Notes and Terms Ancient Sports and Civilization

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What is sport?

Sport: “an organized, competitive, and skillful physical activity requiring commitment and fair play, in which a winner can be defined by objective means. it is governed by a set of rules or customs... Non-competitive activities, for example as jogging playing catch, are usually classified as forms of recreation.”

Physical events such as scoring goals or crossing a line first often define the result of a sport. However, the degree of skill and performance in some sport such as diving, dressage, and figure skating is judged according to well-defined criteria. This is in contrast with other judged activities such as beauty pageants and body building, where skill does not have to be shown.

Why is sport important to society?

What are challenges in studying sport?

Where did sport come from?

Practical - military, hunting practice
Ritual - worship and funeral rites
Symbolic - social, political functions
Just for fun...

What were the first sports?

Boxing and Wrestling
Running and Jumping
Archery, Chariot Archery, and Chariot Racing
Ball games?

Fertile Crescent

3rd millenium (3000-2000 BC)
Sources: seals, art, some written records
Activities: Wrestling, boxing, feats of strength
Royal demonstrations

Ancient Egypt

Royal displays; hunting; military sports
Sources: hieroglyphics
Sed festival

The Hittites

Tribal chiefs not a set kingdom
Frequent religious festivals
Royal displays of patronage
Military sports
Competition for prizes

How do we go from these events to the recognizable events of the ancient olympics?

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ORIGIN OF GREEK SPORTS

Recap: Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Hittite civs:
Royal spectacles (Sed race)
Hunting
Military Sport
How do we get from there to the ancient Olympics?

The Minoans (flourished 2800-1750)

Maritime empire based on the island of Crete
Not Greek
Menos and the Menotaur, Thesius
Fresco jumping the bull and Boxing Children Fresco

The Mycenaeans

On the Greek mainland
Successors to the Minoan civ
Received Minoan festival-sports
Kings ruling from palace-cities
Funerary games for kings, nobles
Feasting, but also object prizes
Rank-and-file as spectators

Homeric Sport

The Trojan War (c. 1200 BC)
Part of collapse of Mycenaean, other Civ?
Legend recorded in Iliad, Odyssey, other tales
Written down circa 700BC
Designed to please an audience
Troy found in 1870 by archeologist

Sport in Homeric Greece

Sports idioms and similes (a discus throw to indicate a distance) Types of games
Civic Festivals
Funerals
Contests to pass the time
Description of war in sport/athletic terms

Attributes of Homeric Sport

Real competition
Giving prizes
Social functions (funeral games)
Religious functions
Note: Competitors are clothed

Funeral Games

Honor the deceased and create memory
Redistribute the deceased’s wealth
Give people the chance to compete, show skills
Spectators are important

Funeral Games for Patroclus

Held by Achilles (who does not compete)
Competitors: Greek (Achaean) Leaders (mostly)
No special opening - just the odder of prizes, setting of bounds, and lets go. Events
Chariot race
Boxing, Wrestling
Archery, Spear throwing
Weight throwing
Foot race

The Prizes

Tripods, cups
Slave-women
Animals
Other prizes
What do the prizes say about the times?
functional, symbolism in prizes, all had monetary value, could be used to resell. Why does everyone get a prize?
Create memory, spread the wealth, endangering self still wins, best of best

Games in Odyssey

How are these different from the Iliad?
Showing off skills, showing off how strong your army is and how powerful you are, to impress What does it mean to “look like an athlete”?
physically fit, able to control not only the self but kingdom

The return of Odysseus to Ithaka

Boxing with a beggar
Contest of strength:...
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