The Virtue of Paganism: Olympics Lore

By Patheos Team

Many Pagans recognize that the roots of modern sport can be found in Greek and Roman pasts. It has been easy for the Christian community to appropriate sports as opportunities for evangelization, yet the history of the church and these early forms of sport is more problematic.

As one Pagan blogger points out, the consistency and integrity of the Christian church's attitude toward sports then and now is questionable. Christianity Today might agree, considering its comments on the Pagan origins of the Olympics.

New historical research suggests Emperor Theodosius may have had some very good reasons for outlawing the Games - ancient Olympia sponsored a few events the International Olympic Committee might just look askance at today. Not to mention what went on outside the arena.

WildHunt points out the ways that on one hand the Church protested the violence and aggression (and the immorality) of the games yet gleefully and belligerently proceeded to destroy art, architecture, and institutions that violated their sensibilities. 

Theodosius banned the Games, along with other festivals, for being "too pagan." Under the emperor's direction, fanatical Christians closed and later tore down ancient wonders of the world, most notably the Temple of Zeus built in Olympia and the Temple of Serapis in Alexandria. Search a bit more, and you might discover Theodosius's successor, Theodosius II, ordered his Roman army in 426 to demolish the impressive stadium of Olympia, which could accommodate more than 40,000 spectators at its peak.

WildHunt concludes, "Violence for the Lord is different however than violence for sport, so I'm sure they were in their rights. ... Yes, perhaps we should all frown at the fact that everything hasn't become completely white-washed by modern Christian values, because our downfall lays with our reluctance to ‘choose' the one ‘true' God over all this ‘mythological nonsense.'"

10/16/2009 4:00:00 AM
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