Athena's Web Weekly Column

Week of Aug 27th - Sep 2nd,  2004

The Olympics

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  Regular readers of the WEB are well aware of the many ways in which myth can often be translated into astronomical 'truth' by understanding the deeper symbolism embodied in the analogy. For instance, Chronus as the child of Gaia and Uranous is an apt metaphor for time as the union between Heaven and Earth. We have seen how many of the myths correspond to the 12 archetypes of the constellational signs, and how the planets weave their web in tales told around the fire. But myths are not limited to these simplistic interpretations, and as the power, pride and prestige of the Olympics returns to its origin in Greece, we uncover a new depth of time and myth which danced together almost three thousand years ago.

Olympic Race

An ancient Olympic Race

  The formula of time used for determining the Olympics is a movable one, like that used for Easter. Easter is always selected as the first Sunday after the first Full Moon (Passover) after the Vernal Equinox. The Olympics were always held on the eighth Full Moon after the first full Moon after the Winter Solstice. This would mean that the first Olympics occurred during the Leo/Aquarius Full Moon of 776 BC, the year traditionally associated with the start of Olympics. Interestingly enough, we found that the 'Olympic' contests from Chapter XXIII of Homer also corresponded to the Aquarian chapter of that series.

  Apparently, the Olympics were used in ancient Greece to help regulate the calendar. One of the problems with western interpretations of time is that we try to overlay 12 lunar months into a single solar year, and it's simply not a good fit. When our months began with the New Moon (and in antiquity many of them did), this correlation was essential to help keep time on track. Various methods were introduced to accommodate this discrepancy. For some, on every third year an extra lunar month would be inserted, much in the same way that we add an extra day every leap year. Caesar dispensed with this need to have to continually correct the calendar by cutting the Moon out of the equation altogether.

Discus Thrower

Discus Thrower

  But there's a another way to reconcile this discrepancy, and it's related to the Olympics. Apparently, the Greeks knew that every eight years, not only the Sun and Moon, but Venus as well, came very close to repeating their cycle. There are 2922 days in eight Solar cycles, 2920 days in every five Venusian cycles, and 2923.5 days in every 99 lunar months. Based upon these comparisons, the Greeks used a calendar called the octaeteris, which was a 'unit' of time precisely this size. According to both myth and Greek historians, the Greeks started keeping this eight year calendar when they started the Olympic games in 776 BC. In other words, the Olympic games were a 'New Year' festival, marking the start of their 'seasonal' calendar. This New Year festival was broken down into two periods of 49 and 50 months respectively, thus adding up to our 99 months, or eight years.

  There are various myths which speak of these relationships. One is of Pelops love for Hippodamia, one is of Atlante and her race for the Golden Apples, one is of Apollo's service to Admetus for eight years after he had killed the Python, and finally, one is the cleaning of the Augean stables by Heracles, after which he celebrated his success by establishing the games. More info on each of these may be found at: