The Ancient Olympics

The Ancient Olympics : War Minus the Shooting

3.52 (23 ratings by Goodreads)
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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 more

Product details

  • Paperback | 304 pages
  • 128 x 192 x 22mm | 240.41g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • numerous halftones, 1 map, 2 line drawings
  • 0192806041
  • 9780192806048
  • 564,801

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 more

Review quote

"A fascinating book, with much to teach, especially for those who only have a hazy knowledge of the ancient Olympics.... Spivey clearly shows how violent and dangerous the games of ancient Olympia were. He brings alive the place, the time and the brutal men who came together to fiercely compete for honor and glory. He also describes how the contestants were chosen and describes each competition, including boxing, the pentathlon and wrestling."--USA Today"Just in time for the Summer Olympics, a fresh new history of the games that begot all of today's quadrennial pomp.... An essential resource: always reliable and instructive, often entertaining."--Kirkus Reviews"A good survey of the Olympics, well informed and concise.... If we had been able to visit Olympia in its classical heyday, he says, we should not have liked it much: 'it must have reeked to high heaven'; it was bloody and noisy; and it 'should not be idealized with too much faded grandeur.' As for the origin of the Games, in his view, that is simple: it is war."--The New York Review of Books"Lively and accessible.... The book is learned without being scholarly, and it is brief enough to finish in time for tonight's broadcast of the opening ceremonies.... Much of the book's fascination lies in seeing faintly recognizable events made strange by a radically different context. It quickly becomes apparent that the similarities between the ancient and the modern games are at best superficial; it is the difference that makes for interest."--The Wall Street Journal"Thoughtful and approachable."--The Boston Globe"A delightful tour through ancient Greece with plenty for the sports-minded, historian, Greek scholar and linguist."--St. Petersburg Times"His writing exhibits the edge British scholars retain when it comes to tempering trenchancy and erudition with grace and wit. For his versatility and balance I would make him winner in the pentathlon. But with his coaching expershow more

Table of contents

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 Afterlifeshow more

Rating details

23 ratings
3.52 out of 5 stars
5 9% (2)
4 48% (11)
3 35% (8)
2 4% (1)
1 4% (1)
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