Ancient Greek Athletics
Stephen G. Miller
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The earliest Olympic games began more than twenty-five-hundred years ago. What were they like, how were they organised, who participated? Were ancient sports a means of preparing youth for warfare? In this lavishly illustrated book, a world expert on ancient Greek athletics provides the first comprehensive introduction to the subject, vividly describing ancient sporting events and games and exploring their impact on art, literature, and politics. Using a wide array of ancient sources, written and visual, and including recent archaeological discoveries, Stephen Miller reconstructs ancient Greek athletic festivals and the details of specific athletic events. He also explores broader themes, including the role of women in ancient athletics, the place of amateurism, and the relationship between athletic events and social and political life. Published in the year the modern Olympic Games return to Athens, this book will be a source of information and enjoyment for anyone interested in the history of athletics and the origins of the world's most famous sporting event.
equality before the law, this quality of ancient Greek athletics shows, and perpetuates, something of the national character. If the Homeric poems describe at least part of the nature of competitions in the Geometric and Orientalizing periods, they also indicate that athletics had not yet evolved into the form we shall see in later times. I noted that all the competitors received prizes. These prizes are significant, for they reveal the relative social status of the competitions. We have seen
fig. 284). The diskobolos (diskos thrower) was a favorite of sculptors, whose interest in anatomy and in the suggestion of motion was best satisfied b y this competition (see figs. 286 and 287). The athlete w h o threw the farthest w o n . Vase painters frequently s h o w an athlete with a diskos marking his throw with a small peg, or semeion (fig. 113). It is likely that each athlete labeled his peg in some distinctive w a y and moved it after each throw that improved his distance. Although he m
strange to us but which are essential to an understanding of the subject. Fundamental to the whole study is the word athlon, from which the name of our subject derives. Athlon is a noun that means, initially at least, "prize" or "reward." This prize can take any form: money, victory crowns, shields, amphoras filled with olive oil. Its value m a y b e real or symbolic, but the athlon is omnipresent in competitions. Its verbal form, athleuein, means "to compete for a prize," and the competitor w a
therefore he himself) was later removed from the realm of mere mortals. In 480 Euthymos was defeated at Olympia by another athlete w h o would become a hero. This was Theagenes from the island of Thasos, in the northern Aegean, w h o wanted to win both the boxing and the pankration at a single Olympiad. After defeating Euthymos in the boxing, Theagenes was so exhausted that he had no energy to compete in the pankration, which was w o n by Dromeus of Mantineia akoniti ("dustless," uncontested)
buildings because space is not as great a problem and the officials place more emphasis on p o m p and ceremony than on the efficient use of facilities. Further, the significance of a victory at Olympia could never be approached by one at a city, and a separate stadium symbolizes that greater significance. 181 T R A I N I N G Fig. 2 6 5 Xystos o f g y m n a s i o n at O l y m p i a w i t h its d o u b l e c o l o n n a d e , t r o m the s o u t h . Late 4 t h - e a r l y 3rd c e n t u r y B .