Truce - Myth and Reality
by Harvey Abrams
© 2000 Harvey Abrams. All rights reserved.
"All wars were canceled or postponed during the Games."
L.A. Times, October 18, 1983. Commentary prior to the 1984 Los
Angeles Olympic Games.
The notion that the Olympic
Games ended wars has been repeated so often in the past that
almost everyone believes it - even presidents of the United States.
More than one has actually said this. This year the United Nations
has even designated the year 2000 as the "Year of the Truce".
Thus the general public believes that the ancient Olympic Games
promoted peace among the ancient Greeks. People in many other
countries also believe that an "Olympic Truce" ended
wars. Imagine for a moment - the ancient Greeks stopped their
wars in order to go to the Olympic Games. What an incredible
phenomenon. Doing this today would be wonderful. The world would
be at peace. Why can't 20th century man (and woman) be as bold
and idealistic? But, alas, another ideal bites the dust.
I know this Website will receive
many letters to the editor in response to "that historian"
who knocked the "Olympic Truce." But I want you to
read slowly and think carefully about how truth becomes twisted
It is a modern myth that wars
came to an end during the ancient Olympic Games, a myth perpetuated
by historians, newspapers, and even politicians. It has been
repeated in books and encyclopedias. This is how kids learn about
the ancient Olympic Games. It is in print in so many places that
the truth has been overwhelmed by the myth.
The idea of an "Olympic
Truce" is a modern and idealistic misunderstanding of the
ancient Olympic Games and the "sacred truce" known
to the Greeks as ekecheiria. It is true that a truce did exist
in ancient Greece. But it certainly did not stop their wars!