| Stories of the Ancient Greeks|
|by Charles D. Shaw|
|Delightful collection of both mythological and historical stories of the ancient Greeks, in language simple enough for younger listeners, yet appealing to all ages. Provides an excellent introduction to ancient Greece, beginning with 32 of the best-known myths, and then continuing with 32 short stories of the historical era, arranged in chronological order. An extensive pronunciation guide is included. Ages 8-11 |
THE OLYMPIC GAMES
 THE Greeks were very fond of athletic games. The greatest
of these were held once every four years at a place
How early these games began to be celebrated nobody
knows. They had fallen out of use for some time when
Iphitus, a friend of Lycurgus and king of Elis, gave
them a new start. From that time on for hundreds of
years they were very popular.
They began on the day of the first full moon after the
21st of June. Four days were given to the games;
on the fifth day there were processions, sacrifices,
and banquets in honor of those who had won the prizes.
All wars were stopped for the whole month in which the
games took place. It was to be a time of peace and
pleasure for everybody.
No Barbarian, or slave, or man who had broken the laws,
could take part. The Greeks called all foreigners,
Barbarians. Women were not allowed even to see the
games. If any woman did so, she was thrown from the
top of a high rock. Women, however, could send
chariots to the races, and sometimes won a prize.
There were twenty-four different events, divided among
the four days. Eighteen were for men, six for boys.
 First was a foot race, second a double foot race twice
around the ring, third a still longer race. The fourth
event was wrestling, the fifth was the pentathlon,
which included a long jump, a foot race, throwing the
quoit, throwing the spear, and wrestling. Sixth came
boxing, seventh a chariot race for four horses, eight
the pancratium, which was boxing and wrestling, ninth a
horse race, tenth and eleventh a foot race and
wrestling for boys. Then there were chariot races with
mules, with two horses, with four colts, with two
colts, a foot race of heavy-armed soldiers, and
pancratium, or boxing and wrestling, for boys.
Sometimes there were only two judges, sometimes eight,
or ten, or even twelve. It was their duty to see that
all the laws of the games were kept and to give the
prizes. They wore purple robes and had reserved seats
in the best place. They took solemn oath to be just
In foot races, running, leaping, boxing, and wrestling,
the poorest citizens could take part as freely as the
richest. But every one who entered had spent ten
months in careful training, and faithfully promised to
do everything fairly and to use no tricks or
Owners of chariots were not obliged to drive, but could
hire men for that purpose. Alcibiades once sent seven
chariots and won three prizes.
The prizes were only wreaths of wild olive, cut from a
sacred tree that grew near by. Palm branches were also
placed in the hands of the victors.
When a man or a boy won a prize, his name, the name of
his father and of his country were called out by
 heralds. He was invited to the great banquet given by
the people of Elis to the winners. He was considered
to have honored his city, and when he went home a
procession met him, and songs in praise of him were
A statue of him was carved from stone and set up in the
highest place of Olympia. This was not a city, but a
spot full of temples and altars to the gods and statues
of the victors in the games.
People journeyed to these exhibitions from all parts of
Greece and from many foreign lands. Deputies were sent
from different cities, each of whom who tried to dress
more splendidly and to make a finer display than his
A great deal of business was done in buying and
selling. All kinds of good could be bought there, and
it was like a huge fair.
Painters showed their pictures, and poets and
historians read their works before the crowd. This
helped to educate the people, who had not many books,
and who would rather listen than read for themselves.
Those were times of great enjoyment, and the Greeks
took much pleasure in them. The year of the games and
the three following years were called an Olympiad, and
time was measured by them. Events were said to have
happened in the fifth, or twentieth, or fiftieth, or
any other Olympiad.
Other games like these were held in different parts of
Greece at various times, but none of them were so
splendid or so interesting as the Olympic games.
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