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Chapter 7 Early Cultures PE in US borrowed from development of Europeans from prehistory to 1800s. Included survival skills: running, jumping, wrestling, swimming, climbing, throwing. Tribal/family leaders taught skills through imitation. Egyptians Warrior class used weapons, chariots

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Chapter 7

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chapter 7

Chapter 7

Early Cultures

PE in US borrowed from development of Europeans from prehistory to 1800s.
  • Included survival skills: running, jumping, wrestling, swimming, climbing, throwing.
  • Tribal/family leaders taught skills through imitation.
    • Warrior class used weapons, chariots
    • Dancing for ceremony & entertainment
    • Tomb painting illustrate acrobatics, hop & jump, ball games, and wrestling.
    • Military class used defensive skills
    • deemphasized physical aspects
    • Birthplace of Western civilization
    • 4 periods: Homeric, Spartan, Early Athenian & Late Athenian

Homeric Greeks

  • Before 776 BC
  • Named for Greek Poet
    • Iliad & Odyssey
  • Greek Ideal
    • Arete
    • mental, moral, physical excellence

"Always excel, and be preeminent above others, and not bring shame on the line of my ancestors..." Iliad 6.207-11



  • 776-371 BC
  • leading city-state
  • agoge
    • controlled by government
    • boys conscripted 7-30
    • strict discipline

Early Athenians

  • 776-480 BC w/ democratic framework
  • education
    • private 7-18
    • palaestra & paidotribes
    • adult males
    • military 18-20
    • Upper class in gymnasiums

Late Athenians

  • 480-338 BC
  • Victory over Persia lead to expansion
    • emphasis on individual needs instead of state
  • fell to Macedonia in 338

The Ancient Olympics

776 BC

to 400 AD


The first recorded Olympic Games took place in 776 BC. There was just one event, a race over a distance called a stade. A stade was about 180 meters, nearly the length of the stadium at Olympia. The race was won by a young cook, Coroebus, from Elis.


Part of a major religious festival honoring Zeus; chance to assemble

  • Discussions of political issues; form alliances.
  • Also scene of political rivalries

The Olympic Truce

  • instituted by the city-state of Elis
  • announced by heralds sent out to all corners of the Greek world to announce the approaching Olympic festival
  • also announce Truce, which protected athletes, visitors, spectators and official embassies who came to the festival.

Chariot race of the funeral games of Patroklos: our first glimpse of organized Greek athletics where prizes are awarded. Note the cauldron and the tripod as prizes.


The Games and the Olympic Spirit

  • Today’s Games are the world's largest pageant of athletic skill and competitive spirit.
  • They are also displays of nationalism, commerce and politics.
  • This conflict has been noted since ancient times.
In one of Aristophanes's comedies, one character recommends that another rub his neck with lard in preparation for a heated argument with an adversary. The debater replies, "Spoken like a finished wrestling coach." (Aristophanes, Knights l.490ff.)

Sotades at the ninety-ninth Festival was victorious in the long race and proclaimed a Cretan, as in fact he was.

  • But at the next Festival he made himself an Ephesian, being bribed to do so by the Ephesian people.
  • For this act he was banished by the Cretans.

Sculptors were commissioned to create statues of victorious athletes

  • Statues set up in the Sanctuary of Zeus at Olympia were idealistic images of athletes.
  • Only if an athlete won three Olympic victories could a realistic likeness of the athlete appear in the Sanctuary.


  • fifteen kilometers from the Ionian Sea.
  • built on a grassy plain, north of the Alpheios River and south of forested hills.
The buildings of Olympia formed a small "V" around Kronos Hill.
  • The most prominent structures of Olympia were:
    • the gymnasium
    • stadium (for the footraces)
    • hippodrome (for horse races).



  • Pentathlon
    • discus
    • javelin
    • jump
    • running
    • wrestling
  • Running
  • Wrestling
  • Boxing
  • Equestrian
    • chariot
    • riding
  • Pankration
boxing added in 688 bc
Boxing added in 688 BC
  • Boxers fought until they either collapsed or admitted defeat.
  • The boxer wore leather thongs on their hands as a sort of boxing glove.
  • With time, gloves became harder.
  • If no one went down or gave up, the boxers often agreed to exchange blows until one collapsed.



tethrippon 4 horses
Tethrippon (4 horses)
  • Racers in outside lanes had a longer distance, but a mechanical device opened the gates in sequence.
  • The owners of the horses were rarely the ones racing them.
  • They would hire someone to race, but if the racer won, the owner would be proclaimed winner.
The horse-race was added at the thirty-third Olympiad.
  • The rider was usually paid by the owner.
  • Jockey rode bare-back on one horse.
grueling combination of boxing and wrestling
  • rules outlawed only biting and gouging an opponent's eyes, nose, or mouth with fingernails
  • had separate divisions for both men and boys
  • Xenophanes describes the pankration as "that new and terrible contest...of all holds"
Discus contestants were given five throws
  • The best throws were counted.
  • There were not many records of discus.
  • One, however, states that a famous athlete had a throw of 30 meters.
  • The current world record is 67.5meters.
javelin technique
Javelin Technique
  • The javelins were usually made from light wood and a leather thong was used as a grip.
  • In competition, an athlete would run with the javelin horizontal to his ear.
  • When he reached the measurement line, he would throw the javelin.
  • Halteres were hand weights that looked like telephone receivers.
  • The jumper would swing them as far forward as he could during take-off and swing them backwards as he landed.
  • Jumping was often accompanied by a flute.
Races at Olympia
  • 1 stade (192 m.)
  • 2-stade race (384 m.)
  • long-distance run which ranged from 7 to 24 stades (1,344 m. to 4,608 m.).
  • 2 to 4-stade (384 m. to 768 m.) race by athletes in armor also known as...

Competitors wore

  • helmet
  • greaves (armor for the legs)
  • rounded shield
  • Blows were not allowed.
  • Tripping was permitted.
  • No biting or gouging was allowed.
  • There was no weight distinction.
Wrestlers were anointed with olive oil then dusted with powder to make them easier to grasp. The competition took place in the "keroma", or beeswax, a muddy and sticky arena!

Only free men who spoke Greek could compete.

  • Married women were barred on penalty of death from the Sanctuary of Zeus on the days of the athletic competition for boys and men.

With five victories at Olympia, perhaps the most famous and successful of Olympic wrestlers was Milo. When attempting his sixth Olympic victory at forty years old, he was finally beaten by a younger man.

mr fingertips
Mr. Fingertips

A famous pankriatist named Sostartos was nicknamed "Mr. Finger-tips," because he would break his opponents fingers early in the match to make them surrender.

ancient athletes regularly received prizes worth
  • the word athlete is an ancient Greek word that means "one who competes for a prize"
  • related to two other Greek words, athlos meaning "contest" and athlon meaning "prize."

How did they end?

  • Interest in books and the arts
  • Conquering Romans turned to different forms of “sport”
Early Christians were against the Olympics because they were a celebration for the gods.
  • One of the first Christian emperors of Rome, Theodosius the Great, discontinued the Games indefinitely in 394 A.D., after 320 Olympiads and after about 1200 years.

Websites used in this presentation:

  • olympics
  • htmlht olympicintro.html