In Ancient Greece, athletic events were held not solely for the sake of the contest itself but, rather, within the context of religious festivals in or near sanctuaries in honour of the gods. The athletes competed first for the gods and then for their native city and themselves.
It was believed that the victors in the games did not distinguish themselves through their superior ability alone, but because they enjoyed divine favour.
[...] "Games and sanctuaries in Ancient Greece" celebrates the athletes, the games, the sanctuaries, the cities and, above all, the inspiring spirit of the ancient Greeks over a span of a millennium and a half - from the earliest mentions of athletics in Homer's "Iliad" and other literary sources, through the Classical age, and into the Hellenistic, Roman and late antique periods. That our modern athletes still compere every four years in such contests at the pentathlon, discus javelin, boxing, jumping, wrestling and running events, much as their ancient antecedents did centuries before them, is a testament to the longevity of competition, triumph and defeat.