Lecture: Ancient athlete culture: Narrator: Listen to part of a lecture in an ancient history class. Professor: I don't know about all of you, but I've been thoroughly enjoying watching the Winter Olympics this year. And it came as such a great time in our curriculum. We're just coming to classical Greek culture and that's exactly where the Olympics have their roots. The first Olympic games can be traced back to 776 B.C.E. and it's pretty remarkable how in many ways, the ancient athletes really created the blueprint for high level organized competition. Just like today, it was all in the training that is rigorous and regimented training. Male Student: It started in Olympia, right? Professor: Oh, um, yes, that's right. The games were held every year as a Pan-hellenic festival, meaning that all of hellas ... hellas was the ancient name for Greece, by the way, that all of the cities and alice were allowed to compete. The games gave an opportunity for traditional rivals to stratify their differences for a while and fight it out on the field. The olympics were the symbol of peace, and um, and a celebration in honor of Zeus, king of the Gods too. Female Student: It had to be different back then, though, right? I mean, competitors today have the best equipment, specialized trainers, plus all the knowledge of modern science and anatomy. It's hard to imagine the ancient athletes could hold a candle to there. Professor: That's a good point. But the training required for ancient Olympians was structured and demanding, just like it is today. Competitive sports evolved as Greece itself developed, um, during the time of great strides in science and philosophy. You ... you've heard of the name Hippocrates, the great Greek physician, he studied Olympians and believe the athletes with the best endurance balanced hard training with lower intensity workouts. So, um, an athlete shouldn't just abruptly stop after running or wrestling all day in the Sun. Instead he should take a long walk after a hard workout, easing his body to rest. It's a well founded concept still in practice today. Male Student: Right? A cool down session. We do that after basketball practice. Funny that was in use so long ago. Professor: That it was. A basic four day training cycle became almost universal practice for ancient Greek athletes. Day one consisted of preparation, toning muscles with weights and shorter, harder workouts. Day two was the toughest. Um it was the day of the longest and most strenuous exercises. Day three was the day of rest with maybe some mild activity, and day four was moderate athletes practiced wrestling with one another say or exercise with three pound weights in each hand. That was seen as a way to develop general arm strength for competitions like javelin throwing. Female Student: It really sounds like the same philosophy of effort at training today. I'm just a little skeptical that the olympians back then could possibly be in the kind of shape of today's athletes. Like I was reading about the eating schedules of competitive swimmers. And they're so specialized. Professor: That's true. But food was a huge part of the culture of the time. And the diets of ancient olympians were seen as key to their performance. Certainly what they ate was quite different from today's elite competitors, but the human body requires protein for muscle and carbohydrates for energy, then and now. Male Student: So those ancient olympians had a pretty regimented diet then? Professor: Yes. But keep in mind that class played a role in who competed. See only greeks in the upper class could afford to eat more regularly. So growing up, their families were able to provide them with much more protein for building body mass. Most greeks only ate meat during religious festivals. Female Student: Wow, that kind of inequality is really, really maddening. What about female athletes? How are they treated? Professor: Actually? Uh they weren't. For most of Greek history, women couldn't even take part. Competitors had to be Greek male and free men. Women were allowed to own charity though, and could win medals if their horses won the race. As this was well, a very different time, we can't expect modern standards to hold, not at all. For instance, all training and competition were done in the nude, actually rub olive oil and sand all over their skin to regulate body temperature and protect from sunburn, prior to beginning the training process. Male Student: That must have made it tough. Instead of the specialized equipment athletes have today, they had no equipment at all. Professor: None, indeed.