The Ancient Olympic Games
The first recorded ancient Olympic Games were held in 776 BC. They continued to be celebrated about every four years, until the emperor Theodosius I suppressed them in 394 AD.
- Only free men (not slaves) who spoke Greek could compete, rather than athletes from any country as in the modern Olympics.
- The games were always held at Olympia instead of moving around to different host cities every time as in the modern Olympic Games.
- At the first recorded ancient Olympic Games, there was only one event - the stade. The stade was a unit of measurement (about 600 feet) that also became the name of the footrace because it was the distance run. Since the track for the stade (race) was a stade (length), the location of the race became the stadium. (see more about the events of the ancient Olympics).
- The early Olympic Games were celebrated as a religious festival from 776 B.C. until 393 A.D., when the games were banned for being a pagan festival (the Olympics celebrated the Greek god Zeus).
- Athletes in the ancient Olympic Games would participate in the nude. The word "gymnasium" comes from the Greek root "gymnos" meaning nude; the literal meaning of "gymnasium" is "school for naked exercise.