Long before Baron Pierre de Coubertin resumed the tradition of the Olympics in 1896 after an almost 1200-year hiatus, Ancient Olympics have been carried out since 776 BC. This grand event has been held every four years, and among the athletes participating were renowned Armenians.
One of them was Prince Varazdat Arshakuni (Latinized as “Varasdates”), to-be King of Armenia, who was the last known winner of the boxing event in the 291st Olympiad in 360 AD. A memorial plate that is now showcased at the Olympic Museum in Olympia, Greece, features him as the most honored champion of the 291st Olympiad.
At the 265th Olympiad in 281 AD, another famous non-Greek winner was wrestler and the future Armenian King Trdat III (286 – 342 AD) who adopted Christianity as the state religion of Armenia in 301 AD, thus making Armenia the first state to do so.
The deeds of both Trdat III and Varazdat were covered by Armenian historian Movses Khorenatsi in his “History of Armenia.”
The tradition of the Olympics ended in 393 AD when Roman Emperor Theodosius I, a convert to Christianity, legally canceled the games, considering them an old pagan religious ritual. In 1998, the International Olympic Academy installed a marble bust honoring Armenian King Varazdat Arshakuni.
The bust created by Levon Tokmajyan is installed in Olympia.