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Olympia: The Story of the Ancient Olympic Games (The Landmark Library) Hardcover – 1 Nov 2018
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'Robin Waterfield is a gold medallist among historians of ancient Greece. This is a carefully calibrated, deeply learned and yet accessibly study of the original Olympic Games' Professor Paul Cartledge.
'[Robin Waterfield] covers everything you could ever want to know, from excavations of Olympic sites to nudity at the games, to sports in the wider Hellenic world ... Insightful, accessible, informative' All About History.
'[A] brilliant little book ... It is scintillating stuff, but at its heart is a central point that we need to understand: for the Ancient Greeks it was all about pride, honour, self-aggrandisement and winning, not taking part' Sunday Times.
'Waterfield has written a clear, well-organised, information-packed and very readable account of this influential Ancient Greek invention. Highly recommended' BBC History Magazine.
The remarkable story of the Ancient Olympic Games, narrated in invigorating style by a leading classical scholar and translator.See all Product description
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For the Greeks, winning was everything. Anyone who lost felt ashamed. A win meant the gods favoured you. The author reveals how costly the games were. Enormous sums were spent on them and on sport in general. The suggestion that the games had a military origin is dismissed. Convincing reasons are given.
There are eight chapters covering: origins, sport and society, the Olympic Festival, heroes and victors, politics, and an appendix on the legend of the marathon that is fascinating. A timeline and notes plus further reading are also provided.
The ancient games included naked wrestling, the flogging of cheats and the banning of married women as spectators. Robin has filled his superb book with facts and revelations that demonstrates his mastery of the period, one to which he has devoted many years of study and research. The most lethal event, even more than boxing without gloves, was the four-horse chariot race, over the twelve laps, that was the equivalent of eight miles. No quarter was given. It was war on wheels. Events were not timed and there were no team events.
As Waterfield reveals the games were all about pride, honour and winning. They were not about taking part. Competition was fierce among some 1000 city states. Life was all about the attainment of excellence. Self-effacement was for slaves. Some practices were similar to those of today. For example, personal trainers were permitted. In all there were seven main events including three combat ones such as boxing and wrestling. I
The Greeks venerated physical fitness. A winner was seen as someone nobly born and blessed by the gods. A beautiful body was regarded as a reflection of a beautiful soul. The author points out that this veneration of the body and physical fitness was unique. It was, in sharp contrast to, for example, the views of Jews.
This one of the most enjoyable books about the ancient Greeks I have ever read. A tour de force. Very highly recommended.