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5 Ancient Greek sports that have made it into the 21st century

Sports and sports events are something interesting. On the one hand, there is the athlete. A man or woman who trained for years to give all his or her physical abilities in one match. On the other hand, there is us. The lazy spectators who enjoy all this human achievement while relaxing ourselves. Strangely, this is not something from the 21st century. Instead, many of the famous sports and sports events of today, date back to ancient civilizations. Here is an overview of 5 ancient Greek sports that have made it into the 21st century.

5 ancient Greek sports that have made it into the 21st century

The Olympic Games

The first Olympic Games were held in ancient Greece in 776 BCE. Originally they were a religious festival dedicated to the god Zeus. The Olympic Games were held every four years. Athletes from all over the Greek world would come to compete in various events such as running, jumping, throwing, and wrestling. 

The Games were so important to the Greeks that wars were suspended during the Games. This way, athletes and spectators could safely travel to Olympia. 

Today, the Olympic Games are still held every four years. They have evolved into a major international sports event.


Gymnastics dates back to the 7th century B.C. In ancient Greece, gymnastics was considered an important part of physical education and was performed by both men and women. It was believed to help build strength, flexibility, and grace. Essential parts of a well-rounded ancient Greek education.

In ancient Greece, gymnastics were performed in specialized training facilities called palaestras, which were often associated with athletic schools and used for athletic training and recreation. Gymnastics competitions were also held in ancient Greece. Gymnasts would perform a variety of routines like the long jump, the high jump, and the pentathlon. Gymnastics emphasized strength, flexibility, and grace.

The legacy of ancient Greek gymnastics continues to influence modern gymnastics. Many of the events and routines performed in ancient Greece can still be seen in modern gymnastics competitions. Today, gymnastics is a popular sport that continues to emphasize the values of strength, flexibility, and grace that were so important in ancient Greece.

The Marathon

The modern marathon race is named after the final journey of the ancient Greek soldier Philippides. He ran from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to bring news of a military victory over the Persians in 490 BCE. According to legend, Philippides ran the distance without stopping and delivered his message. “We have won!“. Afterward, he collapsed and died from exhaustion.

The marathon race was first included in the modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896. Since then, the marathon became one of the most popular and iconic international sports events. The standard distance of the marathon is 42.195 kilometers (26.2 miles), which was established to commemorate the route that Philippides is said to have run.

Today, marathons are held all over the world and attract thousands of participants and spectators. Due to its difficulty, the marathon has become a symbol of perseverance, endurance, and human achievement. Each race continues to inspire people to push their limits and reach new goals.


The pentathlon is a multi-event athletic competition. It was popular in ancient Greece, dating back to the 8th century BCE. The pentathlon consisted of five events: running, long jump, shot put, discus throw, and wrestling. The goal of the pentathlon was to test an athlete’s all-around abilities, as it required a combination of strength, speed, agility, and endurance. The pentathlon was considered one of the most challenging and prestigious events.

The legacy of the ancient Greek pentathlon continues to influence modern pentathlon. Still, the pentathlon tests an athlete’s strength, speed, agility, and endurance, but in a more modern way. Running, horse riding, shooting, fencing, and swimming were the chosen challenges since the 19th century. 


In ancient Greece, boxing was a popular sport and was included in the Olympic Games. The sport dates back to the 8th century B.C. and was a symbol of courage and strength. Moreover, the Greeks considered boxing as one of the most challenging and demanding sports. Boxers would train rigorously in preparation for competition, which was intense physical combat.

Ancient Greek boxers did not wear padded gloves. Instead, they wrapped their hands with leather straps called himantes. There were no rounds, no ring, and no weight classes. The competitors would fight each other until one would die or surrender. During the fight, everything was permitted. Punching, grappling, and clinching. However, there were judges who used a whip instead of a whistle.

The legacy of ancient Greek boxing continues to influence modern boxing. Fortunately, it has become slightly more friendly. 

Why do we watch sports?

One of the primary reasons for the development of sports was to prepare people for war. Ancient civilizations such as the Greek and the Romans believed that physical fitness, or sports, was essential for soldiers to be effective in battle, so they developed athletic competitions as a way to train their soldiers and build their physical prowess.

Another reason for the development of sports was to celebrate religious and cultural events. In fact, many ancient civilizations believed that athletic competitions were a way to honor their gods, and they would hold large athletic festivals as part of religious celebrations.

In addition, sports were a way for people to demonstrate their skills and compete against one another in a friendly and structured environment. People have always enjoyed competing against one another, and sports provided a safe and controlled outlet for this competitive spirit.

Over time, sports evolved into a form of entertainment and recreation, and people began to engage in sports for the sheer enjoyment of participating in physical activity and competition. Today, sports are enjoyed by people of all ages and from all walks of life, and they continue to be a source of physical exercise.

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