3 things you didn’t know about the ancient Olympics

Pro: No Zika. Con: Military intimidation.
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On Saturday, a new exhibition, The Games: Ancient Olympia to Atlanta to Rio, opens at the Millennium Gate Museum, highlighting plenty of Greek artifacts—including a model of the statue of Zeus at Olympia. Here are three things you might not have known about the ancient games.

Ancient Olympics Millenium Gate Museum
It wasn’t exactly a friendly competition.

Each sport was meant to show off skills that would be useful in battle. “For example, a talented wrestler would also likely dominate in hand-to-hand combat,” says Samantha Wright, curator for the Millennium Gate Museum.

Ancient Olympics Millenium Gate Museum
Women could technically win one event.

“In chariot racing, the owner of the horse team was considered the competitor, not the charioteer,” says Wright. If the winning owner was a woman, she would be declared the victor.

Ancient Olympics Millenium Gate Museum
Winners became A-list celebs.

Triumphant athletes lived a life of leisure back home, says Wright. “If a victory was especially thrilling, their city-state would commission a bronze statue of the athlete to be placed in the sanctuary complex that contained the temples to the gods.”

Illustrations by Ty Dale.

This article originally appeared in our August 2016 issue.

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