Long before Baron Pierre de Coubertin, after a nearly 1200-year hiatus, organized the Modern Olympics of “Athens 1896,” the Ancient Olympics that began in 776 B.C. honored countless athletes every four years, including some famous Armenians.
Among them, Prince Varazdat Arshakuni (Վարազդատ in Armenian; Latinized as Varasdates), later King of Armenia, was the last known recorded Ancient Olympic victor who won the boxing event at the 291st Olympiad (in 360 A.D.). A memorial plate, now in display at the Olympic Museum in Olympia, Greece, details his win as the most honored champion of the 291st Olympiad. At the 265th Olympiad, 79 years earlier (281 A.D.), another of the famous non-Greek winners (in wrestling) was the Armenian King Trdat III (286-342 A.D), who in 301 A.D. adopted Christianity as the state religion, making Armenia the first Christian nation. The exploits of both kings were chronicled by the Armenian Historian Movses Khorenatsi (Moses of Khoren) in his History of Armenia.
The end of the Ancient Olympics came in 393 A.D., when the Roman Emperor Theodosius I, a convert to Christianity, legally abolished the games as an old “pagan” religious rite. In 1998, the International Olympic Academy installed in Olympia a marble bust by sculptor Levon Tokmajyan, honoring the Armenian King Varazdat Arshakuni (360 A.D.).