Zinon Papakonstantinou

in Classics

ISBN: 9780195389661
Published online June 2011 | | DOI:

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Sport was practiced in ancient Greece since at least the Bronze Age; however, athletic activities are not extensively documented before the Archaic period. In the Homeric epics, competition in a number of events (including running, discus, jumping, and chariot racing) is presented primarily as an elite activity that is integrated in the network of the Homeric aristocratic ethos of masculine valor and peer interaction. Archaeological, literary, and epigraphic evidence unequivocally suggests the rapid growth and popularity of competitive sport in the centuries that followed. By the mid-6th century bce the periodos circuit of Panhellenic athletic games, which were integrated in the celebration of major religious festivals in interstate sanctuaries, was firmly established. City-states almost invariably hosted their own athletic competitions. At the same time, a culture of athletic training in the gymnasia of Greek communities emerged and flourished. Such training was conducted as part of preparation for competitions or in the context of a regime of intellectual and military education of youths, or both. The model outlined above (competitive athletics in Panhellenic and local festivals; gymnasium-centered physical training) was largely adopted by cities in the eastern Mediterranean region following the conquests of Alexander the Great and the creation of Hellenistic empires, and it remained the order of the day in much of the Roman-controlled, Greek-speaking East. As far as the Roman world is concerned, there is some evidence for the relative popularity of Greek-style athletics in Archaic Etruria. Moreover, there were some attempts to establish Greek-style agones in the city of Rome and other parts of the Roman state. But ultimately, the sporting preferences of the Romans as well as of the inhabitants of most of the Roman-controlled West lay in arena spectacles and chariot racing in the hippodrome. Arena spectacles eventually spread in the eastern parts of the Roman Empire as well and coexisted with traditional Greek athletic competitions and the gymnasium culture. The bibliography that follows covers all major aspect of Greek-style competitive and civic athletics from the Bronze Age to late Antiquity. For Roman sports, it focuses on chariot racing. It should be noted that Roman chariot racing was in many respects distinctively different from the equestrian competitions conducted in Greek agones. This article also discusses Greek-style athletics conducted in Rome and the Roman provinces. Arena spectacles such as gladiatorial shows and beast hunts are treated in a separate Oxford Bibliographies article.Preference has been given to more recent titles that contain up-to-date references to primary sources and modern literature, but older and still fundamental items are also duly noted.

Article.  12998 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Classical Art and Architecture ; Classical History ; Classical Literature ; Classical Philosophy

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