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(Summer Camp) Myths and History of Ancient Olympia and the Ancient Olympic Games

Spyridon (Spiros) Loumakis
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In this camp, students will be introduced to the archaeological site of ancient Olympia, as well as the mythical origins and the social and political history of the ancient Olympics and delve into ancient art that immortalized the games

Class experience

US Grade 6 - 8
  • The students will learn how to dive into the turbulent history and mythical origins of the ancient Olympic games in a critical manner, and will learn how to observe and discuss artifacts and archaeological sites related to the ancient Olympic Games. They will be introduced to ideas such as the so-called "Olympic truce" and Olympic ambassadors, the non-monetary prize of the games, the participation of elite Greeks invested with prestige and power, and the heroic status of winners back into their home towns. Also, the students will learn how historians read between the lines of stories written about Olympic winners to praise their accomplishments. The class will help students put the organization of the games in their own ancient perspective, contextualize the exclusion of women, judge the role of gods and magic, and critically assess the ancient athletic morals. I am offering this class to show to students that studying ancient worlds, and comparing them with our own modern world, opens our horizons and feeds our own imagination of faraway lands and heroic times. But it also gives us critical thinking, perspective and makes us learn to respect the "other" and the "unfamiliar". Most important of all, by using all the information in this class learners will be able to analyze which aspects of the ancient Olympic games we have deliberately changed in modern times and which aspects we think we preserved, in which ways we bettered them, and in which ways we failed to surpass them.
I have a B.A. and M.A. in ancient Greek history and archaeology, as well as an M.A. in history and philosophy of religions. I have excavated in ancient Greek sites, I speak ancient and modern Greek and I am currently finishing my PhD. 
I have studied both the ancient and the very early modern Olympic Games, participating in University graduate classes, museum exhibitions, scientific conferences and scholarly publications. I am, also, specialized in various other cultural and social aspects of the society that gave birth to these games (i.e. the ancient Greek world). I have, also, personally visited the places I am going to show to learners. I will talk about places and artworks I have seen and visited myself.
Homework Offered
Assessments Offered
I do not believe that a letter grade is meaningful for a summer camp on mythology. However, as I often do with my camps, I communicate with the parents and the children directly, providing my personal comments, private feedback and an informal assessment. In addition, at the end of the camp a short (optional) quiz will be distributed to learners, to be filled out by them and sent back to me via my e-mail.
Grades Offered
Students will NOT need to purchase materials. There will be no extra cost for this course. 
(A) In the ancient Olympic Games the athletes who participated, were performing naked. The Greek word for a naked man is "gymnos" and that is why in English today we say "gymnastics" or "gym" although our children and athletes wear uniforms. This being said, any artistic reproduction of the games in ancient Greek art should be expected to show nude athletes. 
I try to use as less as possible, but it is not always within my hands since this is the nature of the ancient Greek art itself. Since, it is an art that comes from an era where there were no photographs, or videos, the art is found only on painted vases, wall paintings and sculpture. Nudity was never meant to provoke, but to tell to the ancient viewer that gods, heroes and athletes are extraordinary. As you may very well understand, I cannot change the history of art, nor my preference as teacher of mythology in showing students original art.

(B) From my experience at Outschool the past few years and after having taught numerous classes on ancient history, literature and mythology to many young students, I make sure the class material is age-appropriate. However, the history of ancient Olympic games may touch upon sensitive social questions of their times, such as the place of women, slavery-based economy, immoral behavior and the ethics of war. I have never received a negative feedback because any of the previous topics were brought up in my classroom, especially when there were times that the class dynamic and the maturity of students in fact allowed their discussion. Sometimes the students themselves started a discussion on one or more of these serious subjects. I never forced them into this discussion, but I also never stopped them. On the contrary, I guided them in order to balance their judgement between an ancient society and our own experience. If this happens during this summer camp, I will, once again, guide them on how to understand myths and history regarding sensitive aspects of the ancient Greek society. As a specialist in the scientific understanding of mythology and a trained historian/archaeologist of ancient societies, I teach that history and myths are not just to amuse, but also to explain the world.  
A great introduction to the subject is given in the book of Stephen G. Miller, Ancient Greek Athletics (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2004) which I have partially consulted for this camp.
Stephen G. Miller (died on August 11, 2021) was a prominent American archaeologist who excavated the archaeological site of Ancient Nemea in the Peloponnese, in south Greece, the place which hosted one of the four prestigious games of ancient Greece (Olympian - Pythian - Isthmian - Nemean). 
Joined March, 2020
As a father of two young kids, I put a lot of effort so as to entertain them in a productive, and educational way, making sure I feed their natural curiosity and encourage them to keep asking questions. Undoubtedly, television and video games are... 
Group Class


for 5 classes
5x per week, 1 week
60 min

Completed by 6 learners
Live video meetings
Ages: 11-14
3-6 learners per class

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