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OLYMPIC BEGINNINGS PREPARING FOR THE GAMES THEN AND NOW. Dr Emma Stafford Department of Classics, University of Leeds. The Olympic torch in Leeds, 24 th June 2012. The temple of Zeus at Olympia, c.460 BC: triumph of Elis over neighbouring city-state Pisa.
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Dr Emma StaffordDepartment of Classics, University of Leeds
The temple of Zeus at Olympia, c.460 BC: triumph of Elis over neighbouring city-state Pisa.
Paionios’ Victory, c.420 BC: ‘a tithe from the spoils taken from the enemy...’
... he turned his thoughts to an available marriage, to win glorious Hippodameia from her father, the lord of Pisa. He drew near to the gray sea, alone in the darkness, and called aloud on the deep-roaring god, skilled with the trident...: “If the loving gifts of Cyprian Aphrodite result in any gratitude, Poseidon, then restrain the bronze spear of Oinomaos, and speed me in the swiftest chariot to Elis, and bring me to victory. For he has killed thirteen suitors, and postpones the marriage of his daughter...”
So he spoke, and he did not touch on words that were unaccomplished. Honouring him, the god gave him a golden chariot, and horses with untiring wings. He overcame the might of Oinomaos, and took the girl as his bride.
Pelops and Hippodameia: Attic red-figure vase, c.410 BC (Arezzo)
East pediment of the Temple of Zeus: chariot race of Pelops and Oinomaos, for Hippodameia’s hand in marriage.
East pediment of temple of Zeus. Central group: H Zeus, flanked by Hippodameia and Pelops (KG); Oinomaos and Sterope (I F).
Terracotta figurine from Olympia, 9-8th centuries BC.
Attic black-figure vases from the 6th century BC
But the strong son of Zeus… measured out a sacred grove for his supreme father. He marked off the Altis in an open space by fencing it around, and made the encircling area a place for feasting, honouring the stream of Alpheos along with the twelve lord gods; and he called it the Hill of Kronos... Time moving forward clearly declared how, dividing the gifts of war, he sacrificed the best, and how he established the four-yearly festival with the first Olympic games and its victories.
Heracles as popular image of athletic excellence (c.550-510 BC).
Metopes from the temple of Zeus at Olympia: the Twelve Labours of Herakles.
Apples of the Hesperides
Herakles, who was the eldest of his generation, in sport set his brothers together in a race as a contest and crowned the one of them who had won with a branch of wild olive... They say that the wild olive was brought to Greece by Herakles from the land of the
Hyperboreans, who are the people who live beyond the North wind.
Athlete being crowned by judge: Attic black-figure vase, c.530 BC).
The Getty’s ‘Victorious youth’,c.325-300 BC.
Pierre de Coubertin medal aka ‘True Spirit of Sportsmanship’ medal
IOC established following 1894 Paris congress.
First modern Olympics Athens 1896 (25th March)
Olympic flame at 1928 Amsterdam Olympics.
A victor in the Panathenaic torch-race, Attic red-figure vase, c.400 BC.
Pausanias 5.20.1 (in the temple of Hera): Iphitos’ discus has the truce which the Eleans proclaim for the Olympic Games...
Founded by Herakles: Timotheos (quoted Polybios 12.26)
Herakles established the Olympic games and the Sacred Truce during them, as an exemplification of his own principles... he was never voluntarily the author of harm to any man.
Inscription c.25 BC listing sanctuary personnel, including: ‘Spondophoroi (heralds of the Truce): Antiochos son of Antiochos, Herakleides son of Herakleides, Lykidas son of Lykidas.’
As you go in through the bronze doors it is Iphitos crowned with a wreath by a woman called Truce who is standing in front of the pillar on your right, as the couplet tells you.
Myron’s Diskobolos, Usain Bolt, the Antikythera Youth.
Ancient athletes boxing, wrestling, practising the long-jump and the discus: Attic black- and red-figure vases, 6th century BC.
Pausanias 6.24.1-2: Colonnaded building, the Hellanodikaion, in the agora.
Pausanias 6.23.1-7: ‘In Elis one of the things worth recording is the ancient gymnasium...’
Procession Elis-Olympia 36km.
Ancient Olympia, facilities for athletes: guest-house, palaestra (for wrestling), gymnasium.
Leeds Classics student Jack Oliver, weightlifter.
Pre-Games Training-Camps, e.g. Chinese and Canadian teams in Leeds.
Pausanias 5.24.9-10: athletes swear over dismembered boar ‘to do no wrong to the Olympic Games’ and ‘that they have been in full training for ten months’; oaths also by family, trainers, and entry examiners.
Inscriptions e.g.: ‘Victory at Olympia is to be won not by money but by swiftness of foot and strength of body.’
Ash mound = 42 metres in circumference at base x 7 metres high (Pausanias 5.13.8-14.2). Hecatomb sacrificed Day 3, ‘after the pentathlon and the horse-racing but before the other contests’ (Pausanias 5.9.3).
Olympic opening ceremonies (anti-clockwise from top left): London 1948, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, London 2012 (?).
... the Olympic festival was admired and marvelled at by all mankind, at it the Greeks made a display of their wealth, strength and culture, and the athletes were envied, while the cities of the victors became famous...
Achievements at the Olympics benefited the city in the eyes of the whole of Greece.
Open University learning space The Ancient Olympics: bridging past and present (http://openlearn.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=404699)
Dr Jason König (St Andrews), Ancient and Modern Olympics blog (http://ancientandmodernolympics.wordpress.com/)
Penelope’s Weavings and Unpickings (http://weavingsandunpickings.wordpress.com/)
E.J. Stafford (2012) Herakles (London: Routledge series Gods and Heroes in the Ancient World)
E.J. Stafford (2004) Ancient Greece: Life, Myth and Art(London: Duncan Baird)