The victor's crown : a history of ancient sport from Homer by David Potter

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By David Potter

The Victor's Crown brings to bright existence the sign position of recreation within the classical international. Ranging over a dozen centuries--from Archaic Greece via to the overdue Roman and early Byzantine empires--David Potter's full of life narrative indicates how recreation, to the ancients, was once not only a dim mirrored image of faith and politics yet a effective social strength in its personal correct. the eagerness for activity one of the contributors and fanatics of antiquity has been matched in historical past in basic terms through our personal time.

Potter first charts the origins of aggressive athletics in Greece throughout the 8th century BC and the emergence of the Olympics as a preeminent cultural occasion. He focuses in particular at the stories of spectators and athletes, particularly in violent activities corresponding to boxing and wrestling, and describes the body structure of conditioning, education strategies, and sport's position in schooling. all through, we meet the good athletes of the previous and study what made them nice. the increase of the Roman Empire reworked the carrying global through popularizing new entertainments, relatively gladiatorial wrestle, a really expert type of chariot racing, and beast hunts. the following, too, Potter examines recreation from the views of either athlete and spectator, as he vividly describes competitions held in such recognized arenas because the Roman Coliseum and the Circus Maximus. The Roman govt promoted and arranged activity as a important function of the Empire, making it a type of universal cultural forex to the varied population of its colossal territory.

While linking historic recreation to occasions corresponding to spiritual ceremonies and aristocratic screens, Potter emphasizes chiefly that it was once the fun of competition--to those that competed and those that watched--that ensured sport's crucial position within the Greco-Roman world.

"Vivid and authoritative. Potter skillfully finds how the health club lay on the center of Greek existence and tradition, yet his ardour is obviously for the Olympics. whilst Potter strikes directly to Roman game, issues get livelier nonetheless. He meticulously strains the origins, careers and existence of athletes, gladiators and charioteers alike, and demolished a few adored myths alongside the best way. so much gladiatorial combats it appears resulted in quit, now not dying, even if a crowd may well good name out "ingula!" (kill!), operating their hundreds of thousands of thumbs less than their throats within the unique 'thumbs up' gesture. interesting and impressive."
--James McConnachie, Sunday Times

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Marinatos’ reconstruction of the Taureador fresco. 3. Terracotta image of a charioteer and horses from Olympia. © Olympia Archaeological Museum 4. Hoplitodromos. © Indiana University Museum 5. Panathenaic amphora with discus thrower and teacher by Euthymides, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples, Italy. © Scala / Ministero Beni e Att. Culturali 6. Amphora with black figures engaged in a stadion race by Kleophrades, 500 - 490 BCE, Paris, Musée du Louvre. © Scala / White Images 7. Amphora depicting the end of a boxing match.

It is perhaps not coincidental that the Amateur Athletic Club was formed three years after the formation of England’s Football Association in 1863. Would Brookes’s somewhat eccentric effort to promote games for the working man have aroused such annoyance if the rise of the working man’s game had not been in the offing as well? Successful as de Coubertin was, he could not control the forces unleashed by the Olympic movement. It was the very internationalism of the Olympics that set them apart from the school sports that were rapidly attracting a national following (American football in the United States and Rugby in the rest of the English-speaking world) and from ‘working-class’ sports that were developing their own professional leagues (football in Europe, baseball in the United States).

The Circus Maximus was a symbol of the forces that drew its people together. At one time it had simply been a track in the valley between the Palatine and Aventine Hills. The Palatine was the centre of royal and aristocratic power, overlooking the Roman Forum on one side, the centre of political life. The Aventine, supporting a temple in honour of the goddess of grain, would become the focal point of movements that looked to restrain the power of the aristocracy. The symbolic importance of the great sporting ground that lay between these two points, offering an alternative to the Forum as a place for people to come together, was not lost upon the Romans themselves.

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