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The Olympic Truce - Myth and Reality
by Harvey Abrams
Original text © 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 in myth.

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!

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