Zeus, Heracles, Myth and the Olympics
An artist's conception of the Statue of Zeus at Olympia
This page will lead us to various materials on the origins of the ancient Olympic games.
- An overview 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.
- Consider the
account by Gregory Nagy on Pelops, Heracles, and
the Olympic games.
- On the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, there were
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?
read summaries ofthe relevant myths.
- 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. First, one passage in Herodotus and then another. Pausanias provides
interesting information on women in the ancient Olympics.
- Explore Olympia, the site of the ancient Olympic games.
Return to the Classical Mythology course page.