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.