The Ancient Games

1 August 2012
Read Time: 1.4 mins

As the great sporting nations of the world continue to do battle we thought, here at Flight Centre, that we'd take a step back and have a look at the ancient games. It's generally accepted that the ancient competition began in 776 BCE in Olympia on the Greek Peloponnese. Today, interested travellers can explore the sanctuary where ancient athletes competed for the glory of their city state. There are also ruins of various temples and a gymnasium. While it no longer stands, interestingly the statue of Zeus became one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

The competitors came from many Greek city-states and also Greek colonies. The only requirements were that you must be a free man or woman and speak Greek.

So forget America, Russia and China - here are the top performing states from the ancient games.

 Ancient Ruins in Athens

The citizens of Sparta were applauded throughout the ancient world by their athletic prowess and military precision. As such they were very strong performers at Olympia. A Spartan woman, Kyniska, is generally acknowledged as the first female in history at win a wreath; her chosen field was athletics. Today the ruins of Sparta are fascinating to explore.

According to legend, Rhodesian Leonidas was one of the great runners of his era – perhaps the Usain Bolt of antiquity. History says he attended four consecutive meets and won 12 wealths in athletics. Visitors to Rhodes today will appreciate the medieval remnants and have the opportunity to relax on the Island's beaches.

The capital of modern Greece, was in ancient times, a significant city-state known as a hub for learning, philosophy and artistic pursuits. This was the home town for Socrates, Pericles and Sophocles. However it wasn't all academia in Athens – they also participated at Olympia. Today the Acropolis, which rises high above the modern city, is one of the great ancient sights.

Today we know Thebes from the Oedipus story but this central Grecian city located north of Athens, was one of the key contenders in antiquity. Remains of the ancient fortress can be investigated while you're in the region. The archaeological museum is also particularly impressive.

In our mind the ruins of ancient Corinth are some of the best preserved in the country – they're situated near the modern town of the same name. At one point, Corinth equalled the economic importance of Athens and Thebes and was well represented in friendly competition. It's worth travelling from Athens so that you can appreciate the isthmus that also dates back to ancient times. 

Lyndon Barnett

Guided by curiosity and a sense of adventure, Lyndon travelled independently to 69 countries on six continents. As such, travel is Lyndon's only addiction. He enjoys with equal measure - scaling the peaks of a South American mountain at altitude, attending opera in a European Opera House or hunting for a bargain in an Asian market.