Olympics • The most famous event that the Ancient Greeks are known for are the Ancient Olympic Games. • The Ancient Games are not like the games we know today. Many of the sports were different than the ones we have today. The sports that do remain are typically have different rules.
History • According to tradition, the most important athletic competitions were inaugurated in 776 B.C. at Olympia in the Peloponnesos. • This date is when these Olympics are known to have started, but really there is no proof that this is the exact date, as records from the time period are shady at best.
Competition • At the core of Greek athletics was an individual's physical endeavor to overtake an opponent. For this reason, sports in ancient Greece generally excluded team competitions and performances aimed at setting records
Valor of the Greeks • During competition and training, athletes were usually naked and covered with olive oil to keep off the dust. They trained in the gymnasium or xystos (covered colonnade), often coached by past victors. The Greeks believed that their love for athletics, among other things, distinguished them from non-Greeks, and only Greek citizens were allowed to compete in the games.
Comparing Olympics • The ancient Olympics were rather different from the modern Games. There were fewer events, and only free men who spoke Greek could compete, instead of athletes from any country. Also, the games were always held at Olympia instead of moving around to different sites every time.
Comparing Olympics Ctd • Like our Olympics, though, winning athletes were heroes who put their home towns on the map. One young Athenian nobleman defended his political reputation by mentioning how he entered seven chariots in the Olympic chariot-race. This high number of entries made both the aristocrat and Athens look very wealthy and powerful.
Boxing (Greece) • Dates back to 800 BC (Homer’s Iliad) • Ancient boxing had fewer rules than the modern sport. Boxers fought without rounds until one man was knocked out, or admitted he had been beaten. Unlike the modern sport, there was no rule against hitting an opponent when he was down.
Ancient Boxing • There were no weight classes within the men's and boy’s divisions; opponents for a match were chosen randomly. • Instead of gloves, ancient boxers wrapped leather thongs (himantes) around their hands and wrists which left their fingers free.
Pankration • Many of the sports we are now familiar with had their roots in Ancient Greece, home of the original incarnation of the Olympic Games. Some of these were athletic events such as running, discus and javelin, but there were also more brutal sports. Chief among these were the ancient sports of boxing and its close cousin the “pankration”.
Pankration Ctd.. • Its close relative was pankration, a combination of boxing and wrestling which could be equally brutal. Here the fighters wore no protective leather gloves, and there were basically no rules except a ban on biting and gouging of eyes. Anything else was allowed, and indeed inflicting grave injury on the other competitor was a common way of winning the bout. Again, the fight did not end until one of the competitors was forced to submit. It is said that some brave fighters chose death rather than submission.
Pankration Ctd… • Boxing, Pankation, or any other fighting sport in Ancient Greece was a far more brutal sport than even the controversial modern-day equivalent. • Fighters wound leather straps around their hands to protect their fists – it is said that in some cases there were even spikes embedded within the straps – and the bout was not concluded until one of the fighters was knocked unconscious. It was not uncommon for fights to end in the death of one of the competitors.
Equestrian Events • There were both 2-horse chariot and 4-horse chariot races, with separate races for chariots drawn by foals. Another race was between carts drawn by a team of 2 mules. The course was 12 laps around the stadium track (9 miles). Riding • The course was 6 laps around the track (4.5 miles), and there were separate races for full-grown horses and foals. Jockeys rode without stirrups.
Equestrian Events • Only wealthy people could afford to pay for the training, equipment, and feed of both the driver (or jockey) and the horses. As a result, the owner received the olive wreath of victory instead of the driver or jockey.
Chariot Racing • The chariot racing event in Greece was first added to the Olympics in 680 BC with the games expanding from a one day to a two day event to accommodate the new event • It was not as prestigious as the Stadion (Foot Race). But was the most prestigious equestrian event
Little Recognition • In most cases, the owner and the driver of the chariot were different persons • The charioteer was usually a family member of the owner of the chariot or, in most cases, a slave • or a hired professional (Driving a racing chariot required unusual strength, skill and courage • Victory songs and statues regularly contrive to leave them out of account
Clothing • Unlike the other Olympic events, charioteers did not perform in the nude, probably for safety reasons because of the dust kicked up by the horses and chariots, and the likelihood of bloody crashes. • The armor was elaborate, again mainly for protection
Chariot Races • The most exciting part of the chariot race, at least for the spectators, was the turns at the ends of the hippodrome. • These turns were very dangerous and often deadly. If a chariot had not already been knocked over by an opponent before the turn, it might be overturned or crushed
Crashes • Deliberately running into an opponent to cause him to crash was technically illegal, but nothing could be done about it • Crashes were likely to happen by accident anyway
Pentathlon • This was a 5-event combination of discus, javelin, jumping, running and wrestling. The ancient Greeks considered the rhythm and precision of an athlete throwing the discus as important as his strength. • The discus was made of stone, iron, bronze, or lead, and was shaped like a flying saucer. Sizes varied, since the boys' division was not expected to throw the same weight as the mens'.
Running • There were 4 types of races at Olympia. The stadion was the oldest event of the Games. Runners sprinted for 1 stade (192 m.), or the length of the stadium. The other races were a 2-stade race (384 m.), and a long-distance run which ranged from 7 to 24 stades (1,344 m. to 4,608 m.).
Marathon? • Contrary to belief, there was no marathon at the first ancient Olympic Games • The idea of it first came from the Classical Greek period. Because of an actual event in Ancient Greece
Invasion of the Persions • The Persian Empire (Around 478BC) was bent on expanding their empire and taking over all of Greece • The legend was Pheidippides ran from the battlefield of Marathon, a total of 24 miles to Athens claiming a great victory for Athens, before collapsing and dying on the counsil floor • Therefore, the marathon came into play in the modern Olympics in 1896. The event originally was 25 miles but was changed to 26.2 in 1908 in London so the Queen would have a better view of the finish
Real History • Many historians believe that in reality Pheidippides actually ran from Athens to Sparta, asking them for help against the Persians. • He ran over 240 km each way in a two day span. (Sparta turned down the plea to help Athens in the War)
Weighted Running • And if these races weren't enough, the Greeks had one particularly grueling event which we lack. There was also a 2 to 4-stade (384 m. to 768 m.) race by athletes in armor. • This race was especially useful in building the speed and stamina that Greek men needed during their military service. If we remember that the standard hoplite armor (helmet, shield, and greaves) weighed about 50-60 lbs, it is easy to imagine what such an event must have been like.
Wrestling • Like the modern sport, an athlete needed to throw his opponent on the ground, landing on a hip, shoulder, or back for a fair fall. 3 throws were necessary to win a match. Biting was not allowed, and genital holds were also illegal. Attacks such as breaking your opponent's fingers were permitted.
The Fisherman’s Joust • Ancient Egyptian sports and games could be just as brutal as their Greek counterparts. “Fishermen’s Jousting” was a sport in which teams of fishermen in papyrus boats would attempt to knock their opponents into the water. • Teams of up to four would compete against each other in these contests, and the results could be fatal. Despite being dependent on the river Nile for their living, many of the fishermen were often unable to swim, and so drownings were not uncommon. • One Egyptian grave sculpture even depicts a fisherman’s leg being seized by a crocodile.
Fisherman’s Joust • Boatmen would also brutally attack their opponents with their boat poles in an attempt to disable the other fishermen and win the contest. A sport which might otherwise, in other words, have been harmless in a more modern context, took on a brutal aspect when played in Ancient Egypt.
Hockey in the Desert • Ancient Egyptians played a game that is similar to our present-day hockey. Drawings on tombs at Beni Hassan in Menia Governorate show players holding bats made of long palm-tree branches, with a bent end similar to that of the hockey bat
Ancient Contemporary • Many organized sports games were confrontational. Some of the favored sports were wrestling, boxing and fencing with sticks, and of these, wrestling was probably favored.
Egyptian Olympics? • The early Egyptians seemed to have their own early Olympics, with competition including an early form of hockey, handball, Gymnastics, spear throwing (javelin), weightlifting, various equestrian sports, high jump, swimming competition, boating competitions, archery, long distance running, tug of war and others. There is currently an effort in Luxor (Egypt) to revive some of these old games into a national event
Chariot Racing • Perhaps the most famous of ancient sports, thanks no doubt to the influence of the movies, is that of chariot racing. This ancient Roman sport (which actually developed in ancient Greece) used horses and chariots to race round large tracks known as “circuses” to the applause of tens of thousands of supporters. Just like modern day football teams, ancient teams attracted consistent support from different parts of the city and it was common to wager money on the outcome of races.
Dangers of the Chariot • However, as the movies also demonstrate, chariot racing could be extremely brutal. With the reins of the chariot wrapped round their arms, charioteers could not let go in case of a crash and would be dragged behind the horses, and trampled underfoot, unless they could free themselves – carrying a small knife for precisely this purpose. Even during the filming of the chariot race in the 1925 version of “Ben-Hur”, a stuntman and over 100 horses died.
Chariot Racing • Chariot Racing was very similar to Greek Chariot Racing. • In fact, When Rome invaded Greece, a lot of Greek culture was evident in Roman art back in the Italian states. • Chariot Racing caught on in popularity in Rome very quickly
Roman Chariot Racing Ctd… • Chariot Racing was popular in both the sports of ancient Rome and ancient Greece. This sport was an important indicator of wealth to Roman culture. • Although slaves did ride chariots for their owners, the more one rode chariots, the wealthier one was deemed to be by society.
Romans and Social Significance • Like the ancient Egyptian sports, ancient Roman sports often carried with them a sense of the social underlying value of things. Chariot Racing demonstrated the importance of the horse to Roman culture. • Horses were used for farming, transportation, soldiers going into battle, trading, inspiration for art and sculpting, and as subjects in Roman mythology. Thus, the chariot race embodied the essence of Roman culture at a time when Roman Empire building was at its height.
Roman Social Society • The chariot race signified the power of the horse, the soldier, the economic wealth of Rome, and its cultural beauty. Although horse racing is popular today, as the Roman Empire declined, so did the sport of Chariot Racing.
Gladiators • Gladiators were professional fighters in ancient Rome who fought against each other, wild animals, and slaves, sometimes to the death, for the entertainment of spectators.
History of Gladiatorial Games • The gladiatorial games were originally established by the Etruscans, but were later adopted by the Roman as a means of entertainment. The Etruscans believed when an important man died his spirit needed a blood sacrifice to survive in the after life (Nardo, Games of 21).
The First fight • The first recorded gladiatorial combats took place in Rome in 264 BC. Decimus Junius Brutus Scaeva staged it in honor of his dead father. • It was held between three pairs of slaves, and held in the Forum Boarium. The ceremony was called a munus or duty paid to a dead ancestor by his descendants, with the attention of keeping alive his memory. • These were held for notable people and were repeated every one to five years after the person's death.
How the Events Started • The munera (games) expressed the rituals of the aristocratic class of the Italic world; not only were they religious ceremonies, but they became an exhibition of power and family prestige, and very soon they were immensely popular. • Their number increased very rapidly, also for political reasons. Rich citizens who wanted to get the favour (and the votes) of the plebeians, whose vote was decisive for public careers, started offering games.
Emperors and the Show • Later the emperors would exert a near complete monopoly on staging public entertainment which included chariot racing in the circus (ludi circenses), hunts of wild animals, public executions, theatrical performances (ludi scaenici) and gladiator fights. • There was usually musical accompaniment. Gladiators were typically picked from prisoners of war, slaves, and sentenced criminals. There were also occasional volunteers. They were trained in special gladiator schools (ludi).
Emperors and the Show • Some gladiators were volunteers (called auctorati) who fought for money; effectively this career was a sort of last chance for people who had gotten into financial troubles • Gladiators could be also the property of a wealthy individual who would hire professionals to train them. Several senators and emperors had their own favorites.
Deaths of Gladiators • The Emperor could have his own gladiators (Fiscales).At the end of a fight, when one gladiator acknowledged defeat by raising a finger, the audience could decide whether the loser should live or die. • In some cases, particularly cruel emperors could send people to die on a whim: we know that Claudius ordered an officer to go down in the arena, dressed as he was (in a toga), and that Caligula threw all the inmates of a prison as food to the beasts, just because there was a shortage of meat.
Thumbs Up? • It is known that the audience (or sponsor or emperor) pointed their thumbs a certain way if they wanted the loser to be killed, but it is not clear which way they pointed. It is possible that they pointed their thumbs upwards if they wanted the loser to live, and downwards if they wanted him to die; or, they may have done the opposite, pointing downwards if they wanted the gladiator to live.
Deaths of Gladiators Ctd… • Another possibility is that they raised their fist but kept their thumb inside it if they wanted the loser to live, and pointed down to signify death. A gladiator did not have to die after every match - if the audience felt both men fought admirably, they would likely want both to live and fight for their amusement in the future.
The Social Class • The attitude of Romans towards the gladiators was ambivalent: on the one hand they were considered as lower than slaves, but on the other hand some successful gladiators rose to celebrity status. There was even a belief that nine eaten gladiator livers were a cure for epilepsy. • Despite the extreme dangers and hardships of the profession, some gladiators were volunteers (called auctorati) who fought for money; effectively this career was a sort of last chance for people who had gotten into financial troubles.
Roman Gladiators • Violent and competitive sports were primary sources of entertainment in ancient Rome. Drawing a crowd of 50,000 or more to view the Gladiator games in the ancient Roman sports Campus was not unusual. (Total population of Rome reached only around 1,000,000.) • In ancient Rome, the Campus was a cultural center where sports, training for soldiers, and other activities would occur. • The last known gladiator competition in the city of Rome occurred on January 1, 404 AD.