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Ancient Greek Olympics: The Pentathlon I

In addition to the footrace, athletes competed in four other events during the ancient Greek Olympics: the discus throw, javelin throw, long jump, and wrestling. In this article, you will learn some of the similarities and differences that the events from ancient Greece shares with modern time competitions.

Discus Throw

There were no standardized settings for participating in the discus throw, as participants simply hurled flat pieces of stone or metal. The few examples of discuses that have been excavated in Greece ranged in weight from 3 to 12 pounds with a diameter of 7 to 13 inches. They were also made of varying materials, including lead, bronze, and iron. The discus used in modern games weighs slightly less than 4 ½ pounds.

The exact way that a participant threw their discus is not known. However, copies of Roman publications called the Discus Thrower suggest that the techniques were not that different from the methods used today. There is only one description of a discus toss that has survived history. It speaks of the distance of a toss made by Phayllus of Croton, who had a record of around 100 feet.

Javelin Throw

How far you could throw a javelin was the concern of ancient Greek judges. As time went on, participants started to concentrate on the accuracy of their throw. Measuring six feet, the javelin was a lightweight wooden pole that was blunt at both ends. The ancient Greeks threw the pole in a similar manner to modern athletes, such as having a running start to the throwing line. Javelin throwers would use a piece of leather called a thong during their event. This leather strap formed a loop and was attached to the pole. It made it easier for an athlete to get a good grip on the pole, which allowed them to throw it farther and for a longer time after the release.

It wasn’t until the end of the 5th century BC that the goal of the event went from trying to have the farthest throw to being accurate in their tosses. Poles were replaced by spears that an athlete would hurl toward a target. There were two different methods for throwing the spear , on foot and from horseback.

Long Jump

With a running start, athletes attempted to jump as far as they could, and land with their feet together. The ancient Greeks also incorporated two jumping weights that were similar to dumbbells, which helped them achieve greater momentum as they leaped into the air. Today, we measure the distance of the jump, but ancient Greeks also included the measurement for the hop and skip as well. An example of a long jump in ancient Greek times was 55 feet , achieved by Phayllus of Croton.