The Greeks and theAncient Olympic Games776 (1,000) B.C.E. – 394 A.D. KIN 375 –Dr. D. Frankl
The Greeks • The Minoan civilization controlled the Aegean sea and the lands it touched for 1,600 years. About 1,400 B.C.E. the Mycenaean people became the dominant culture in that same region. Some two hundred years later, they attacked and destroyed Troy. As the Dorian people gradually conquered Mycenaean controlled lands, the region entered what is now known as the “Dark Ages” or the Homeric Age of Greek history. Image source: http://www.best.com/ ~singer/crete.html Bull Leapers
The Homeric Age1,200 B.C.E. – 700 B.C.E. • The earliest documented literature is the work of a blind Greek writer. The Iliad and The Odyssey (~850 B.C.E.) provide a very revealing window into the lives, believes and culture of the early Greeks. In the Iliad, Homer provides the earliest known account of sport competition as he describes the “funeral games” initiated by Achilles in memory of his warrior friend, Patroclus. Homer Image source: http://library.thinkquest.org/
Ancient Greece Map source: http://www.britanicca.net/
The Early Athenian Period776 B.C.E. – 480 B.C.E • The Ancient Greek’s emphasis on the importance of a strong and fit body is best demonstrated by the Ancient Olympic games. • What started as a stadion race in 776 B.C. (single course sprint event) evolved by 520 B.C. into several running, combat, and combined events spread over five days of Olympic competition.
The Spartan Period • The Spartans were a small (5,000 – 9,000) yet dominant military force for several centuries. • As many as a quarter million helots (slaves) maintained the Spartan economy, while Spartan males devoted their life (age 7 – 50) to military training and service. • In war time and during the peaceful Olympic Games, the Spartans best represented the “All for one, and one for all” concept. The purpose of their existence was to serve and protect Sparta.
Spartan Physical Education • The world’s first known totalitarian city-state had a one sided educational system. They achieved their narrow goal at the expense of intellectual pursuits. In a time and place that produced some of the most remarkable thinkers of all times, Sparta had no philosophers, and made practically no intellectual contribution to the great Greek civilization. Still, Spartan courage, tenacity and obedience are admired by many to this day. • Forbes (1973)
The Later Athenian Period • The early days of the later Athenian period are also referred to as the “Golden Age of Greece.” • Great emphasis was placed self-expression and individual freedom. • Constant Panhellenic internal conflicts led to the eventual decline of this great culture. Socrates 470 – 399 B.C.
Extent of Athenian Empire Image source: http://www.britanicca.net/
Plato and his Philosophy • Plato adopted many traditional religious images, such as, the music of the spheres, the migration of the soul, the soul's remembrance of its celestial origin, and the idea of rewards for the righteous and punishment for the wicked. Plato "The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato" A. N. Whitehead, Process and Reality, 1929
Ancient Olympics • What may have originated as a religious tribute to Zeus around 1,000 B.C.E. in the small town of Olympia on Mt. Olympus, later became the celebration of the ancient Olympic Games. Sanctuary of Zeus at Olympia Image source: http://www.upenn.edu/museum/
Who Could Compete? • Male citizens of one of the many Greek city states with no criminal record and who swore they had trained for at least ten months prior competition were eligible to compete in the Ancient Olympic Games. Runners http://www.upenn.edu/museum/Olympics/
Who Controlled the Games? Zeus Coin • From the very beginning, the city of Elis (30 miles to the north) and the small neighboring town of Pisa were engaged in disputes over the control of the Sanctuary of Zeus at Olympia • Those who controlled the Games had prestige, economic advantages and, most importantly, political influence.
Paxa Olympica – Olympic Truce The Olympic Games’ organizer city-state of Elis instituted Paxa Olympica to protect against military incursions which interrupted the Games. Every four years, special heralds from Elis were sent out to all corners of the Greek world to announce the approaching Olympic festival and games. Along with this news, they would announce the Olympic Truce, which protected athletes, visitors, spectators and official embassies who came to the festival from becoming involved in local conflicts. http://www.upenn.edu/museum/Olympics/olympicpolitics.html
Ancient Olympics and Politics • In 665 BC, according to Pausanias (a 2nd century AD Greek traveler), Pheidon, the powerful tyrant of Argos was asked by the town of Pisa to capture the Sanctuary of Zeus from the city-state of Elis. Pheidon, with his army well-trained hoplites (armed soldiers), marched across the Peloponnesos, secured the Sanctuary for the town of Pisa, and personally presided over the conduct of the games. But Pisa's control of the Sanctuary was brief: by the next year Elis had regained control. http://www.upenn.edu/museum/Olympics/olympicpolitics.html
Ancient Olympics • Perhaps the most notable example of a military incident occurring during the ancient Olympic Games was in 364 BC. In that year, Elis had again lost control of the Sanctuary of Zeus to the neighboring town of Pisa which was directing the festival and the Olympic Games. Elis chose precisely this time to attack the Sanctuary of Zeus. Xenophon, a contemporary 4th century historian, gives us a firsthand account of the situation:
Ancient Olympics The horse race had been completed, as well as the events of the pentathlon which were held in the dromos. The finalists of the pentathlon who had qualified for the wrestling event were competing in the space between the dromos and the altar... The attacking Eleans pursued the allied enemy... The allied forces fought from the roofs of the porticos... while the Eleans defended themselves from ground level. Hellenica http://www.upenn.edu/museum/Olympics/olympicpolitics.html
Was the Marathon Race an Event of Ancient Olympics? • The marathon was NOT an event of the ancient Olympic games. The marathon is a modern event that was first introduced in the Modern Olympic Games of 1896 in Athens, a race from Marathon northeast of Athens to the Olympic Stadium, a distance of 40 kilometers.
Modern Olympics: The Marathon Race • The race commemorates the run of Pheidippides, an ancient "day_runner" who carried the news of the Persian landing at Marathon of 490 B.C. to Sparta (a distance of 149 miles) in order to enlist help for the battle. According to the fifth century B.C. ancient Greek historian Herodotus, Pheidippides delivered the news to the Spartans the next day.
The Positive in Ancient Greek Athletics • love of and joy in participating in physical activities; • sport contests took place in nature, thus nature was cherished and preserved; • children never fought against stronger peers and were forbidden to fight without adult supervision; • a wide range of sport activities contributed to a well balanced and perfectly shaped body; • the love and care of one s body, the responsibility to society, bravery, wisdom--were all accomplished through physical education and athletics.
The Negative in Ancient Greek Athletics • Education, physical education and sports were not available to everybody. Only those who were Greek by blood could participate. In 430 B.C.E. only 20 % of the Athens residents were also citizens with full rights. Slaves comprised 75% of Athens population and the remaining 5% were foreigners. • Over emphasis on professional orientation and winning (especially during the later Athenian period)
What Can We Learn From The Greeks? • "The Greeks considered physical development and training an important and absolute dictate of the gods. Health of body; beauty, perfection and strength of limb; endurance in competition and combat; a clear, courageous eye; and that confidence which comes only through facing danger: these were considered by the Greeks as being no less essential than mental development, shrewdness and artistic talent. The achieving of a balance between the physical and intellectual life, and the harmonious development of all natural powers and talents were the aim of Greek education." Ernst Curtius