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Arete: Greek Sports from Ancient Sources

with a New Foreword by Paul Christesen
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 3
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    From the informal games of Homer's time to the highly organized contests of the Roman world, Miller has compiled a trove of ancient sources: Plutarch on boxing, Aristotle on the pentathlon, Philostratos on the buying and selling of victories, Vitruvius on literary competitions, and Xenophon on female body building.Areteoffers readers an absorbing lesson in the culture of Greek athletics from the greatest of teachers, the ancients themselves, and demonstrates that the concepts of virtue, skill, pride, valor, and nobility embedded in the word arete are only part of the story from antiquity. This bestselling volume on the culture of Greek athletics is updated with a new preface by leading scholar Paul Christesen that discusses the book's continued importance for students of ancient athletics.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95394-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Foreword to the Third Edition
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Paul Christesen

    The book that you hold in your hands has as its title a single Ancient Greek word,arete, butthesauros, another word from the same language, might better describe its contents. Athesaurosis a treasure, or the container for a treasure, and Stephen Miller’sAretecontains a particular kind of treasure, in the form of a carefully selected collection of primary source evidence for the history of sports in ancient Greece. The wide range of material found inArete, taken from literary works, papyri, and inscriptions, reflects Professor Miller’s unmatched scholarly expertise and decades of experience in teaching courses...

  5. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xx)
    Stephen G. Miller

    The Greek wordaretecomes down to us inextricably connected to the athletics of ancient Greece and laden with a plethora of meanings. A definition ofaretewould include virtue, skill, prowess, pride, excellence, valor, and nobility, but these words, whether taken individually or collectively, do not fulfill the meaning ofarete. Areteexisted, to some degree, in every ancient Greek and was, at the same time, a goal to be sought and reached for by every Greek. It cannot be translated by a direct one-to-one equivalent into the idiom of modern American English, and even though the context of...

  6. I The Earliest Days of Greek Athletics: 1–2
    (pp. 1-15)

    In the two passages from Homer which are presented here a picture emerges of what we may call Homeric athletics. The question is, however, whether that picture is one of his own day or a valid, if somewhat blurred, reflection of the athletic practices of the Mycenaean era. Comparison with archaeological discoveries from that era finds relatively little in common with the Homeric picture, while comparison with the development of the Olympic program (Appendix) suggests that the Homeric picture would have been valid only as of the early 7th century b.c. If so, the informality of the Homeric games might...

  7. II Nudity and Equipment: 3–19
    (pp. 16-22)

    The custom of competing in the nude is perhaps the most striking aspect of Greek athletics, and the Romans certainly mistrusted it (no. 5). Aside from equipment required for specific events (e.g. thehalteresin thehalma), which we will consider in the appropriate place, the gear common to every athlete can be discerned in the written sources (nos. 6–10) as well as in ancient vase painting: thearyballos(orlekythos) for oil, thestlengis, and the sponge. Although various types of dust(konis)were certainly used as well during the Roman period (no. 11), such practice is not...

  8. III The Events at a Competition
    (pp. 23-62)

    The best candidate for thedolichosshould have a powerful neck and shoulders like the candidate for thepentathlon, but he should have light, slender legs like the runners in thestadion. The latter stir their legs into the sprint by using their hands as if they were wings. The runners in thedolichosdo this near the end of the race, but the rest of the time they move almost as if they were walking, holding up their hands in front of them, and because of this they need stronger shoulders.

    No one any longer makes any distinction between...

  9. IV Organization of a Panhellenic Festival
    (pp. 63-80)

    This inscription records contracts which were let for the preparation of Delphi for the Pythian Games. Each entry has the name of a contractor, a definition of the work which he was paid to do, and the sum paid him. Broken areas on the stone where the text is not preserved are indicated within brackets. The expenses, which total nearly $43,000 as preserved on the stone, are largely of a type which must have been typical of the costs of preparing Delphi every four years for the Pythian Games (and, more or less, all the other sites for their games)....

  10. V Local Festivals
    (pp. 81-88)

    The Athenians also select by lot tenathlothetai, one from each tribe. Once these men have been tested, they hold office for four years, and they administer the Panathenaic procession and themousikos agon, thegymnikos agon, and thehippodromia, and they have thepeplosmade, and together with theboulethey have the amphoras made, and they pass out the olive oil to the athletes. The olive oil is collected from the sacred trees; it is assessed by theArchonfrom those who are working the fields where the sacred trees are located at the rate of three half-cups...

  11. VI The Role of the Games in Society: 128–148
    (pp. 89-104)

    Cicero, in his presentation of Greek philosophy to a Roman audience, recounts a story about Pythagoras that Cicero had found recounted by a pupil of Plato, Herakleides of Pontos. Pythagoras visited Leon, the ruler of Phlious, at a date not far from 480 b.c. and displayed great learning during their discussions. We see the various types of people who went to the Games. The passage also shows that the Games were so well known that they could be used for allegorical purposes.

    Leon admired Pythagoras’ genius and eloquence and asked him on which art he relied the most. Pythagoras said...

  12. VII Women in Athletics: 149–162
    (pp. 105-110)

    As one goes from Skillos down the road to Olympia, but before one crosses the Alpheios River, there is a mountain with high and very steep cliffs. The name of the mountain is Typaion. The Eleans have a law to throw off these cliffs any women who are discovered at the Olympic festival, or even on the Olympia side of the Alpheios on the days which are forbidden to women. They say that no woman has ever been caught except Kallipateira. (Some say that the name of the woman was Pherenike, not Kallipateira.) She had been widowed and, disguised like...

  13. VIII Athletes and Heroes: 163–175
    (pp. 111-119)

    Dameas of Kroton made the statue of Milo, son of Diotimos, also of Kroton. Milo won six victories in thepaleat Olympia, including one in the boys’ category [536 b.c.]. At Delphi he won six times in the men’s category and once in the boys’. He came to Olympia to wrestle for the seventh time [in 512 b.c.], but he could not best his fellow citizen Timastheos who was younger than he and who refused to come to close quarters with him. It is also said that Milo carried his own statue into theAltis, and there are stories...

  14. IX Ball Playing: 176–178
    (pp. 120-125)

    In this passage Athenaeus quotes from Antiphanes who was a comic poet of the fourth century b.c., and from Juba of Mauretania who wrote in the early first century after Christ.

    The so-calledfolliculuswas invented by Atticus of Naples, thepaidotribes, for the exercises of Pompey the Great. The game which is called, on account of the ball,harpastonused to be calledphaininda. I like this game best of all.

    Ball games produce considerable exertion and fatigue, and severe twistings of the neck. Thus Antiphanes says: “Ouch, what a pain in the neck I’ve got.” Antiphanes depicts the...

  15. X Gymnasion, Athletics, and Education: 179–189
    (pp. 126-152)

    Vitruvius was a practicing architect whose treatise on architecture is the only one of many in antiquity which has survived. In this passage he describes the layout of a Greek athletic complex, and his description corresponds very well to the third-century b.c.palaistra-gymnasionbuildings at Olympia.

    Although the construction of apalaistrais not common in Italy, its plan has been handed down and it therefore seems worthwhile to explain thepalaistraand to show how it is planned among the Greeks.

    Inpalaistraisquare or oblong peristyle courts are to be made with a perimeter of twostadia, a...

  16. XI The Spread of Greek Athletics in the Hellenistic Period: 190–199
    (pp. 153-159)

    Among the many effects of the conquests of Alexander the Great was the spread of Greek culture, including athletics, throughout his empire.We read in theAnabasisof Arrian that Alexander celebrated competitive games at many places along his route including sites in the modern states of Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, and India. Perhaps more telling, however, is the “sports-mania” of his men as revealed in the following mention of two of his comrades and their customary practices during the march of conquest to the East.

    Perdikkas and Krateros were such lovers of gymnic exercise that...

  17. XII Greek Athletics in the Roman Period: 200–204
    (pp. 160-164)

    This letter to Atticus follows upon two earlier letters of the same year in which Cicero had asked that his friend acquire and ship to him Greek statues which Cicero intends to use to decorate his house, and especially statues of Hermes which he wants to place in his own“gymnasium”and his own“xystos”;as seen above, no. 180, such statues were particularly appropriate to such places.The total amount which Atticus is authorized to spend is about $112,000, and it is clear that in a Roman setting at the time of Cicero, a Greek athletic environment was part of...

  18. XIII Amateurism and Professionalism: 205–223
    (pp. 165-180)

    The inscription upon the base of a statue found at Nemea speaks to us as if from the statue itself. It should be contrasted with athletic inscriptions of much later times such as no. 210 below: the difference is instructive. Note also the similarly simple dedication at Olympia by Euthymos (above, no. 166b), who was much more famous than Aristis of Kleonai.

    Aristis dedicated me to Zeus Kronios the King since he won thepankrationat Nemea four times. Aristis is the son of Pheidon from Kleonai.

    They say that Hippomachos thegymnastes, when an athlete who was being trained...

  19. XIV Nationalism and Internationalism: 224–231
    (pp. 181-191)

    Pausanias fails to mention that Astylos also won thehoplitodromosat Olympia in 476 b.c.; cf. no. 129 where he is listed as a Syracusan.

    The statue of Astylos of Kroton is the work of Pythagoras. Astylos won both thestadionand thediaulosin three successive Olympiads [488, 484, 480 b.c.]. Because on the two latter occasions he announced that he was a Syracusan in order to please Hieron the son of Deinomenes and king of Syracuse, the citizens of Kroton pulled down his statue and turned his house into a prison.

    There stands a statue of Antipater son...

  20. XV Beauty and Reality: 248–256
    (pp. 192-200)

    During the first half of the fifth century b.c. the poet Pindar wrote dozens of odes in honor of victorious athletes at the Panhellenic Games. It is through his poetry more than any other single source that we form the usual picture of Classical Greek athletes and athletics, although the surviving examples of vase painting and sculpture (below, nos. 253–254) also promote an image of grace and glory. For some of the descendants of Diagoras of Rhodes, the honoree of this ode, see above, nos. 149 and 170.

    As when a man takes up in his wealthy hand


  21. Appendix: The Olympian and Pythian Programs
    (pp. 201-202)
  22. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 203-208)
  23. Index and Glossary
    (pp. 209-234)
  24. Sources for the Chapter-Opening Sketches
    (pp. 235-235)
  25. Back Matter
    (pp. 236-236)