THE ORIGINAL OLYMPICS
The original Olympics began as a small regional festival in the 11th century, which was dedicated to the God Zeus. But the origins of the town itself are Mycenaean who worshipped the Goddess Rhea, sister of Cronus and father of Zeus. If you know your Mythology you may remember that Cronus was told that he would be dethroned by his own children and he devoured five of the sons Rhea had given birth to. When Zeus was born she gave a rock to Cronus and he ate that instead. Zeus survived and later dispatched his father to the underworld and Zeus became top God and founder of the Olympic games.The first Olympic games were held in 776 BC and reached their height of popularity in 576 BC. The festival was open to only Greek born men but later Romans were allowed to compete most likely because they were running the Greek world by then. Slaves and women were not even allowed to be spectators and women caught sneaking in were thrown off a cliff. The events included foot races, wrestling, discus, javelin, long-jump, horse and chariot racing, and a type of boxing called pancratium. There were not only atheletic events but also writing, poetry and history readings, plus business transactions and treaties were made between leaders of city-states. There was no television so unlike modern Olympics, spectators were able to see all the events and not just the ones the Americans were in and had a good chance of winning. The games were banned in 426 by the emperor Theodosius II because they were pagan, and the temples were destroyed. The Olympics were officially revived in 1896 in Athens but actually the games had been started with less fanfare even earlier. The first modern international Olympic Games held in Athens at Platia Kotzia, then called Ludouvikou or Ludvig Square, in 1859, sponsored by Evangelis Zappas.