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E. Norman Gardiner in 1917 wrote: As to the origin and character of the festival itself, the only evidence is to be found in the actual customs of the festival, particularly the time of the year when it was held, the four years cycle, the olive crown, the sacred truce, the exclusion of women. Are these still the decisive considerations for an understanding of what the Olympics Games meant in the eighth century BC?

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The Olympic Games played an important role in ancient Greece. The Quote by E. Norman Gardiner states what he thought were the decisive considerations for understanding what the games meant in the eighth century BC. To analyse this quote, is first necessary to outline the argument before it can be concluded if these considerations are still relevant. This essay will argue that while Gardiners quote is not incorrect, it fails to cover some important points which have since been highlighted. These additional points will be discussed before concluding that they also form part of the decisive considerations of what the Olympic Games meant in the eight century BC. Gardiner is ultimately stating that the only evidence we have available to determine where the games originate and its character, is in the ancient customs and traditions of the festival.[1] The customs he specifically points as being defining features are the four year cycle, the olive crown, the sacred truce and the exclusion of women.[2] For Gardiner, these defining features of the ancient Olympics allow us to understand what the games meant. While there is no doubt that these are important aspects in our understanding of the games in the eighth century BC, there are many other aspects of the games which would also help our understanding beyond what the specific rituals mentioned by Gardiner teach us. ...read more.


Gardiner neglects to comment on the military aspect and the role it may have played in the origins of the games. In his book, The Ancient Olympics, Nigel Spivey discusses the concept of these games as being ?war minus the shooting.? It is based on the idea that sport is inherently violent which is cemented by the fact that in the 8th century BC, ?wars encroachment on athletic activity was overt and frequent.?[8] The potential link between milititarism and athletics is an important point because it provides us with another aspect to consider when thinking about the origins of the games. Spivey argues that all games were understood to be war games which is indicated by the ability to rationalise each athletic contest with cavalry drills and infantry fighting.[9] This link is not given by Gardiner in the given quote, but should nonetheless be considered an important factor in these early games. Gardiner does indirectly point to the honour bestowed upon Olympic victors when he mentions the olive crown however again, this brief mention does not sufficiently explain the significance of Olympic glory to the athletes, where it was not the taking part that counted, but the winning.[10] The importance of victory is indicated by an epitaph belonging ...read more.


modern historians, were re-established to ?promote friendship, harmony and peace among the Greeks? and arguably to unite them in the event of an attack from outsiders.[16] There was also a deep religious aspect to the games which should not be ignored. As Spivey claims, in Greek Myth all the events which appeared at the Olympics during the eighth and seventh centuries BC were first participated in by gods or heroes.[17] For this reason, the Olympic Games were primarily a religious festival and the competition was a way of worshipping the gods, most notably Zeus who came to Olympia in the tenth century.[18] The Olympic games played an important role in ancient Greece, as Wendy Raschke states, the games were the cultural, religious and political forum of Hellenism? and the meaning of those games cannot be understood merely in the confines of the rituals and traditions of the games.[19] Although they provide significant insight into the meaning of them in the eighth century BC, they are not the only evidence which can be used to determine the origins and character of the Olympics. This essay has discussed some other aspects of the games as well as drawing on some other evidence to help explain the nature of the games. ...read more.

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