“On this day in 392, the Roman Emperor Theodosius reaffirmed his determination to outlaw the worship of pagan gods by completely prohibiting paganism, and in doing so, abolishing the Olympic Games.
The Olympic Games have always been intertwined with politics and religion. They are thought to have started in the 8th century BCE on a site at Olympia, which was used for worshipping Zeus. With the growing competition amongst the Greek city-states at this time, came a desire to claim supremacy and thus each sent their most physically fit representative to compete. The Greeks considered the winners to have been championed by the gods, thereby continuing the tradition of worshipping Zeus, the supreme god, on the site. Moreover, the Games were held during a festival dedicated to Zeus and considerable sacrifices–some accounts say 100 oxen–were made.
As power shifted from Greece to Rome, the Games continued–especially under Roman emperors who were great admirers of the Greeks. However, once the Roman Emperor Constantine I converted to Christianity in the early 4th century, things began to change. After Theodosius came to power and the Goths successfully plundered significant parts of the eastern Roman Empire, paganism and the Games with it were outlawed–no more sacrifices to Zeus would be tolerated. The Games were halted and would not continue until the late 19th century.
The revival in the 18th and 19th century of interest in ancient Greek culture resulted in the return of the Olympic Games. In 1894, at the urging of a French aristocrat named Pierre de Coubertin, the International Olympic Committee was founded and the Games were reinstated.
From 6 to 15 April 1896, Athens hosted the first Games of the modern era, 1500 years after Theodosius abolished them. There is no apparent record of the number of oxen that were sacrificed during the event, however, we can assume that the ancients, and hopefully Zeus, would have been pleased.”
Credit: Alamy BKA1NX
Caption: Theodosius banned the Olympics due to the pagan practices associated with the games, such as animal sacrifices.