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The Ancient Olympics: War Minus the Shooting [Paperback]

Nigel Spivey , University of Cambridge
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

30 Jun 2005
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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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (30 Jun 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192806041
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192806048
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 12.7 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 354,083 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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A scholarly yet accessible text; history and myth intertwining. -- The Guardian, Saturday 23 July 2005

All this information is conveyed with an admirable calmness, clarity and vigour - a feat of scholarly athleticism. -- The Guardian, August 14, 2004

About the Author

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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ancient Olympics: war minus the shooting 17 Oct 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It is not a book for GCSE Classics students but for A level students or university degree. Nigel Spivey is an author who breaks the conventional rules. It makes you see the Ancient Olympics or the Greeks from a different perspective, quite revolutionary! It is a book written with heart and soul, trying to be as sincere and as honest as possible, getting rid of the cliches and the prejudice. Above all, Nigel Spivey takes you to the heart of The Ancient Olympics and makes you see the Games with the eyes of an Ancient Greek. It is thanks to him that you are able to understand the truth of the Ancient Greek World.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellence in Research 30 Aug 2006
By Thomas Randleman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I cannot praise enough the excellence of Nigel Spivey's research and presentation involved with the ancient Olympics.

The craftsmanship of his narrative is first-rate and there is a refreshing candor and lack of romanticizing regarding this event and the times surrounding it.

Mr. Spivey may be remembered from his presenting of "The Queens and Kings Of England" on the Biography Channel. He is a charming host on this particular documentary and one can see his sincere interest in putting forth well done research in a way to include the viewer outside the convention of a professor ponticificating to his classroom.

A perfectly wonderful book by a perfectly wonderful writer!

Thomas Lee
1 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thank God They're Going to England, Not New York! 20 July 2005
By Betty Burks - Published on Amazon.com
The anicent Greeks at Adelphia considered the original Olympics a 'civilized mode of war without the shooting.' The aim was winning at any cost (like American politics today), as the losers were called and looked down on as failures in disgrace. He dwells on boy athletes and shows a marble statue of the naked David minus one arm and a hand.

Why did the early Greek athletes compete naked? Did it have something to do with sex or did they have perfect bodies? Why did the Romans change the games in Olympia and make it more civilized? There the Greeks raised their sporting prowess to heroic status.

The historian, Bettany Hughes, wrote that this book shows "a number of hand-picked historical characters (which) bring us face to face with ... the ruthless business of winning the games." Nigel Spivey includes a photo of the naked wrestlers in marble. This is an erotic book. The poster for the 1912 Stockholm Olympics shows a naked combatant.

There is a drawing of the Olympic Zeus in the original Parthenon, a huge six-story-tall fixture similar to the modern Athena statuary in the Nashville, Tennessee, Parthenon. He has written many books among which are PANORAMA OF THE CLASSICAL WORLD and UNDERSTANDING GREEK SCULPTURE.
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