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The Ancient Olympics

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The ancient Olympic Games began in 776 BC. No one now knows the reasons for the first game. There are myths, though. One myth tells about a hero named Heracles. He won a race and then declared that the same race should take place every four years. Another myth suggests that the Greek god Zeus started the Olympics!

The name of the athletic contest comes from Olympia, the place where the games were held. Like the modern Olympics, these ancient games were held every four years. Athletes and spectators from the ancient city-states traveled across Greece to participate and watch. In later years, Greeks from all over the Mediterranean came, too. Some historians believe that the city-states even stopped wars so people could safely get to the games. And if an athlete were in the army, he could leave to join the contest. Only free men who spoke Greek could participate, though. In addition, the athletes had to take an oath. They swore that they had practiced for the games for ten months or more.

Unlike the Olympic games of today, there were fewer events. In fact, there was only one event at first, a race the length of the stadium. Several more running events were added later, including one in which the contestants had to wear armor and carry a shield. This was called the "Hoplite race." There was boxing and wrestling, chariot racing, and the discuss throw, javelin throw, and long jump. With more events, the Olympics became longer. They eventually lasted five days. The first day and final day had religious ceremonies, and the second, third, and fourth days were dedicated to sports. The last day also had a great feast for all the participants.

The ancient Olympic Games ended in 393 AD when the Roman Emperor outlawed the games and festival.


Step 1: You will listen to an article about the ancient Olympics. The article is about three minutes and thirty seconds long. Listen only, and don't worry about understanding everything.
Step 2: Read and understand the questions, then listen again. As you are listening, try to answer the questions in your head. Don't write the answers yet. Next, listen again and write the answers this time. Check your answers with a partner.
Step 3: Read the article. Check in your dictionary any unknown words. Now listen again. Can you understand more?
Step 4: Listen! Listen! Listen! Listen to the article on the train or in your free time. Each time you listen, you will slowly improve!

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