athletes.

Additionally, sports training was often part of the military service. Pentathlon was thought to be helpful in war or battle.

Additionally, sports training was often part of the military service. However, there is confusion about how an athlete won the overall event.

Historians assume that the three victories in the five events may have led to the triumph of the sport.

6. Pankration

Pankration was established in 648 BCE. It is a mix of boxing and wrestling sports. Moreover, the sport was one of the most brutal in ancient Greece Olympic sports.

It was an empty-hand submission sport. Other than biting and gouging, every other move was legal.

Similarly, the athletes did not wear damaging leather thongs like in boxing but could use kicks, holds, and chokes on the ground.

Depiction of Pankration
Depiction of Pankration (Source: Wikimedia.org)

The sport looked more like present-time mixed martial arts. The most common way to decide the winner of the Pankration competition was through submission.

However, knockouts were also standard. Like most combat sports in ancient Greece, Pankration was part of military training.

5. Boxing

Our number 5 of the ancient Greek Olympic sports is boxing. In Grecian history, the origin of boxing has numerous legends.

However, boxing started in 688 BCE in the ancient Olympic Games.

The boxers wore straps of leather known as himantes around their hands, wrists, and sometimes breasts.

The leather also acted as protection; however, the face and head were left unprotected. 

Ancient Greece boxing
Ancient Greece boxing (Source: Flickr)

Boxing had limited rules in ancient Greece. The only moves not permitted were the low blows and holding.

The use of himantes in the latter days evolved into lethal weapons. Sometimes the athletes would add metal pieces that landed fatal blows on their opponents.

It caused severe injuries and sometimes even deaths.

4. Wrestling

Wrestling was one of the most sports in ancient Greece. The sport began in 708 BCE in the ancient Greek Olympic sports.

It was the first competition other than a foot race to be part of the Olympic Games.

The game was of elimination-tournament style. The competitor would have to throw their opponents three times on the ground to gain victory.

Ancient Greek wrestling
Ancient Greek wrestling (Source: Olympics.com)

Wrestling was also one of the five events in Pentathlon and a sport of expressing strength. It took place in one square plethron or stremma.

As mentioned before, the Olympic games in ancient Greece were a form of a religious event; wrestling represented Heracles in Greek mythology.

3. Discus Throw

Discus throw was part of the Olympic Games since 776 BCE. The sports technique was pretty much similar to the modern style of the discus throw.

Since throwing discus needs rhythm and precision, the sport showcased the athlete’s strength and control in ancient Greece.

Discuc throw
Discus throw (Source: Wikimedia.org)

The distance of discus thrown depends upon the thrower’s bodyweight, discus weight, and techniques. Initially, the discus was made of stone, iron, bronze, or lead.

Likewise, the discus was shaped like a flying saucer and varied sizes. The sport was part of Pentathlon’s five sports, which’s score was combined with the other four to determine the victor.

2. Long Jump

We have a long jump sport on our number 2 of the ancient Greece Olympic sports. However, the game was not a separate event but part of the Pentathlon.

During the ancient Greek time, the jumpers bounced on the sandpit like in modern times.

However, the significant difference was that the jumpers held weights or halters in ancient times while they jumped.

Long Jump in Pentathlon
Long Jump in Pentathlon (Source: Wikimeida.org)

The weights were up to 1.5 to 2 kilograms each. The jumper held the weight or halters during the jump, forcibly thrust behind his back, and dropped during his landing.

As a result, the jumpers could jump further and land more steadily. A fun fact about the long jumps in ancient Greece was that it was accompanied by flute music for better coordination.

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1. Running

And here we have running on our number 1 of the ancient Greece Olympic sports. It is the oldest and most crucial Olympic sport and has three types.

The sport’s various forms were established from 776 BCE to 728 BCE. Its forms included the stade race, the diaulos, and the dolichos.

Ancient Greece depection of running
Ancient Greece’s depiction of running

The stade race mainly tested the athlete’s speed. The runners would have to cover the Olympia track from one end to another. The track measurement was around 200 meters. 

Meanwhile, the diaulos were the two stadium lengths foot-race, and dolichos were longer foot races of seven to twenty-four-stadium lengths.

The athletes ran on the sand surface, and the track was called the stadion.

Conclusion

The ancient Grecians should be thanked for starting the Olympic sports event.

They paved the way for the modern Olympic Games, and more than 200 countries participate in the event today.

The Olympics provided a platform for athletes at the international level, but it also helped promote goodwill among countries.

What started as the religious festivities for the Greek gods has now become a medium of friendships among countries.

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