Zeus, Heracles, Myth and the Olympics

This page will lead us to various materials on the origins of the ancient Olympic games

  • How did the ancient Greeks believe that the games began? Comparing this aetiololgical myth to others we have studied, consider the myth that Pindar presents in his Tenth Olympian Ode about the role of Heracles. Browse through the poem. Pindar is a major source of information about the Greek conceptualization of the Olympics. Consider also his First and Second Olympian Odes. If you are ambitious, search through the rest of Pindar for further references to the Olympics. (Links need restoring in this paragraph)


  • Consider the account by Gregory Nagy on Pelops, Heracles, and the Olympic games.
  • On the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, there were pictures of the 12 Labors of Heracles. You can study these images in either a small or large scale. Does anything about the appearance of Heracles strike you as important, given this context?


  • Note the association of Zeus with Nike (Victory), as seen in the drawing above and in a vase painting


  • What about the Olympics themselves and their role in Greek society? You can read a modern summary with links to further information, or more original sources. Pausanias provides interesting information on women in the ancient Olympics. (Links need restoring in this paragraph)


  • Explore Olympia, the site of the ancient Olympic games.


Return to the Classical Mythology course page.