The Olympic Games: Discover the God of the Olympic Games Zeus Olympios

2012-08-08 00:35

The word agony emerged from the Olympic Games as they started in 500 BC in ancient Greek city states. It was a term used to describe the athlete as he trains hard and practices in preparation for the Olympic Games. The intensity and rigorousness of the training and practice was very painful to endure for an ordinary person. It was pure agon (agony). It was agony and pain to prepare for the Olympics games striving for mastery and worship.

The ultimate prize of athlete winning the Olympic Games was not so much as the physical awards but was worship. In ancient Greece each city has a god. And these gods were often thought of manifesting themselves through athletes. So if a person from one particular city state won great prizes in the Olympic Games it was a sign that the god of the city was manifesting himself in that athlete – and therefore worshipped. Winning in the Olympic Games seemed to have been taking more than mere human abilities; only a person possessed by god could outclass others. That was the greatest admiration and highest honor for the athlete who has won because now he is no longer a mere mortal but super human – a god to be worshipped and prayed on.

Things do not change often in this world. If you compare the extensive and intensive practice and training that goes into preparation for the Olympics today – the hard work and strain of the modern day Olympian is similar to back in 500 BC Olympians. Status that is accorded to athletes like Usain Bolt and number of other athletes is that of a god. The level of intensity and admiration of athletes and the status that is accorded to the Olympic Games across the world is still similar with the ancient Greece 500 years ago before Christ was born.

Let us contextualize this and briefly consider what the ancient Games actually consisted of way back in 500 BC. They were held then, as always, before and since, at Olympia, in the north-west Peloponnese. They were under the presidency of the local city-state of Elis. So far as the sports component went, there were by then nine main events, all for male competitors only: the stadion or one-lap sprint (about 200 metres); diaulos or 400 metres; dolichos or ‘long’ distance (24 laps); pentathlon; boxing; four-horse chariot race; pankration; horse race; and race-in-armour. But the sports component was only one part, and not the most important, of the five-day festival. The festival began with a swearing-in and oath-taking. It was punctuated by religious rituals and communal singing of victory hymns. And it ended with a religious procession to the Temple of Olympian Zeus, where the victors were crowned, followed by the sacrifice of many animals, feasting and celebrations.

To the ancient Greeks the sport of the Olympic Games was quite literally a religious exercise – a display of religious devotion and worship. The Olympic Games, the grand-daddy of all the many hundreds of regular and irregular athletic festivals held throughout the Greek world, were in origin part of the worship of Zeus Olympios (Zeus, the mighty overlord of Mt Olympos), far away to the north in Thessaly. Zeus Olympios is known for his erotic escapades. As Walter Burkert points out in his book, Greek Religion, "Even the gods who are not his natural children address him as Father, and all the gods rise in his presence." For the Greeks, he was the King of the Gods, who oversaw the universe. In the Hymns composed by the poet Homer Zeus is referred to as the chieftain of the gods.

Zeus Olympios’ spiritual characteristics are the thunderbolt, eagle and bull - all these qualities represent great strength, courage and speed that characterize the Olympic Games. It is because of these qualities of Zeus that eventually motivated people to start the Olympic Games as a form of worship to Zeus - the thunderbolt, Zeus the eagle, Zeus the bull.

You can see the religious spiritual qualities of Zeus that characterizes the Olympic Games persisting even today as the whole world stand in awe, adoration and admiration of the athletes competing.


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