The Ancient Olympics

The Ancient Olympics : War Minus the Shooting

3.53 (26 ratings by Goodreads)
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The word 'athletics' is derived from the Greek verb 'to struggle/suffer 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. The author explores what the events were, the rules for competitors, training and diet, the pervasiveness of cheating and bribery, the prizes on offer, the exclusion of 'barbarians', and protocols on pederasty. He also peels back the mythology surrounding the games today and investigates where our current conception of the Olympics has come from. 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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Product details

  • Hardback | 296 pages
  • 132 x 196 x 22mm | 358.34g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • numerous halftones
  • 0192804332
  • 9780192804334

About Nigel Spivey

Nigel Spivey teaches the classics at Cambridge University. He is the author of Understanding Greek Sculpture: Ancient Meanings, Modern Readings, Greek Art, Etruscan Art, and Enduring Creation: Art, Pain, and Fortitude.
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Review quote

A scholarly yet accessible text; history and myth intertwining. The Guardian Review Spivey gives a good survey of the Olympics, well informed and concise, but not unopinionated. New York Review of Books Spivey's prose is always full of flavour and The Ancient Olympics must rank as one of the most enjoyable and intelligent books about the ancient Greeks currently on the market. James Davidson, Daily Telegraph excellent...fascinating background reading for anyone planning to watch Athens 2004 Sunday Times
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Rating details

26 ratings
3.53 out of 5 stars
5 8% (2)
4 50% (13)
3 35% (9)
2 4% (1)
1 4% (1)
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