Ancient olympia history
There are several Greek myths about how the games were started. The most common myth was the story of the hero Pelops, after whom the Peloponnese is named ("the isle of Pelops").
The story of Pelops was displayed prominently on the east pedimental sculptures of the Temple of Zeus. Pelops’ father was Tantalus, king at Mount Sipylus in Anatolia. Wanting to make an offering to the Olympians, Tantalus cut Pelops into pieces and made his flesh into a stew, then served it to the gods. Demeter, deep in grief after the abduction of her daughter Persephone by Hades, absentmindedly accepted the offering and ate the left shoulder. The other gods however sensed the plot and held off from eating of the boy’s body and brought Pelops back to life, his shoulder replaced with one made of ivory made for him by Hephaestus. After his resurrection, Pelops was more beautiful than before; Poseidon fell in love with him, took him up to Olympus and made the youth his lover, teaching him to drive the divine chariot. Later, Zeus threw Pelops out of Olympus, angry that his father, Tantalus, had stolen the food of the gods, given it to his subjects back on Earth and revealed the secrets of the gods.
Pelops, a man now, wanted to marry Hippodamia. King Oenamaus of Pisa or Olympia, her father, had killed thirteen suitors of Hippodamia after beating them in a chariot race. He did this because he loved her himself or, alternatively, because a prophecy claimed he would be killed by his son in law. Pelops came to ask for her hand, and got ready to race Oenomaus. Worried about losing, he went to the seaside and invoked Poseidon, his old lover. Reminding Poseidon of their love (“Aphrodite’sweet gifts”) he asked Poseidon for help. Smiling, Poseidon caused a chariot drawn by winged horses to appear. Still unsure of himself, Pelops (or alternatively, Hippodamia herself) convinced Oenomaus' charioteer, Myrtilus, a son of Hermes, (by promising him half of Oenomaus’ kingdom and the first night in bed with Hippodamia), to help him win. The night before the race, while Myrtilus was putting the chariot together, he replaced the bronze linchpins attaching the wheels to the chariot axle with fake ones made of beeswax. The race started, and went on for a long time. But just as Oenomaus was catching up to Pelops and getting ready to kill him too, the wheels flew off and the chariot broke up. Myrtilus survived but Oenomaus was dragged to his death by his horses. Pelops then killed Myrtilus because he had attempted to rape Hippodamia. As Myrtilus died, he cursed Pelops for his betrayal. This was the source of the curse that destroyed his family (two of his sons, Atreus and Thyestes killed a third, Chrysippus, who was his favorite son and was meant to inherit the kingdom; Atreus and Thyestes were banished by him together with Hippodamia, their mother, who then hanged herself) and haunted Pelops' children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren including Atreus, Thyestes, Agamemnon, Aegisthus, Menelaus and Orestes.
Pelops soon controlled the entire Peloponnesos (which means “Pelops’s island") and then took Oenomaus's kingdom in Pisa. During the Trojan War, Pelops's bones were brought to Troy by the Greeks because an oracle claimed they would be able to win by doing so.
A different version of the myth refers to the Olympic games as funeral games in the memory of Oinomaos.
As the ruler of the Olympian gods, Zeus wielded enormous power and almost absolute authority. He appears in Homer's Iliad in the role of imperious leader, a grandiose father figure to a pantheon of bickering deities. And although he is often portrayed as an omniscient, omnipotent being, even the mighty Zeus could be tricked (or, to put it more gently, distracted). This is indeed the case in the Iliad, in that wonderful scene where he is seduced by his wife Hera and consequently led to ignore the events taking place on the battlefield of Troy. There are certainly other instances where Zeus is deceived (the incident with Prometheus being but one more good example). These examples only demonstrate that although he was the god who ruled Olympus and its divine denizens, he was subject to the laws of Fate and was not in fact all-powerful. And just as the other deities had their own personal foibles, Zeus too had a weakness - he was passionately fond of female charms.
Another myth about the origin of the Olympic Games comes from the Tenth Olympian Ode of the poet Pindar. He tells the story of how Herakles, on his fifth labor, had to clean the stables of King Augeas of Elis. Herakles approached Augeas and promised to clean the stables for the price of one-tenth of the king's cattle. Augeas agreed, and Herakles rerouted the Kladeos and Alpheos rivers to flow through the stables. Augeas did not fulfill his promise, however, and after Herakles had finished his labors he returned to Elis and waged war on Augeas.
Herakles sacked the city of Elis and instituted the Olympic Games in honor of his father, Zeus. It is said that Herakles taught men how to wrestle and measured out the stade, or the length of the footrace.
Another myth said that Zeus himself had originated the festival to celebrate his victory against Cronus, to celebrate his victory Zeus organized games in whichthe Olympia gods themeselves competed, with Apollo winning most of the events (Apollo was fabled to be the first victor of the first Olympic games, due to his blazing speed and his superior archery skills.) These games were believed to be the predecessors of the olympics games.
- Heracles complete the 12 labors and return to Thebes and marry Deianira. Later the centaur Nessus tried to abduct Deianira; Heracles shot him with a poisoned arrow. The dying Nessus told Deianira to keep his blood, as it would always preserve Heracles' love. When Deianira later feared she was being supplanted by Iole, Deianira sent Heracles a garment soaked in Nessus' blood. It poisoned Heracles, who was taken to Olympus and endowed with immortality after death.