Which is the toughest international Olympiad

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Olympic games

The pentathlon (pentathlon)

1. The discus throw: The pentathletes were especially loved by the audience. Their versatile skills and their athletic bodies corresponded to the ideas of the Greeks of a perfect human being.

But when the steadfast hero Polypoites took the disc, he threw it wide like a shepherd's bent throwing stick, That whirled in flight through the grazing cattle, Beyond the whole assembly; then the men screamed. "(Iliad 23 / 826ff)

2. The long jump: It was done from a standing start with the help of swing weights, the so-called holders. The jump distances were marked with lines in the raked earth of the jump pit. Since jumping distances of over 16 meters have been handed down, it is assumed that five jumps were added together.

  • The technique of throwing a disc was similar to that used today. Rights: SWR

  • The long jump was done from a standing position with the help of swing weights. Rights: SWR

3. The javelin throw: In contrast to today's javelin throw, the spear was thrown from the balbis with the help of two leather finger loops. This technique, adopted by the military, made greater distances possible. As with the other exercises, there were several attempts to achieve the greatest possible distance.

  • The statue of an ancient javelin thrower shows a similar throwing position as that of today's athletes. However, the spear was thrown with the help of leather finger loops on the spear. Rights: SWR

4. The run: All running disciplines started from a stone threshold, in the grooves of which the athletes found support, just like in the modern starting blocks. As today, the running tracks were 1.25 m wide. In the pentathlon, a stadium (approx. 197 meters) was probably run.

5. The wrestling match: The wrestling match was probably a standing match, in which the winner was the one who could knock the opponent to the ground three times. The extent to which violent holds were allowed is controversial. But killing the legs and kneeling was certainly allowed. In the pentathlon, the winner was probably who had won three disciplines first. If there was still no winner after the fourth discipline, the wrestling match had to decide.

Data on the sports of antiquity

Running and fighting disciplines

The running disciplines
The run is the oldest discipline of the Olympic Games and has its roots in the sacrificial services at the old cult site Olympia. According to Pausanias, the running disciplines were carried out in the order Dolichos (up to 4600 m), Stadium Run (one stadium, approx. 197 m) and Diaulos (394 m).

  • The oldest Olympic disciplines: the running competitions. Rights: SWR

  • Race in full armor over two stadiums - sweaty and hard-working ... Rights: SWR

The fighting disciplines
"If Pisa (Olympia) has an ear of Andreolos, Plataiai has one of the eyes. For dead they carried him away in Pytho (Delphie)." (Epigram)

The fighting disciplines that took place on the 4th day in the golden age of the Games included wrestling, fistfighting, all-round combat and the gun barrel.

The Wrestling match was probably a standing fight, in which the winner was the one who could knock the opponent to the ground three times. The extent to which violent holds were allowed is controversial. But killing the legs and kneeling was certainly allowed.

  • The martial arts disciplines in antiquity were not squeamish - at best the wrestling match can be compared with what is permitted today. Rights: SWR

The Fist fight required a greater degree of hardness from the athletes than the wrestling match in pentathlon, because the fighters hit each other until one gave up or collapsed. The initial leather strap around the knuckles was replaced by iron-studded flap edges at the end.

The crunch of the jaws was terrible, and sweat poured down from the limbs. Then the noble Epeios rose, struck the spy on the cheek, he could no longer stand, and his gleaming limbs broke down. "(Iliad 23 / 658ff)

It was even harder than the fistfight All-fight (pankration). You fought with your bare hands until the opponent gave up or could no longer defend himself. They hit each other, choked, dealt deep blows, kicked the opponent in the abdomen or tore his ears. The pankration resembled the continuation of the struggle for life and death after losing arms, as it was often important in times of war.

The Gun barrel the heavily armed man over two stadiums was considered an excellent war exercise, in which one had to run with a helmet, greaves and shield, as in combat. With the combat tactic of the gun barrel with the surprising running up of the enemy in full armor, great successes were achieved in the period that followed in the Persian Wars.

The horse competitions

The horse competitions, the so-called "Hippic Agone" of the 2nd day in the Golden Age of the Games, consisted of chariot races and horse races.

They all raised their scourges over the horses at the same time, beat them with their oars, and called them stormy with words. And they crossed the flat terrain in a hurry (...) Once the wagons rolled along on the nourishing earth, Then again they jumped high into the air (...) "
(Iliad 23/351)

The chariot races: The four-team races served only to illustrate the glory and honor of the princes and rulers of Greece. Here the equipment of the teams was seen as a sign of wealth, the victories as a sign of power. At the beginning and end of the route of the hippodrome, which was specially built for the horse competitions, there were pillars that had to be driven around very tightly and daringly up to twelve times, which inevitably led to accidents.

Horse racing: To enrich the program, competition was introduced at the 33rd Olympiad. As in all fights involving horses, the honor of victory in races was given to the owner of the horse, not to the rider. This made the horses the "real" heroes of the competitions, the riders remained insignificant. For example, the mare Aura was awarded the victory after winning the race, although she had already lost her rider shortly after the start.

  • The Charioteer of Delphi - an Olympic Champion; Rights: SWR

  • The real heroes of these competitions are the horses, not the riders. They achieve the Olympic victory for their owners. Rights: SWR

A famous Olympic champion: Milon von Kroton

The best example of a famous winner was the wrestler Milon von Kroton, who was already a boy wrestling champion before his Olympic successes as an adult. His eating and drinking skills must have been even more astonishing than his wrestling skills, however. Legend has it that he once drank nine liters of wine on a seat and appeared in the war like Hercules, with a club and a lion's skin. Still, we shouldn't think of Milon von Kroton as a mindless muscleman. He was a singer, poet and book author, also a close friend of Pythagoras, the great Greek philosopher, and saw himself in his lifestyle as the embodiment of the Pythagorean ideal of harmony of body and mind.

In the myths of the Greeks, Milon came to an end as befits a demigod: Alone in the forest he saw a freshly felled tree with wedges for splitting. Convinced of his own strength, he put both hands into the crack to tear the tree apart. He also managed to pull the tree apart enough that the wedges slipped out; but then the tree snapped back and both of Croton's hands were pinched. Alone in the forest, croton was then torn apart by wild animals during the night. Presumably Milon and other followers of Phythagoras were slain by an angry crowd - but at the behest of a fellow citizen rejected by the Pythagorean Order.

© Text: Gerhard Reckendorf / SWR