How did ancient athletes prepare for the Olympics?

Unlike today, there was no prize for coming second in the Ancient Greek Olympics.

This article was first published in the April 2016 issue of History Revealed

How did ancient athletes prepare for the Olympics?
6th-century stele relief of a restling competition, from Kerameikos necropolis. (DEA / G. NIMATALLAH/De Agostini/Getty Images)

Winning was everything, so athletes went to great efforts to achieve success, starting with arriving a month before the games so they could train and check out the opposition.

They not only had to master their own moves, but make sure they stay on the right side of the officials. Referees at ancient Olympic wrestling could whip competitors to make them stop an illegal move.

Housed away from society, much like a modern Olympic Village, Greek sportsmen were subjected to a punishing exercise regime in order to be at the peak of both physical fitness and beauty – they wanted to look good if they were going to compete naked.

Diets were strictly controlled and competitors were expected to abstain from any pleasures, such as sex, which may physically weaken them.

Answered by one of our Q&A experts, Miles Russell. For more fascinating question by Miles, and the rest of our panel, pick up a copy of History Revealed! Available in print and for digital devices.

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