Swimming was practiced by early man to cross rivers and lakes, and evidence of swimming can be seen on the Babylonian bass-reliefs, on the Stone Age cave paintings in Egypt and on Assyrian wall drawings. It has also been mentioned in Greek mythology and was practiced in Rome. However, swimming as a professional sport did not begin until the 19th century.
In 1828, the first baths opened in Liverpool, England, and swimming competitions were held in London's pools as early as 1837. The National Swimming Society of Great Britain introduced swimming as a sport and the breaststroke was the main form of swimming for most early swimmers.
Swimming as a sport has also been recorded in Japanese tradition. Emperor Go-Yozei declared in 1603 that school children should learn swimming and participate in inter-school racing.
The first international race took place in a suburb of Melbourne, Australia called St. Kilda on February 9, 1858. The winner was an Australian named Joseph Bennet who defeated the English swimmer Charles Steedman. The first race in the United States was held by the New York Athletic Club in 1883.
In 1896, swimming was introduced as an event at the Olympic Games in Athens, where the men's races consisting of 100 meters, 500 meters and 1200 meters were held.