Both the ancient Greek and the modern Olympic Games have a fascinating relationship with religious rituals, beliefs, and practices. Test your knowledge of Olympic esoterica.

The ancient Olympic games were held in honor of:

The ancient Olympic Games were played as part of a religious festival, dedicated to Zeus.

What did NOT happen in Olympia during the games?

Although some local festivals did have torch relays, including the one in Athens, scholars say they were not a part of the ceremonies at Olympia. Olympia did have an eternal flame, however, which was used to light sacrificial fires. The torch ceremony as we know it today is a combination of these two traditions, and was introduced at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany.

All married women were banned from viewing the ancient Olympics--except for one, who was required to attend. Who was she?

The priestess of the goddess Demeter watched the Olympic Games from her seat in the temple of the goddess, on the eastern side of the stadium. She was given this privilege because a temple dedicated to this goddess had existed in the town from time immemorial.

The Greeks believed that no man could win an olive wreath without:

Although the athletes prepared for many months before the games, often following strict diets and rigorous training schedules, the Greeks believed the men could not succeed without the blessing of the gods. The athletes had to swear before the statue of Zeus Horkios, the God of Oaths, that they would compete honorably; and they left symbolic offerings on altars to Hercules, Hermes, Nike, and other gods.

Women had their own separate athletic festival, which was dedicated to which goddess?

The women's Games, which were called the Heraia, were held every four years in honour of the goddess Hera, the wife of Zeus.

The statue of Zeus by Phidias, revered at Olympia and considered one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, met its fate how?

Sometime in the 4th century the statue was transported to a palace in Constantinople, where it was later destroyed in a fire.

In a sacred ritual held on day 3 of the ancient games, 100 of what animal were sacrificed?

Animal sacrifice was central to pagan practice, and this rite, held outside the Temple of Zeus, was one of the most important ceremonies in Olympia. The ritual was followed by a massive feast.

The games at Olympia, held every 4 years for more than a millenium, were abolished in the year 393 C.E. because:

In a single edict, Holy Roman Emperor Theodosius, who was afraid of the continuing popularity of pagan festivals, ended the Games.

The modern Olympics were born in 1896, thanks to the efforts of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who saw the Games as:

Baron de Coubertin was once quoted as saying, "The first essential characteristic of the Olympics...is to be a religion."

The Olympic motto, "Faster, Higher, Stronger" was coined in 1891 by whom?

The official Olympic motto was coined by Dominican Father Henri Didon in an 1891 speech to the members of a sports association.

Nike, the goddess of victory, is depicted on the 2004 Olympic medals holding what?

The medals portray Nike as if she is flying in to the Olympic stadium to crown the victors.
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