The Olympics in ancient Greece were very different from the Games that are being played today in Japan.
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For one, the Olympics were a brutal business. When athletes participated in the pankration – the mixed martial arts of the ancient world – boxing and wrestling were much more violent, gory affairs than what they are today. According to Imagining History, an organisation that provides educational history workshops in the UK, the pankration had only two rules: no biting and no poking out anyone’s eye. Other than that, everything was fair game!
Next, no women were allowed in the Olympics – neither as competitors nor as spectators. One woman, Perenike of Rhodes, dared to defy this rule. She disguised herself as a male boxing trainer and got through. When her boxer won, she celebrated with everyone but accidentally ended up revealing herself as a woman! Ever since then, all trainers had to attend the Olympics registration process in the nude.
Apart from prohibiting women from participating, the ancient Olympics also had no tolerance for cheating. Competitors who failed to comply with regulations were publicly flogged. Special officials called alytes stood ready to whip all athletes who, even accidentally, committed the offence of a false start in a track event.
If all this seems a little grisly, at least one good thing came out of the Olympics’ tough rules – all the city-states participating in the tournament signed the Olympic Truce, which ensured that states at war temporarily stopped all hostilities. The Truce allowed safe passage across Greece for athletes and spectators travelling to Olympia, where the tournament was held.
Compare the ancient Olympics with the modern one we enjoy today in our Crossword. Let us know if you enjoyed it at email@example.com.