Saturday, June 11, 2016

Mythology and the Olympic Games

There are several Greek myths about how the games were started. The most common myth was the story of the hero Pelops, after whom the Peloponnese is named ("Pelops’ isle"). The story of Pelops was displayed prominently on the east pedimental sculptures of the Temple of Zeus. Pelops was a prince from Lydia in Asia Minor who sought the hand of Hippodamia, the daughter of King Oinomaos of Pisa. Oinomaos challenged his daughter's suitors to a chariot race under the guarantee that any young man who won the chariot race could have Hippodamia as a wife. Any young man who lost the race would be beheaded, and the heads would be used as decoration for the palace of Oinomaos. With the help of his charioteer Myrtilos, Pelops devised a plan to beat Oinomaos in the chariot race. Pelops and Myrtilos secretly replaced the bronze linchpins of the King's chariot with linchpins made of wax. When Oinomaos was about to pass Pelops in the chariot race, the wax melted and Oinomaos was thrown to his death. Pelops married Hippodamia and instituted the Olympic Games to celebrate his victory. A different version of the myth refers to the Olympic Games as funeral games in the memory of Oinomaos.



The oldest myth, however, which concerns the beginning of the Olympic Games is that of Idaios Daktylos Herakles. According to other myths, Zeus, the father of the Gods, fought and defeated his father, Cronus, in a struggle for the throne of the Gods. Herakles started the games in Olympia in honour of Zeus, due to the fact that the latter had helped him conquer Elis when he went to war against Augeas. 

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