Swimming is, by far, one of the most popular pastimes in the world. It is also one of the oldest. As an organized activity, swimming dates back to around 2500 BC. Swimming was immensely popular in ancient Egypt, and there are a number of relics from the period which depict the act of swimming in vivid and awe-inspiring detail. In ancient Greece and Rome, swimming was taught to boys as part of their elementary school curriculum. Furthermore, the first known public swimming pools were built in Rome.
Under the direction of a wealthy Roman lord named Gaius Maecenas, the first heated swimming pool was also built for public use. Plato, himself, once declared that anyone who could not swim lacked a proper education. Who dares to argue with him? Aside from the Greeks and Romans, many other ancient cultures have left evidence of their love for swimming; among them the Babylonians, Assyrians, and Phoenicians. There is also evidence of competitive swimming in Japan over 2000 years ago.
In the 1830’s, swimming became extremely popular in England with the establishment of various swim clubs. At the time, the breaststroke was the most oft used technique. In 1885, Captain Matthew Webb became the first man to swim across the English Channel and the breaststroke was his technique of choice. Two of the most popular swim clubs from the time were The Otter Swimming Club and The Leander Swimming Club.
In 1896, the first of the modern Olympic Games were held in Athens, Greece. Naturally, competitive swimming played a significant role. The swimming event was held in the Aegean Sea, in the bay of Zea. The gold medalist for the swimming event was a fellow named Alfred Hoyos Guttman. Of the event, he said that his greatest struggle “was against the towering twelve-foot waves and the terribly cold water.” Swimming continues to play a prominent role in the Olympic Games.
Swimming continues to be the sport of choice for many of today’s athletes. Most cities have public swimming facilities, where you can swim for competitively or merely for fun. In fact, a number of public swimming areas also offer lessons for a very reasonable price. If you are a keen swimmer, you might even consider installing a pool in your backyard. With summer just around the corner, it would be a good time to start planning.