Olympics: Six ways the Games have helped shaped culture

Six ways the Olympics have shaped culture

What have the Greeks ever done for us*?

Well, in fact, their festivals, originating more than 2800 years ago, continue to impact our culture. And it's not just the Olympics.

From Meyers' Ancient History:
Besides the Olympian games there were transmitted from prehistoric times the germs at least of three other national festivals.

These were the Pythian, held in honor of Apollo, near his shrine and oracle at Delphi; the Nemean, celebrated in honor of Zeus at Nemea, and in Argolisfand the Isthmian, observed in honor of Poseidon, on the Isthmus of Corinth.

Just when these festivals had their beginnings it is impossible to say, but by the time the historic period had fairly opened, that is to say, by the sixth century B.C., they had lost their local and assumed a national character, and were henceforth to be prominent features of the common life of the Greek cities.
Here are six ways Meyers says these Grecian festivals helped shape sport, literature, rhetoric, and social interaction: 
Six ways the Olympics have shaped culture
"They enkindled among the widely scattered Hellenic states and colonies a common literary taste and enthusiasm; for into all the four great festivals, save the Olympian, were introduced, sooner or later, contests in poetry, oratory, and history. During the festivals, poets and historians read their choicest productions, and artists exhibited their masterpieces. The extraordinary honors accorded to the victors stimulated the contestants to the utmost, and strung to the highest tension every power of body and mind.
Six ways the Olympics have shaped culture
"Particularly were the games promotive of sculpture, since they afforded the sculptor living models for his art. 'Without the Olympic games,' says Holm**, 'we should never have had Greek sculpture.'
Six ways the Olympics have shaped culture
"Moreover, they promoted interaction and trade; for the festivals naturally became great centers of traffic and exchange during the progress of the games.
Six ways the Olympics have shaped culture
"They softened, too, the manners of the people, turning their thoughts from martial exploits and giving the states respite from war. for during the season in which the religious games were held it was sacrilegious to engage in military expeditions.
Six ways the Olympics have shaped culture
"They also promoted interaction between the different Grecian cities and kept alive common Hellenic feelings*** and sentiments.
Six ways the Olympics have shaped culture
"In all these ways, though they never drew the states into a common political union, still they did impress a common character upon their social, intellectual, and religious life."

*And while we're at it, what about the Romans?
**Adolf Holm, History of Greece, 1895.
***Patriotism vs. nationalism?

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