The Ancient Olympics

The Ancient Olympics


By (author) Nigel Spivey

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  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Format: Paperback | 320 pages
  • Dimensions: 128mm x 196mm x 18mm | 340g
  • Publication date: 13 July 2012
  • Publication City/Country: Oxford
  • ISBN 10: 0199602697
  • ISBN 13: 9780199602698
  • Edition: 2
  • Edition statement: 2nd ed.
  • Illustrations note: 40 black and white halftones, 3 maps and figures
  • Sales rank: 65,196

Product description

The word 'athletics' is derived from the Greek verb 'to struggle for a prize'. After reading this book, no one will see the Olympics as a graceful display of Greek beauty again, but as war by other means. Nigel Spivey paints a portrait of the Greek Olympics as they really were - fierce contests between bitter rivals, in which victors won kudos and rewards, and losers faced scorn and even assault. Victory was almost worth dying for, and a number of athletes did just that. Many more resorted to cheating and bribery. Contested always bitterly and often bloodily, the ancient Olympics were not an idealistic celebration of unity, but a clash of military powers in an arena not far removed from the battlefield.

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Author information

Nigel Spivey is Senior Lecturer in Classical Art and Archaeology at the University of Cambridge, where he also is a Fellow of Emmanuel College. As an undergraduate he won honours at the Oxford-Cambridge athletics match, and set the university record for throwing the hammer. He went on to study at the British School at Rome and the University of Pisa. He has written widely on Classical culture and beyond: among his previous publications are the prize-winning Understanding Greek Sculpture (1996) and the widely acclaimed Enduring Creation (2001). He presented the major BBC/PBS television series How Art Made the World in 2005.

Review quote

Engaging, well written and thought provoking. Michael Scott, The Anglo-Hellenic Review No. 47

Table of contents

Foreword to the New Edition ; Overture ; 1. 'War Minus the Shooting' ; 2. In Training for Beautiful Goodness ; 3. The Programme of Agony ; 4. Sweet Victory ; 5. The Politics of Contest ; 6. Olympia: The Origins ; 7. Olympia: The Afterlife ; Epilogue ; Sources and Further Reading ; Index