This week’s letter for the ABC’s of Ancient History is O. When I think of the letter O, the first thing that pops in my mind is the Olympics. I am going to share some hands on activities as well as some fun resources to help make studying the Olympics in ancient times a memorable part of your year.
About the Olympics
The Ancient Greeks believed in the value of sports as training for warfare and thought that they were a way to honor their gods. The Olympics were held every four years in the city of Olympia beginning in 776 BC. The games were a way to honor Zeus and were held until the end of the 4th century. At that time, Emperor Theodsius of Rome ruled that the Olympic Games were a pagan ritual and banned them. The Olympic Games were so important to the Greeks that wars between the states were even put on hold so that competitors could compete in the games. The Olympics lasted for five days and the most popular sport was the pentathlon. It included discus and javelin throwing, jumping, running,and wrestling. Women were not able to compete in any of the events. The Ancient Greeks didn’t receive medals like the athletes today. Instead they received wreaths made of wild olive leaves and great honor in their home town.
Hands on Learning
Lets have some hands on fun and try our own pentathlon! You can do it with a group, or even with an only child. You will need a few simple items to begin. A javelin can be made out of a pointer. Make it a little more authentic and cover the end with foil. You can even use a stick! For the discus we used a plastic plate, but you could also use a Frisbee. You will also need a stick or a line of tape, and a timer. You can make the games even more authentic by wearing Greek type clothing. We used a twin sheet and wrapped it around AJ to look like a tunic. First up is the javelin throw. Starting at a starting line have each child take turns throwing the javelin as far as they can. If you are doing it with more than one child, mark the landing place of each javelin with a piece of tape. The child who threw theirs the farthest wins. You can do the discus toss the same way.
Next up is the jumping. Starting with their feet behind a line have each child jump as far as possible. Mark the landing place with a piece of tape. Give each child three tries counting their farthest jump. The person with the farthest jump wins. The next event is running. You can have a race to see who can run to a marked spot first, or time each person while they run to see who has the shortest time. The last event is wrestling. Wrestling in Ancient Greece was very violent and sometimes ended in death. Instead of regular wrestling, have an arm wrestling match. In the end, give your winners a wreath made of olive leaves. There are so many ways to make it, we made ours out of construction paper and pipe cleaners.
Here are some fun books and websites to help you learn more about the Olympics.
- You Wouldn’t Want To Be a Greek Athlete We love these books! They take a topic in history and bring it to life. Some of the pictures and contents may not be great for really young kids, but they are full of great information.
- BBC Olympic Games This website has a lot of information about the Olympics. It even has a game where you can see the ancient city of Olympia.
- It’s Greek to me At this website you can pick a country to represent and answer questions to try and win the gold medal for your country.
- History of the Olympic Games This is a short 2 minute video about the Ancient Olympic Games.
- Greece Lapbook This lapbook is free and focusses on all of Ancient Greece. There is a lot of good information about the Olympics in it.
There are so many more resources available! I hope you are able to have fun learning all about the Olympics.
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