"But who in contests or in war achieves the delicate glory is magnified to be given the supreme prize, splendor of speech from citizen and stranger" Pindar, 5th century BC

From the 8th century onwards, the emergence of the first city-states (poleis) caused rapid developments in athletism. Various systems of gymnastics were set up in each city-state, including gymnastic exercises, musical training, reading and writing. As long as aristocrats were in power, training aimed at the supremacy of the young members of the noble families, by enhancing their physical strength and intellectual virtues. The education of the young people aimed at helping them to develop both their body and mind and achieve harmony. Physical exercise was accompanied by music. Music, dance and athletics were all helped to achieve the harmonious balance of the body and the mind.

A plethora of local festivals were organized by the emergent city-states in the 8th century BC. They provided a variety of competitive contexts in which most of the citizens of the city-states had the opportunity to demonstrate openly their virtues and fight for excellence. Gradually, music and athletic contests evolved into organized regional festivals of a repetitive nature. Such contests were directly connected to the cults of the gods or heroes and had religious character.

In these religious festivals, athletic competition became a formal vehicle for the members of the community to demonstrate their abilities.
Athletes from various places gathered to demonstrate their physical and moral virtues in honor of the local deity or hero. By demonstrating the strength of his body, an athlete pleased the gathered crowd, won recognition and made his city-state famous henceforth.
Such gatherings pleased the local god and thus, were held in his honor. The athlete's victory was celebrated by making offerings to the local god. Various types of offerings, such as tripods and figurines indicate how significant this victory was for the athlete and his homeland.

Egypt & Mesopotamia | Minoan Crete | Mycenean Greece

Homeric Age | Why Olympia?