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The Olympic Games Lecture Summary Ancient and Modern Olympics Events Facilities Logistics Prizes Meaning Ancient and Modern Games Past approaches to the ancient Olympics were anachronistic – they interpreted the ancient games through the ethos of the modern games

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The Olympic Games

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lecture summary
Lecture Summary
  • Ancient and Modern Olympics
  • Events
  • Facilities
  • Logistics
  • Prizes
  • Meaning
ancient and modern games
Ancient and Modern Games
  • Past approaches to the ancient Olympics were anachronistic – they interpreted the ancient games through the ethos of the modern games
  • modern games emerged in the late 19th century (1896) in connection with: 1. Emergent Greek Nationalism, 2.English and French Social Policies
ancient games
Ancient Games
  • Ancient Games – were not multi-national, far fewer events, did not rest on notions of peace and brotherhood
  • Ancient Olympics: 1. A religious festival, 2. an occasion for aristocratic display of arete, 3. Occasion for inter-polis competition, 4. A statement of Greek identity in an age of colonization
summary of events at ancient games
Summary of Events at Ancient Games
  • Horse Race
  • Chariot Race
  • Running
  • Wrestling
  • Boxing
  • Pankration
  • Pentathlon (Running, Jumping, Discus, Javelin, Wrestling)
keles the horse race
Keles - The Horse Race
  • very aristocratic event (only the rich could keep horses)
  • The horse owner was the victor, not the rider
  • Rider rode without saddle or stirrups but carried a goad and used spurs
  • Course consisted of 6 laps around two turning posts (approx. 7.2 km)
chariot races tethrippon 4 horse chariots
Chariot RacesTethrippon – 4 Horse Chariots
  • Introduced in 680 BCE
  • 12 laps (14.4 km) around two turning posts
  • Separate class for foals established in 384 BCE
  • Foals ran 8 laps (9.6 km)
  • Aristocratic event
  • Victor = the owner of the team and not the driver
  • Synoris = Two horse chariot race introduced in 408 BCE
other equine events
Other Equine Events
  • Apene (Mule-cart race) – Introduced in 500 BCE
  • Kalpe (Mare race) – Introduced in 496 BCE/Discontinued in 444 BCE
  • Anabates (Dismounting contest) – Introduced in 496 BCE)/Discontinued in 444 BCE
running events
Running Events
  • The Stadion = Sprint of 1 stade (190 m)
  • Only event down to 724 BCE (became basic unit of measurement for long distance
  • From 724 BCE the Diaulos (384 m or 2 stades)
  • From 720 BCE the Dolichos (7.5-9 km or 20 to 24 stades)
  • From 520 BCE Hoplite Race (384 to 768 m or 2 to 4 stades) wearing helmet, shield, and greaves
pale wrestling
Pale - Wrestling
  • No weight classes or time limits
  • Dominated by heavier athletes
  • Must throw opponent 3 out of 5 falls or force him to submit
  • A fall must be on a hip, shoulder, or back to count
  • Biting, eye-gouging, striking, genital-holds not allowed, although breaking fingers was permitted
  • Official supervised obedience to rules – violations were punished with flogging
pux boxing
Pux - Boxing
  • No time limits, rounds or weight classes
  • Fighters were divided into age classes: 1. Men (over 17 years), 2. Boys (up to 17 years)
  • Victory achieved by: 1. Knocking out opponent, 2. Forcing submission of opponent (indicated by raising index figure)
boxing continued
Boxing continued
  • Blows seem typically directed at the head
  • Hitting an opponent when down was permitted
  • Opponents were chosen by lot
  • Boxers did not use gloves but himantes meilichai (Ox-hide straps) to protect the hands, not the opponent’s face
  • All out fight comprising boxing, wrestling, and kicking
  • Fighters divided into boy’s and men’s categories but there were no weight classes
  • Victory was achieved through forcing submission or through incapacitating the opponent
  • Only gouging and biting were prohibited
  • Permanent injury and death not uncommon
arrachion of phigaleia victor pankration 564 bce
Arrachion of PhigaleiaVictor – Pankration – 564 BCE
  • The Phigalians have on their market-place a statue of the pancratiast Arrhachion; it is archaic, especially in its posture. The feet are close together, and the arms hang down by the side as far as the hips. The statue is made of stone, and it is said that an inscription was written upon it. This has disappeared with time, but Arrhachion won two Olympic victories at Festivals before the fifty-fourth, while at this Festival he won one due partly to the fairness of the Umpires and partly to his own manhood. [2] For when he was contending for the wild olive with the last remaining competitor, whoever he was, the latter got a grip first, and held Arrhachion, hugging him with his legs, and at the same time he squeezed his neck with his hands. Arrhachion dislocated his opponent's toe, but expired owing to suffocation; but he who suffocated Arrhachion was forced to give in at the same time because of the pain in his toe. The Eleans crowned and proclaimed victor the corpse of Arrhachion.(Pausanius, 8.40.1-2. W.H.S. Jones, 1918) -
  • Consisted of broad jump, discus, javelin, stadion, and wrestling
  • Jump, discus, and javelin only occurred in the pentathlon
  • Less prestigious than the specialist events (indicating that they did not compete against the specialists)
  • Scoring: First person with three victories wins
  • Discus, Javelin, and Jump held first
  • If no clear winner after first three events, remaining contenders are eliminated in the stadion and, if necessary, in a wrestling match
javelin jump and discus special equipment
Javelin, Jump, and Discusspecial Equipment
  • Discus – Typically made of bronze; average weight = 2.5 kg; boys used a lighter discus
  • Javelin – ca. 5 ft long; made of elderwood with iron tip; leather thong attached at center of gravity to add distance through rifling motion
  • Halteres – jumping weights; weighed c. 1.4-4.5 kg; swung for momentum and dropped in mid jump – athletes made running jumps
the site of olympia
The Site of Olympia
  • Olympia = remote sanctuary in the North-West Peloponnese
  • Cult sanctuary associated with the city of Elis
  • Site consisted of: 1. Altis (sacred precinct of Zeus) including series of open air altars, the altar of Zeus, and the temple of Hera, 2. Temple treasuries for specific poleis (600-450 BCE), 3. Temple of Zeus (470-456 BCE), 4. Officials facilities (I.e. Prytaneion, Bouleuterion), 5. Statues of victors, 6. Stadium, 7. Hippodrome
  • Facilities were added gradually between 776 BCE and c. 350 BCE when it reached its finished form
location of olympia
Location of Olympia

the site of olympia22
The Site of Olympia

Joe Stubenrauch

the hysplex c 300 bce
The Hysplexc. 300 BCE

  • Games held as part of festival to Zeus every four years
  • 5 days long, during the second full moon after the summer solstice
  • Games developed around the festival, probably not central to the festival
  • Organized and funded by the city of Elis
  • Spondophoroi (heralds) sent out from Elis to invite athletes and spectators – proclaimed the ekecheria (sacred truce)
  • Hellenodikai (Judges of the Greeks) appointed at Elis as organizers – 2 after 580 BCE, 10 after 400 BCE
  • Officials selected at Elis by lot – trained by nomothetai (specially trained officials)
  • All athletes trained for 1 month before the games at Elis to insure their competitive quality
  • Additional Staff: 1. Magistophoroi (whip-scourgers), 2. Rabdouchoi (rod-bearers), 3. Alytarches (crowd control)
quality control
Quality Control
  • “One of the noteworthy things in Elis is an old gymnasium. In this gymnasium the athletes are wont to go through the training through which they must pass before going to Olympia….” (Pausanius,6.23.1. W.H.S. Jones, 1918)

the games
The Games
  • Athletes, Trainers, and Spectators assemble at Elis
  • All move in procession to spring of Pieria where officials purify themselves
  • The next day procession moves to Olympia
  • Day 1: Athletes and Hellenodikai swear oath at Bouleuterion to Zeus Horkios (Zeus of Oaths); Boys events
  • Day 2: Equestrian events and Pentathlon; sacrifice to Pelops
  • Day 3: Procession of ambassadors, judges, athletes; Hekatomb to Zeus; Running; public feast
  • Day 4: Combat events and Hoplite Race
  • Day 5: Procession; Crowning victors; Feast
  • Hellenodikai dressed in purple robes: 1.Separated competitors by age, 2. Paired fighters, est. order for throwing/jumping, assigned running lanes by casting lots, 3. Supervised events (could scourge, fine or expel cheaters
the olympic oath
The Olympic Oath
  • “[9] But the Zeus in the Council Chamber is of all the images of Zeus the one most likely to strike terror into the hearts of sinners. He is surnamed Oath-god, and in each hand he holds a thunderbolt. Beside this image it is the custom for athletes, their fathers and their brothers, as well as their trainers, to swear an oath upon slices of boar's flesh that in nothing will they sin against the Olympic games. The athletes take this further oath also, that for ten successive months they have strictly followed the regulations for training. [10] An oath is also taken by those who examine the boys, or the foals entering for races, that they will decide fairly and without taking bribes, and that they will keep secret what they learn about a candidate, whether accepted or not. I forgot to inquire what it is customary to do with the boar after the oath of the athletes, though the ancient custom about victims was that no human being might eat of that on which an oath had been sworn.” (Pausanius,5.24.9-10. W.H.S. Jones, 1918)

the prizes
The Prizes
  • Pan-Hellenic games were stephanic (crown) games
  • Prizes only given to victors (No second place etc.)
  • A young boy cut olive branches from sacred olive grove in the Altis
  • Made crowns of olives for victors
  • Victors allowed to erect statues of themselves at Olympia
  • No material value to the prize; conferred arete and time on the victor
competing for time herodotus histories 8 26 3
Competing for TimeHerodotus, Histories, 8.26.3
  • “When the Arcadians told them that the Greeks were holding the Olympic festival and viewing sports and horse-races, the Persian asked what was the prize offered, for which they contended. They told him of the crown of olive that was given to the victor. Then Tigranes son of Artabanus uttered a most noble saying (but the king deemed him a coward for it); [3] when he heard that the prize was not money but a crown, he could not hold his peace, but cried, “Good heavens, Mardonius, what kind of men are these that you have pitted us against? It is not for money they contend but for glory of achievement!” Such was Tigranes' saying.” (A.D. Godley, 1920)

what did the games mean to the ancient greeks
What did the Games mean to the Ancient Greeks
  • The highest achievement in Greek athletic competition
  • Olympic festival was first and foremost a festival to Olympian Zeus
  • Was seen as an institution that bound all Greeks together
  • This Greek unity was only symbolic – not a political reality
  • The Olympic games were just as much a means of competition between Greeks as they were an institution that unified Greeks