5. Athletic Events Proliferated in the Ancient World
Athletic scenes can be seen on the walls of many tombs, temples, and palaces of various ancient civilizations such as the Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Minoans, and Mycenaeans. The Minoans for example really liked gymnastics, and they depicted such events, plus scenes of bull jumpers, boxers, runners, and wrestlers on graceful frescoes. However, those athletic events were usually one-offs, and were mostly for royalty, aristocrats, and the upper classes. The ancient Greek Olympics were the first regularly held athletic competitions, open to all freeborn Greek men. Women could enter chariot races by proxy if they sponsored a team, but could not personally participate.
The first Olympic Games were held in 776 BC at Olympia, in the city-state of Elis, to honor Zeus. They were one of the four Panhellenic Games, although the most prestigious one. The others were the Pythian Games, held at Delphi in honor of Apollo; the Nemean Games held at Nemea, in honor of Zeus and Heracles; and the Isthmian Games, held in the Isthmus of Corinth, in honor of Poseidon. Olympic Games were held for over a thousand years, with the last recorded competition in 393 AD. However, archaeological evidence indicates that some games might have been held after that date.