Ancient Shaming Of Olympic Cheating

Samuel Reason | August 27th, 2019

Cheating in the Olympics has always been a controversial topic, even during ancient times. And in ancient times, the Olympics did not travel from city to city like today. They started in 776 B.C. and they were held quadrennially in Olympia, which was the city dedicated to Zeus. This was an amazing and thriving city of ancient Greece, with statues dedicated to the gods. Of course, there was a bronze statue of Zeus holding two thunderbolts, and this particular statue was very famous – in fact, it was ingrained in the Olympic tradition.

Known as Zeus the Oath Giver, before each Olympics could begin, every athlete had to come up and swear an oath to the god of thunder. They vowed they would follow the rules and regulations, and play fair. Athletes would come from all over modern-day Spain and even as far as the Black Sea, and they all swore this oath. The modern-day equivalent would be the International Olympic Committee’s code of ethics, which asks the athletes to respect each other and compete with respect for the Olympic spirit. It is a mutual understanding of friendship, solidarity and fair play.

The summary is don’t cheat. But alas, for some the lure of being a champion is so great, they will do anything to get there. And this was true during Ancient Greek times also.

Cheating may not have been as evolved during that time, but Ancient Olympians were no stranger to discovering cheaters in their midsts – the evidence quite literally lies the stories of its creation. Greek mythology is full of jealousy, greed, trickery, and deceit – so even if the Greek gods were above cheating, the Greek people knew that human nature could do it.

Therefore they employed a cunning plan to shame these cheaters. All along the path to Olympia, they built statues of Zeus to greet the Olympians on their way to the games. And on each statue they made a plaque which chastised and shamed the competitor for their misconduct. It started with the boxer Eupolus of Thessaly who bribed his opponents to let him win.

And the Greeks built many statues, because well there were plenty of athletes who cheated – eventually the path to the city was filled with statues shaming the cheaters.

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