Many people think that swimming is a modern habit and earlier in history people couldn’t really swim for some reason. More and more historical sources say that the opposite of this is true, and swimming was one of the basic human skills way back in
Those uneducated people who can neither swim nor read or write don’t get appointed public officials" – said Plato.
Not only ancient Greeks but Egyptians, Chinese, Germans and Hungarians swam in their everyday life. Stone Age cave paintings in southwest Egypt and Libya depict our swimming ancestors. Assyrian combat training included teaching the Assyrians how to swim – of which reliefs survived – and young people in Israel also had to learn the art of swimming. Herod (73 BC) made learning how to swim obligatory for every boy.
There are even some relics in Egypt that show several swimming techniques (freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke), some of this can be found in Benihasan from the times of the 11th dynasty from 2000 BC.
In the tombs of kings images of swimming can be found which leads us to the supposition that they knew the open armed backstroke besides freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke, which is called double arm swimming today.
In Japan learning swimming was an important part of training samurais. This was one of the noblemen’s skills.
According to historical sources, the first known swimming contest was organised by Emperor Suigi in 6 BC in Japan.
Body culture was peaking during the Zhou dynasty (11th-3rd centuries BC) in China. From this period there are notes of swimming through rivers.
Obviously there were exceptions in that period too. For example Alexander the Great didn’t know how to swim.