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NIHIL NOVUM SUB SOLE

1001 deeds, sayings, curiosities and anecdotes of the ancient world

The "Sacred Truce" made possible the continuity of the Olympics for 1.170 years

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The ancient Olympic events have an obvious connection with several war and military activities, but the Olympics were only possible because the various Greek states, in permanent confrontation, agreed to a temporary truce of peace.

In the year 864 BC three Greek cities-states signed an agreement establishing a Sacred Truce to celebrate the Olympic Games in honor of Zeus peacefully. No doubt this truce enabled the hosting of the Olympics for over a thousand years. Even today, because of the modern Olympics, it is still asked for a similar truce, though without much success.

The origin of the athletic games in honor of Zeus at Olympia is very ancient. Mythical tradition attributes its creation to Heracles or Hercules.

Although the first Olympiad that was officially registered and resulted in the beginning of an era or way of dating events occurred in 776 BC, a key moment took place in 864 BC, when a treaty was signed between Iphitus for Elis, Lycurgus for Sparta, and Cleostenes for Pisa, to approve the famous Sacred Truce for three months that prevented war and declared inviolable the territory of Olympia and guaranteed the safety of pilgrims and athletes who came there to compete two months before the games begin.

During this period nobody could violate the territory of Elis by entering armed in it. The Sacred Truce, which proclaimed heralds throughout Greece, made possible the continuity of the games quite regularly every four years.

The text of the agreement agreeing to the truce, saying: "Olympia is a sacred place; anyone who dares to step this ground with armed soldiers, will be considered sacrilegious", was recorded on an ironed disc, which Pausanias, the ancient author of a famous guide to visit Greece who lived in the second century of Christ, claims to have seen in Olympia.

The truce was almost always respected, although the great historian Thucydides tells us how at one point the participation of the Spartans was banned for having attacked a fortress of Elis during the truce; although the Spartans argued that, when they attacked, the truce hadn´t been proclaimed yet, they were fined two mines per soldier, in total two thousand mines. A mine was 100 drachmas; a drachma was the average daily wage of a skilled worker. This violation of the truce happened in the year 420 BC. Elis forbade Sparta to make sacrifices and to participate in the Olympic Games claiming they had penetrated in the territory of Elis during the sacred truce the city-states had to respect. Probably the prohibition lasted until the year 400 BC.

As seen, nor the ancient Olympic Games, sacred then and in honor of Zeus, nor the current or modern ones purely sporty in appearance, were never apart from the politics of the moment, but the "sacred truce" was generally respected in the Antiquity. Now also, in modern times, it was intended since the beginning that the countries would ensure peace during the celebration and appeals for world peace are often made with the occasion of the Olympic Games celebration by the UNO General Secretary; evidently without much success. Recall how Olympic Games were held in Berlin in 1936, on the eve of the terrible World War II, which produced about 60 million of dead persons according to the most admitted estimations. It can also serve us as an illustration the impressive deployment of the British Army to ensure the peaceful celebration of the Olympic Games in London in the year 2012. Now the terrible threat is terrorism.

   
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