Donald G. Kyle
To demonstrate the growth and sophistication of ancient sport studies, this chapter surveys Greek athletics and Roman spectacles from their origins to their overlap in the Roman Empire. It notes trends, debates, and new discoveries (e.g., of victory epigrams, agonistic inscriptions, gladiator burials). Revisionists are exposing traditional ideologies of sport and spectacle rooted in Victorian idealism and moralism. Challenging the traditional amateurist scenario of early athletic glory and tragic decline, they suggest continuities, transitions, and cultural discourse. Questioning Olympocentrism and the “exceptionalism” of Greece and Rome, studies now favor broader chronological, geographical, comparative, and inclusive approaches. Scholars are rethinking the significance of sport and spectacle for society, identity, spectatorship, violence, gender, and the body. Forgoing sensationalistic approaches to the shows of the Roman arena, scholars now suggest that gladiators were professional performers whose preparations, combats, and rewards had “sporting” aspects.
Athletic activity was a major preoccupation of the Greek elite in the imperial period. This chapter looks at the relationship between athletic and intellectual activity, focusing especially on the way in which athletic skill could in itself be presented as a form of paideia. It looks first at day-to-day training in the gymnasium, focusing particularly on the use of athletics in the education of young men of the Greek elite and on the expertise of the athletic trainers. It then turns to the athletic contests which flourished at festivals across the Mediterranean world. Finally, it looks at a series of attempts by imperial Greek authors to redefine athletic training in line with their own intellectual priorities, using Plutarch’s Precepts of Healthcare as a case study for that wider phenomenon.
Sinclair Bell and Carolyn Willekes
The horse occupies an important place in human society by serving a variety of functions, whether as a food source or in fulfilling specialized jobs. In ancient Greece, the horse was a status symbol, owned by the elite as an indication of their wealth and prestige. Horses were paraded in processions, used in battle, and entered in athletic contests. Horse sports and especially horse racing were popular in the Greek world. Evidence shows that chariot racing appeared in the late eighth century, although neither chariot nor horse racing was included in the early Olympic games. Equestrianism was a symbol of aristocracy not only in ancient Greece but also in Roman Italy. But while the Greeks showed equal passion for horse racing and chariot racing, the Romans seemed to favour the latter.
This article studies the toys and games of the Jews living in Roman Palestine within a historical framework of toys, games, and play in Graeco-Roman society. The discussion first examines early studies of games in ancient Jewish society and the various rabbinic literary sources and archaeology that are available. It then gives a detailed description of the ancient Jews at play, before presenting some suggestions for possible future study.
This article discusses the various buildings of public spectacles and competitions in Roman Palestine, including theatres and amphitheatres. It first considers the current state of research and the possible objectives for future study. It then shows how these structures were distributed and financed and where they were most likely located. It examines architecture and performances in theatres, which were first built by Herod in Jericho, Jerusalem, and Caesarea. The discussion then shifts to the hippodromes and stadiums, which served as multipurpose structures for athletic contests and chariot races, and the amphitheatres and its gladiatorial combats. Finally, the article studies the attitudes of Jewish society towards these Roman public spectacles in ancient Palestine.