The Modern Versus The Ancient Olympics

August 1, 2012 in Daily Bulletin

How would our athletes today have compared with the Olympic athletes from ancient Greece over two millennia ago? Brian Palmer found out:

  • The first of the modern Olympics took place in 1896 and the ancient Olympians might have had a chance then. They would at least have been in the running for a few medals.
  • However in the present our Olympians easily outshine the ancient Olympians. The discus record in ancient Greece was about 95 feet. The modern record is 243 feet.
  • The exception is the long-jump. Ancient Olympics record distances greater than 50 feet, almost double the modern record. However this might be because of differences in methodology and the classification of what constitutes a long-jump.
  • But the ancient Greeks had several things going against them which makes them difficult to compare to modern athletes:
    • They only trained for a few months before the games.
    • Dubious dietary supplements were used in attempts to boost performance.
    • The competitors had to walk 36 miles to get to Olympia, the home of the Olympics. This would mean that they were tired by the time they began to compete.
  • But perhaps the ancient Olympians would have found a way to even the playing field. They were not above cheating or crippling their opponents.

To read more including some ancient Olympic records, how they compare to modern ones, the differences in how distances were measured, how some of the events differed, one way that the Olympics hasn’t changed at all, ancient training regimes, strange diets, hexes on opponents, and some of the forms of cheating and maiming that were prevalent, click here.

Source: Slate