Sports & Wellness

The Myths behind the Olympics: In Honor of Peace, Love and Unity

by Michelle Ylaya

Of the many aspects of modern life, we can thank the Ancient Greeks for, the Olympics and Greek Mythology are perhaps the most lasting.

Greek mythology continues to inspire and be read while the Olympian tradition of “agon” or competition lives on.

It then comes as no surprise that the Olympics is rooted upon Greek mythology.

Pelops Myth

The origin of the Olympics begins with Pelops, a prince from Asia Minor. As the myth goes, Pelops, wanted to marry Hippodamia, the daughter of King Oinamaos of Pisa. The king challenged Pelops and all of his daughters’ suitors to a chariot race for her hand in marriage. All those who lost, however would be beheaded. On the day of the chariot race, Pelops changed the king’s bronze linchpins on his chariot with waxed linchpins. When the wax melted off from the King’s chariots, Oinomaos fell to his death and Pelops won the race. Thus, Pelops, married Hippodamia. To celebrate his victory, the new king of Pisa, Pelops established the Olympics.

In another version of the myth, Hippodamia was the one who devised the sabotage that helped Pelops win the race. There is also another version that depicts the celebration of the Olympic games as commemoration to the death of King Oinomaos.

Hercules myth

tumblr_m6b2xwqkpV1rx6fg1o1_500 Photo credit: Light Force Network

In Greek mythology, Hercules had to go through labors in order to achieve immortality. The feat to clean the massive stables of King Augeus of Elis was Hercules’s fifth labor. In a remarkable display of strength, Hercules redirected the Kladeos and Alpheos rivers to run across the stables. But Augeas did not honor his word to pay Hercules with one-tenth of his cattle. So Hercules pillaged the city of Elis. Hercules built the stadium on the tomb of King Pelops, which would symbolize the Olympics from thereon. He taught the men to wrestle and instituted the Olympics in honor of his father, Zeus.

The measurement of the stadium is also attributed to him. According to myth, he placed one foot in front of the other six hundred times, to establish the distance of the original race.

King Iphitos of Elis

After some time, the Olympic games were abandoned. There were many civil wars and general unsettlement in the land. King Iphitos, a descendant of Hercules, sought the advise of the Oracle of Delphi on how to establish peace between Elis and Pisa and in all of Greece. The oracle told him to restore the Olympic games. She also advised him to announce a temporary truce to all wars as the games were being held.   Thus, the Olympic truce became instrumental in the unification of Greece, and even the Roman colonies, upon the Roman control of Greece. King Iphitos is also recognized as the first to give victorious Olympians the wreaths made from olive branches.

Three thousand years later, the Olympics has grown from the single event, it had first began with. Now with over 306 events in 28 sports and 11,000 athletes the Olympics has become the most anticipated sporting event in the entire world.


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