What just happened?

To celebrate Vikings Live, we have replaced our Roman alphabet with the runic alphabet used by the Vikings, the Scandinavian ‘Younger Futhark’. The ‘Younger Futhark’ has only 16 letters, so we have used some of the runic letters more than once or combined two runes for one Roman letter.

For an excellent introduction to runes, we recommend Martin Findell’s book published by British Museum Press.

More information about how we have ‘runified’ this site

 

Ancient Olympics – modern Olympics

Many of the competitions of the modern Olympic Games are inspired by ancient games and sports.

The ancient Olympics were held every four years from 776 BC to 393 BC at Olympia in Greece. Since 1896 the modern Olympic Games have also taken place every four years, but moved to a new city each time. Medals from the 2012 games in London even went on display in the British Museum before the competitions began.

Themes you might also like

Share this page

Cup showing athletics (Greece, 470–460 BC)
  • 1

    Cup showing athletics (Greece, 470–460 BC) 

    Athletics

    Perhaps the most famous competitions of the modern Olympic Games are the athletic events.

    The ancient Greeks competed naked in the athletics competitions – fortunately, some things have changed in the last 2500 years.

  • 2

    Discus-thrower (Italy, Roman copy of original from the 400s BC) 

    Athletics

    Perhaps the most famous competitions of the modern Olympic Games are the athletic events.

    The ancient Greeks competed naked in the athletics competitions – fortunately, some things have changed in the last 2500 years.

  • 3

    Amphora showing scene from a chariot race (Greece, 500–480 BC) 

    Equestrianism

    Only ancient Greeks with plenty of money could afford to maintain a chariot and horses. Wealthy citizens and Greek statesmen were anxious to win the horse races. They sometimes drove their own chariots, but usually employed a charioteer. The races took place in an arena called the hippodrome. The most dangerous place was at the turning post, where chariot wheels could lock together and there were many crashes.

  • 4

    Commemorative medal of 1908 London Olympic Games (London, AD 1908) 

    Equestrianism

    Only ancient Greeks with plenty of money could afford to maintain a chariot and horses. Wealthy citizens and Greek statesmen were anxious to win the horse races. They sometimes drove their own chariots, but usually employed a charioteer. The races took place in an arena called the hippodrome. The most dangerous place was at the turning post, where chariot wheels could lock together and there were many crashes.

  • 5

    Kylix showing wrestlers (Greece, 490–480 BC) 

    Combat sport

    A big attraction at all the Greek games were the ‘heavy’ events – wrestling, boxing, and the pankration, a type of all-in wrestling. Specialists in the sports could win large sums of money all over the Greek world, once they had proved themselves at Olympia.

  • 6

    Commemorative medal from 1980 Moscow Olympics (Poland, AD 1980) 

    Laying down weapons

    Traditionally the Olympic Games were a time for warring states to come together in a time of peace, to celebrate and compete together. The Games are still supposed to be non-political and countries which do not normally cooperate are expected to put aside their differences for the duration of the competition.

    This has not always happened, however. This medal from the 1980 Games in Moscow shows an athlete raising a laurel branch. The Games were boycotted by athletes from a range of countries, however, over the USSR’s involvement in conflict in Afghanistan at the time.

  • 7

    Medal from the 1908 London Olympic Games (London, AD 1908) 

    Prizes

    Valuable prizes could be won in athletic contests all over the Greek world, but victory at Olympia brought the greatest prestige. Winning contestants were allowed to put up statues of themselves inside the sanctuary of Zeus to commemorate their victory.

    In the modern Olympic Games we award people medals and play their national anthems.

  • 8

    Metal electrotype of medal for the first modern Olympic Games (Paris, AD 1896) 

    Celebrating the games

    Each time the Olympic Games are held a huge amount of memorabilia is produced to help us remember the event. Souvenirs of Games held many years ago can nowadays change hands for large sums of money.

    Do you have any old Olympic souvenirs? As well as acting as reminders of the competition, they could be worth something one day!

  • 9

    Commemorative medal from the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games (China, AD 2008) 

    Celebrating the games

    Each time the Olympic Games are held a huge amount of memorabilia is produced to help us remember the event. Souvenirs of Games held many years ago can nowadays change hands for large sums of money.

    Do you have any old Olympic souvenirs? As well as acting as reminders of the competition, they could be worth something one day!