Archive for the ‘Festivals’ Tag

Ancient Greek Olympics   24 comments

The mythological origins of the Olympics


The Olympic Games, originally a religious event, was the most important national festival of the ancient Greeks originally created to honour Zeus, king of the Greek gods. It is also said that Zeus founded the Olympic Games to commemorate his victory over his father Kronos whom it is claimed he wrestled with at Olympia.



profimedia-0086671418Apollo competed in a footrace with Hermes and also defeated Ares, the god of war, in a boxing match. And the heroic Hercules, descendant of the Idaean Herakles who guarded Zeus after he was born along with 1758162-herc02_mediumfour other Daktyloi was also was said to have taken part in the Games. 


Records of the Olympics date back to 776 BC when the official "First Olympiad" was held. The games were held every four years (time periods which the Greeks called Olympiads.) Discontinued by Emperor Theodosius I of Rome in the 4th century AD, they were not reinstated in Athens till 1896.



                                    The Olympics – sacred festival

HalicarnassusTheaterThe Olympic stadium was built southwest of Athens in Olympia close by Zeus’s temple. The 42 foot high gold and ivory statue of Zeus residing within the temple’s walls was sculpted by Pheidias, and was viewed as one of seven wonders of the ancient world.

Zeus’s alter was said to have been erected on the site struck by a thunderbolt, the god had hurled from his throne aloft Mount Olympus, the assembly point of the gods. To honour this legend Elis’s coins were engraved on their reverse side with the design of a mighty thunderbolt.









Individual competitors trained rigorously. Winning an Olympic contest was a glory held in higher regard than winning a battle but was also intended through displays of great strength and personal agility to be pleasing and impressive to the gods, to whom athletes often prayed to for victory and made gifts of animals, produce, or small cakes, in thanks giving offerings for their victories. They were presented with garlands of laurel, a tree that was sacred to Apollo following the transfiguration of his cherished Daphne into a laurel tree. They were then given a crown of olive wreaths, and gained the privilege of being viewed as national heroes.

Women and the Olympic Flame




 2426272Male competitors were proud individuals, usually competing nude, in order to strut and display the strength and prowess of their perfectly worked out bodies.

Consequently women, foreigners, slaves, and the unfortunates who had been dishonoured were prohibited from competing; Married women, were barred altogether from even watching any Olympic events, with dire consequences if they disobeyed, the only exception being the chariot races where the olympic-torch-9men were fully clothed.

They did however have their own Games in honour of the beautiful Hera – the Heraia, at Argos, held for women every four years until the time of the Roman rule. This was a sprinting competition in which sixteen women took part in three races, divided by age.

olympictorch-postprocessed-byrjt2004image007And it should not be forgotten that one of the most enduring images of the Greek Olympic Games are the those of the priestesses endowed with beautiful costumes igniting the Olympic flame with a colossal solar reflector.

The Olympic Torch or Flame a symbol of the Olympic Games originated in Ancient Greece and symbolizes fire, which was Olympic_Torch-2stolen from Greek god Zeus by Prometheus. The sacred flame burned by way of celebration throughout the ancient Olympic Games in Olympia inside of the temple of Hera, carefully guarded by her priestess and it said to have never gone out since its first lighting.

Today eleven women, representing the “Vestal Virgins”, stage a ceremony in which the Olympic torch is set ablaze by the light of the Sun. The Olympic Torch Relay ends on the day of the opening ceremony in the central stadium of the Games.

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The Isthmian Games 

olympic_coinThe Olympic Games were just one of Greece’s four major national festivals – others known as the Pythian, Nemean and Isthmian Games. The Isthmian Games were of a lighter hearted nature than the others and as such were especially well received.

Olive leaf prize

The Olympic Games were held to honour Zeus, whereas the Isthmian Games were a festival of athletic and musical competitions which honoured the sea god Poseidon whose legendary sanctuary was on the Isthmus of Corinth. Poseidon also presided over earthquakes and horses, and in the early Olympic Games, chariot racing with horses was a very important component of the Games.

The Isthmian Games were held in spring every second and fourth years of the Olympic Games. They competed for a prize consisting of a wreath of celery and later, for one of pine leaves and sometimes a statue or an ode.


21st Century Athens Olympics Opening Ceremony



Mars–the Ancient Roman god of War   33 comments


There are many myths and legends referencing Roman history extolling the virtues held in particularly high regard by the Romans: duty, self-sacrifice, honour, bravery, and truthfulness. These were also characterised in Roman gods, minus the very human weaknesses and vices displayed by the Greek gods, from which most of the Roman gods were poached. Names were changed such as for the twelve Olympian Gods and Goddesses who ruled the universe from atop Greece’s Mount Olympus.

Mars is the ancient mythological Roman God of War (Mars Gradivus), (Ares in Greek myth, Tyr in Norse myth) Depicted as a fearless warrior he was the god of war, murder and bloodshed. He was also the god of spring, god of agriculture, and protector of cattle. mars

Mars, the son of Juno and a magical flower was the Roman god of fertility and vegetation. Roman soldiers offered sacrifices to Mars before and after combat and it was said he appeared on the battlefield with the warrior goddess Bellona. Mars unlike his Greek parallel, the god Ares, was hold in higher regard than any of the other Roman gods, partly because of the importance of military achievement in the republic and the Roman Empire, conquering Northern Africa and much of Europe and the Middle East. Mars ranked second only to Jupiter, probably because his twin sons Romulus and Remus by Princess Rhea Sylvia were said to have founded Rome. Consequently the Roman people called themselves the Sons of Mars. Together with Jupiter and war god, Sabine Quirinius, he was one of the three great guardians of Rome. mars2

Mars is portrayed as a full battle armoured warrior, sporting a crested helmet and carrying a shield. The planet Mars and the male gender are both represented by ♂, which also represented Mars’ shield and spear. The wolf and the woodpecker are sacred to Mars and he is accompanied by Fuga and Timor, portraying flight and fear. (Phobos and Diemos in Greek mythology –moons of the planet Mars).

The month March originates from Roman month Martius is named after Mars. The Romans honoured him with festivals throughout March, when new growth begins in the fields and military conflicts restarted. March 1, saw the celebration the Feriae Marti (“Festivals of Mars”). On March 14, the annual horse race of the Equirria was held, on the army’s and athlete’s training ground, the Campus Martius (“Field of Mars”). On March 23, the Tubilustrium was celebrated by purifying weapons and war-trumpets. October 19, was the Armilustrium festival celebrated in Mars’ honour, when the weapons of the soldiers were cleansed and stored.

In the Regia on the Roman Forum, the hastae Martiae (“lances of Mars”) were kept in a small chamber. If Rome was heading into conflict, the warlords shook their lances fiercely while repeating the words Mars vigila (“Awaken, Mars!”).

Structures such as statues and temples, associated with Roman gods and myths can be found far from the ancient capital Roman mythology’s influence extending farther and lasting longer than the Roman Empire. In Britain an old mosaic displays the she-wolf feeding Romulus and Remus. It is a reminder of the days when Rome ruled Britain and a mark of how far Roman mythology spread.

Posted November 26, 2010 by europasicewolf in Mythology and Symbolism

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