Sports in ancient Greece – what was the physical culture like in ancient times?

Sports in ancient Greece was an integral part of the education of boys and an important stage in shaping their characters. It was in the ancient Greeks that sport was elevated to one of the most important social and cultural events, and most of the disciplines that started them are still practiced today.

The ancient Greeks regarded competition as a natural stage of social functioning, and victory was associated with divine favor. Actually every Greek sport had a religious meaningand competitions were held in honor of the gods.

Greek passion for sports it has its roots in the cult of strength and worship of the beauty of the male body. Honestly sports competition it also had to live up to the ideals it contained kalokagatia, or the Greek philosophy of noble and ethical conduct, combine beauty with good. However, the basis of the functioning of Greek society was religion, so both areas were naturally intertwined. Actually all the important competitions were organized on the occasion of the celebration of important holidays and were dedicated to the main gods† Which professions are we talking about?

Virtually every polis, or Greek city-state, held its own sports league. However, the main sports and religious holidays in ancient Greece were limited to four Pan-Hellenic Gamesie of a general nature, in which players from all policies participated. We are talking about the Pythian Games in Delphi, the Isthmian Games in Corinth, the Nemean Games in Nemea and the most important competitions – the Olympic Games in Olympia.

The latter were organized in honor of Zeus. The celebration of this event was held from 776 BC to 393 AD, always during the summer season, from late July to early September. This event was so important that there was a general truce in Greece for the duration of the truce so that the newcomers could reach the place safely.

individual matches were played naked (excluding horse racing), which was related to the aforementioned love for the beauty of the male body. They could only participate in the ancient Olympics men and boys aged 17 to 20. Initially, the players could only be Greeks. It was not until the 4th century BC that Macedonians were allowed to participate, and later – Romans born in Greece.

We mention below: competitionsin which the Olympians participated.


boxing (pygme) was one of the major Olympic sports. The duels took place on loose ground, without clearly defined boundaries. However, the judges made sure that the players fought at close quarters. There was no division into rounds in old boxing, but the role of gloves was played by hard leather strapswith which the hands were wrapped.


wrestle (Pale) were much less violent than boxing, but they were immensely popular. The fight could be fought standing or on the ground, but it must be emphasized that “standing up” was considered more useful. The repertoire of permitted techniques was much broader than today. The judges had, among other things, pulling on the nose and lips, and breaking the fingers.


What was the most ruthless sporting discipline in ancient times called? It is about pankration, which is a combination of boxing and wrestling with a huge admissible range of techniques. The players could, among other things, break the fingers off the opponent’s hands and feet, use knee crushes or press fingers into the eye sockets. There was no division into weight classes, the opponents were chosen at random.


During the first thirteen Olympics, it was played alone sprint run† It was not introduced until the 14th Olympics medium distance walking (384.54 m). At the 15th Olympics, players could also compete in the frame long distance running (4,614.5m). The finishing position was determined by the order of crossing the finish line (time was not measured).

Discus Throw

It is one of the most specific Olympic disciplines as it is used in competitions checkers were made of different materials. Initially, stone instruments were used. Later they were made of different metals and their weight varied from 1.2 kg to 6.6 kg. Most likely, there was a division into age categories, with the guys throwing the lightest checkers.

javelin throw

This competition was directly related to the martial art. However, the sports spears differed from the combat spearsmainly height and weight (they were shorter and lighter).

long jump

long jump it was the only form of jumping played during the ancient games. Contestants compete in old competitions they had to use weightswhose weight ranged from 1.5 kg to 5 kg. The jumps were most likely performed from the spot, not from the running line, like today.

Horse racing and chariot racing

These disciplines were considered the noblest of all. It was the only game played fully clothed. The coachman wore a long robe girded under his chest.

Although modern knowledge of ancient sports is extensive, history researchers still cannot answer many questions. It is not entirely clear in which discipline the Greek sports cult began. It can be assumed that the first form of activity associated with competition was running, as the most natural and most accessible discipline. This statement also seems to be confirmed by the fact that racing was the oldest of all Olympic disciplines. However, it cannot be excluded that priority was given to the spear, a natural stage in Greek battle preparation.

Preparations for the Olympic Games started 10 months before the planned event. They were organized by the most prominent officials and judges. In ancient Greece, there were two training centers where players could prepare – gymnasium and bar† The players came to Elis with their coaches. When the sports facilities were ready, they left for Olympia.

What were the Greek Games like? The event was spread over 5 days. The first was devoted to religious ceremonies and vows. The second day was played chariot races and pentathlon (running, long jump, discus, javelin and wrestling)† On the third day sacrifices were made to Zeus, then he was held boys run† The fourth day was dedicated martial arts and racing in full armor† The fifth day is the decoration of the winners with olive wreaths.

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