Eros and Greek Athletics
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Ancient Greek athletics offer us a clear window on many important aspects of ancient culture, some of which have distinct parallels with modern sports and their place in our society. Ancient athletics were closely connected with religion, the formation of young men and women in their gender roles, and the construction of sexuality. Eros was, from one perspective, a major god of the gymnasium where homoerotic liaisons reinforced the traditional hierarchies of Greek culture. But Eros in the athletic sphere was also a symbol of life-affirming friendship and even of political freedom in the face of tyranny. Greek athletic culture was not so much a field of dreams as a field of desire, where fervent competition for honor was balanced by cooperation for common social goals.
Eros and Greek Athletics is the first in-depth study of Greek body culture as manifest in its athletics, sexuality, and gender formation. In this comprehensive overview, Thomas F. Scanlon explores when and how athletics was linked with religion, upbringing, gender, sexuality, and social values in an evolution from Homer until the Roman period. Scanlon shows that males and females made different uses of the same contests, that pederasty and athletic nudity were fostered by an athletic revolution beginning in the late seventh century B.C., and that public athletic festivals may be seen as quasi-dramatic performances of the human tension between desire and death. Accessibly written and full of insights that will challenge long-held assumptions about ancient sport, Eros and Greek Athletics will appeal to readers interested in ancient and modern sports, religion, sexuality, and gender studies.
athletic values, achieving and not achieving arete and fame usually reserved for males. Perhaps Cynisca’s problematic athletic fame is balanced by another, less well publicized monument that displays her concurrent devotion to a role that is clearly female. A small Doric capital with her name on it, apparently set up as a base for a dedication to Helen, was found at Sparta.73 Cynisca was, therefore, a devotee of the heroine/goddess who was admired by Spartan girls gathered at their racecourse and
mainland Greece beyond the Olympic region of Elis, and two from Elis. All known hippic victors were local Eleans in the ﬁve Olympiads before Sulla’s games. And Gardiner’s claim that “corruption reappears” after Sulla is equally misleading, since the instance of bribery in 68 b.c. (Paus. 5.21.9) was an isolated case, and it was properly punished by oﬃcials.9 It is not to be denied that Olympia and Greece in general were suﬀering ﬁnancially in the late Republic due to civil wars and petty boundary
The festival was celebrated by certain unmarried men chosen by lot, perhaps from the ﬁve Spartan tribes (Hesychius, s.v. Karneiatai). The youths served a four-year oﬃce, suggesting a penteteric celebration on a larger scale like the Olympics. Though the Carneia itself was not strictly a part of the agoge, 82 eros and greek athletics the use of unmarried men in its ritual suggests that it had a quasi-initiatory character. The agones, which seem to have been established in the twenty-sixth
girls at Sparta (3.13.7):62 Figure 5-3. Nude female bronze mirror handle (unknown provenance), ca. 540 B.C., N.Y. Met. 41.11.5. The diazoma or trunks are of a type worn by Atalanta depicted in wrestling scenes on Greek vases of this period. All rights reserved, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. 134 eros and greek athletics Figure 5-4. (a, left) Nude female bronze mirror handle (unknown provenance), sixth c. B.C., Trent, Museo Provinciale d’Arte—Castello del Buonconsiglio inv. no.
swinging their arms up in an exaggerated, but asymmetrical manner reminiscent of the arm movements of sprinters. Might this dance indeed be a ritual imitation of the running seen elsewhere? On one of the other fragments (24), two girls in short chitons hold hands and dance toward the right while glancing back in the direction of a doe. The presence of a doe may indicate that the animal is imagined to be present, or that the dance is in a mythical context. The ﬁnal dance vase (26) shows girls in