Monday, April 6, 2009

Today in history...

Today is Ron's birthday, so happy birthday, hon. Better and better every year.

As long as I was considering the date, I thought I'd look into what other momentous events (and, yes, my husband's birthday is momentous) occurred on this day in history.

On April 6, 1896, the modern Olympics began in Athens. (By way of interruption, because that's what I do: I interrupt myself constantly but continue to try not to interrupt others--although I suppose interrupting your reading is an interruption, except that it's my writing you're reading, so even an interruption is a continuation of said writing and therefore not an interruption at all. Where was I? Oh, yes, seeing April 6, 1896, written like that makes me wonder why we here in the US were so stubborn as to decide we had to differ from the British and, I'm thinking, everyone else in the world by not simply writing 6 April 1896 and thereby doing away with extraneous punctuation: two wasted commas every time.)

My question was therefore: Why and when were they (the Olympics) ever abolished in the first place.

I'll get to the why in a second, but the when is 393 A.D. The by whom (even if I didn't ask) is Theodosius I.

As for the why . . . It's all about religion, of course (the nudity had nothing to do with it, by the way).

The Olympics had been around since 776 B.C. as a pagan celebration, a means of honoring the gods and dedicated to Zeus. When Rome conquered Greece, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, and Theodosius I took it upon himself to ban a 1000-year-old tradition.

Theodosius I is also known for a little something called the Nicene Creed--the revised version, not the original as put forth by Constantine in 325. The Nicene Creed is most well known for establishing the doctrine of the Trinity as orthodoxy. The Nicaea council was called in reaction to a man named Arius who said that although Jesus was divine, he was created by God and therefore there was a time he did not exist. I have no interest in arguing the doctrine, as I'm well aware my own religious beliefs are rather baffling as well. I simply find it fascinating that a doctrine as vital to most of Christianity as the Trinity came about because the emperor and roughly 300 (of 1800 invited) bishops opposed one man's creed. Arius and the two bishops who still supported him at the end of the debate were exiled and excommunicated for their unwillingness to agree with the council's majority vote.

Also on their agenda was the determination of the date for celebrating Easter. Christians originally relied on the Jewish calendar and the timing of the Passover to determine the date of Easter. But the council decided the Jewish calendar was too disorganized. The result after much argument--and four or five more centuries--is what we have now: Easter falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon following the Spring Equinox. Much clearer, huh?

Not much in politics has changed over the last millennium or so when you really think about it. Maybe it's best just not.

I think I preferred thinking the Olympics were banned because nude pole-vaulting just became too dangerous and it took us 1500 years to realize clothed athletes were a good idea.

1 comment:

Ron said...

Now I understand why she asks me to do push ups in the nude on my birthday :)