Dedicated to Zeus, god of moral law and order and god of the elements with his iconic thunderbolt, the ancient Olympic games were religious in nature. The original Greek athletes were amateurs and the part they played in Hellenist culture was to spread the idea that practicing sports and physical games was good for the body and led to a harmonious lifestyle just as eating fresh healthy foods and sleeping well bring us a higher standard of living. Though the ancient Olympian athletes excelled at their sport, they were only amateurs. But excelling at an Olympic game was highly celebrated, boosting one's notoriety in their Greek community. But history shows that when the Roman Empire conquered the European world (including the Olympic games), the religious aspect was dropped and the athletes were no longer the village youth who excelled but the most professional athletes the Romans could recruit from their vast Roman Empire beginning a new era exhibiting the Roman style of savage sport that was the norm at the Roman Colosseum where massive crowds cheered and gamblers placed their bets.
Suellen Ocean is the author of the historic novels, The Celtic Prince and The Lies of the Lion available at Amazon, B&N and Ocean-Hose. http://www.pacificsites.com/~oceanhose/