At the modern Olympic Games, the first, second and third place athletes are rewarded, by gold, silver and bronze medals. At the Ancient Greek Games, there was only ONE winner. The winner's prize was an olive branch wreath or crown which was placed on their head.
The ancient Olympics were a religious festival as well as a sporting event. They were held in honor of the Greek god, Zeuss.
The Ancient Greeks thought that the gods chose the winning athletes. They believed that the gods had a messenger named Nike. She would fly down to the athletes and inspire them to win.
Only Greek-born men could compete in the games. The winning athlete brought glory to all the people of his home town. When he returned from the Games, he was given a hero’s welcome. Poets would write verses telling of his great win. Sometimes a statue of him would be built and sometimes his picture would be put on coins. People throughout the Greek world would know and remember him for a long time.