Mythological Mondays: The Birth of the Olympics

Mythological Mondays is a feature I created to spotlight books brimming with--you guessed it--mythology! I adore this sub-genre and can't wait to share my love with all of my fellow bookworms! This feature isn't just focused on novel reviews; it may also include interviews, looks at original mythological tales, etc. Please feel free to do this with me! If you guys ever do a mythological feature and want to join this and snag my lovely mermaid, I would LOVE to see the feature. Leave a comment for us all to see! It doesn’t have to be Greek mythology, or even mythology per say. It can be mermaids, unicorns, or heck, even fairy tales (because I’m too lazy to do a separate fairy tale feature…). It doesn’t even have to be every Monday. I’m sure there will be Mondays when I skip, too!
I'm always excited when it's an Olympics year.  Whether it's Summer or Winter, I have my favorite sports, and it's the one time I really sit down and watch them most of the time.  Last night watching all the swimming and gymnastics, I was even inspired to take off my (almost freshly-done!) nail polish and redo everything with a special Olympics design in honor of the ongoing games (yes, I'm nuts...).

Today, I was curious about the roots of the Olympics and where they stemmed from.  Do you know how much mythology is involved in the origins stories?  I think the stories of how such an acclaimed event came into fashion are intriguing:
The Origins of the Olympics
NOTE: I pulled this word for word [with a few omissions] from: Ancient/Classical History.
These words are NOT my own and I don't claim them to be.  
I knew the actual passage told the history better than I could summarize!

1. One Olympic origins story is connected with one of the early members of the tragedy-ridden House of Atreus. Pelops won the hand of his bride, Hippodamia, by competing in a chariot race against her father, King Oinomaos (Oenomaus) of Pisa, in Elis. Oinomaos was the son of Ares and the Pleiad Sterope.

Pelops, whose shoulder Demeter had once had to replace when she accidentally ate it, conspired to win the race by replacing the king's chariot's lynch-pins with ones made of wax. These melted on the course, throwing the king from his chariot and killing him. After Pelops married Hippodamia, he commemorated his victory over Oinomaos by holding the first Olympic Games. These games either expiated his killing or thanked the gods for the victory.

According to Gregory Nagy, in "Chapter 4 Pindar's Olympian 1 and the Aetiology of the Olympic Games", Pindar, in his 1st Olympian Ode, denies that Pelops served his son to the gods at the infamous feast where Demeter absent-mindedly ate a shoulder chop. Instead, Poseidon abducted Pelops' son and repaid Pelops by helping him win that chariot race.

2. Another version of the origin of the Olympic games, also from Pindar, in Olympian X, attributes the Olympic games to the great Greek hero Hercules (Heracles), who held the games as a thank offering to honor his father, Zeus, after Hercules had exacted revenge on King Augeus of Elis. Foolishly, Augeus had defaulted on his promised reward to Hercules for cleansing the stables.

3. Pausanias 5.7 says the Olympic origins lie in Zeus' victory over Cronus. The following passage elaborates this and also explains musical elements in the ancient Olympics.[5.7.10] Now some say that Zeus wrestled here with Cronus himself for the throne, while others say that he held the games in honor of his victory over Cronus. The record of victors include Apollo, who outran Hermes and beat Ares at boxing. It is for this reason, they say, that the Pythian flute-song is played while the competitors in the pentathlum are jumping; for the flute-song is sacred to Apollo, and Apollo won Olympic victories.

A common thread of the stories about the origins of the Olympic games is that the games were instituted following a personal or competitive victory and were intended to honor the gods.


  1. Thanks for all the info! Now I'll really enjoy them!

    1. Right? I loved seeing the mythological roots. This was such a fun post to do!

  2. Hi! I just nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. Click here for more info:)

    And I love how you posted information about the Olympics! I'm watching it right now and am loving it this year :D

    1. Thank you for the nomination. I'm honored. :)

      I think this year is so solid! I'm sad all of my favorite sports are this week, because what's left to super-look-forward-to after this, but everyone is so solid and tight!!!

  3. What fun information. I love mythology and this post was great. The Olympics are such fun to watch.

    1. Aren't they fun? I think this post makes it even more fun to think about. Thank you for the comment! :)


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