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World Sport

Events at the Ancient Greek Olympics


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Olympic chariot racing -- as depicted on a classical vase.
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(CNN) -- The modern Olympics may have come a long way from their ancient origins, but the key athletic disciplines -- running faster, jumping higher and throwing further -- can all be traced back to classical Greece.

Running -- As well as the original 200 yard/183 meter stadion race, there was also the diaulos (400 yards/366 meters), the hoplitodromos, a 400 yard/366 meter race wearing armor, and the dolichos, a longer race of about 4000 yards/3658 meters. Although it originated in ancient Greece, the Marathon only became an Olympic event in modern times.

Pentathlon -- This comprised five separate disciplines: running, wrestling, javelin, discus and jumping. In the latter event athletes would jump from a standing position using weights (halteres) to propel them forward.

Wrestling -- As in modern wrestling, competitors had to score three falls to win (ie. forcing their opponent's back, hip or shoulder onto the ground three times). Although gouging was not allowed, it was permitted to break your opponent's fingers.

Boxing -- There were neither weight divisions nor rounds as there are today, nor any prohibition against hitting your opponent when he was down. Competitors fought with strips of leather (himantes) wrapped around their hands to protect their knuckles, and continued until one of them had either been knocked out or admitted defeat.

Pankration -- An extreme form of fighting combining boxing and wrestling.

Horse riding -- There were two types of horse race, one for full-grown horses, another for foals. Both covered a distance of approximately 4.5 miles (7.2 kilometers). Competitors rode bareback and without stirrups. As with the chariot races, the victor was considered to be the person who owned the horses involved rather than the actual rider or charioteer.

Chariot races -- Various different types of chariot race were introduced and dropped during the history of the Olympics. The most enduring were the four-horse (tethrippon) and two-horse (synoris) race. There was also a competition for mule-drawn carts (apene). All races were for a distance of 9 miles (14.5 kilometers).

Heraldry and Trumpeting -- Although not specifically a sporting event, the heraldry and trumpeting contest, introduced in 396 BC, soon became an integral part of the Olympics, and was as popular and fiercely contested as the athletics competitions. Victors received the honor of announcing the winners of other events.


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