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Sports festivals

(3,926 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] I. Introductory remark The general term SF is broader than the Greek cultural phenomenon of the ἀγών/ agṓn. The Greeks did not invent SF, but undoubtedly brought them to a peak with the institution of the agṓn. Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne) [German version] II. Egypt The Pharaonic culture of the Nile valley, according to Hdt. 2,58-59,1 the birthplace of the festival ( panḗgyris), provides clear indications for combining sports and festival in a single event [1]. The jubilee festival, the pivotal royal celebration, had a strong athletic accent…

Akoniti

(191 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] (ἀκονιτί; akonití). Honorific technical term in the language of the agon: ‘without a fight’, literally ‘dust-free’, i.e. not required to sprinkle the body with fine sand after oiling, as laid down in the athlete's regimen (Philostr. De Gymnastica 56). Akoniti victories occurred when only one athlete had entered (e.g. Paus. 5,21,14), or, more often, when opponents withdrew out of fear or when they had no prospect of victory. This occurred most often in combat sports, but not only in wrestling, as Philostratus indicates …

Isthmia

(568 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] The Isthmia, held in the sanctuary of  Poseidon on the Isthmus of Corinth from 582 BC, belongs to the   períodos (περίοδος, circulation) of the Panhellenic agons. Myths connect the founding of the Isthmic Games with funeral games for the drowned Melicertes (Paus. 2,1,3) or with Theseus (Plut. Thes. 11e) [1]. Archaeological finds for athletic competitions do not precede the 6th cent. BC [2. (jumping-weight); 1. 76 (chariot)]. As early as 229 BC, the Romans were permitted to take par…

Pankration

(255 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] (παγκράτιον; pankrátion). The third kind of fighting besides  wrestling and boxing in the programme of Greek agones (Sports festivals). Its goal was to “totally dominate” an opponent, with any means but biting and scratching being allowed for the purpose  (Philostr. Imag. 2,6,3). It is distinguishable in iconography from boxing by the lack of fist straps and from wrestling by the representation of fighting on the ground (Philostr. De gymnastica 11). The famous marble sculpture in F…

Wrestling

(658 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] I. Egypt and the Ancient Middle East In ancient times, wrestling, an age-old form of martial art, was widespread. The earliest representations in Egypt go back as far as the First Dynasty ( c. 3000 BC) [1. 533-564, L 1]. In seven Middle Kingdom graves of district princes in Banī Ḥasan there are depictions of in all some 500 wrestling pairs, some arranged in cinematographic sequences [1. L 15-21; 2. 70-72]. Wrestlers are also documented for the New Kingdom, including at sports festivals; Nubians among others are me…

Xenombrotus

(151 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] (Ξενόμβροτος/Ξενόνβροτος; Xenómbrotos/Xenónbrotos). According to [1. no. 340], X. was victorious in horse riding (the first from his home island of Cos) at Olympia in 420 BC, while his son Xenodicus [1. no. 363] won in the youth class of boxing in 400 BC. Paus. 6,14,12 describes a shared monument to the two, for which there have been attempts to connect it with IvOl 170. As [2. no. 49] has shown, however, this inscription refers only to the victory of the father, whose father also …

Rowing

(302 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] Egyptian images of large ships being rowed allow the reconstruction of an ancient Egyptian technique characterized by an alternating cycle of sitting and standing while working the oars [1. 106-108]. In the rowing scene on the sphinx stele of Amenophis II (18th Dynasty: 1428-1397 BC), the king, as steersman, markedly outperforms his crew of rowers [2. 59]. Under Tutankhamon (18th Dynasty), teams performed on the Nile in a full-scale regatta [3]. In the Greek world, too, rowing competitions were far from unknown, though infrequent [4; 5]. There was an annual rowing ago…

Long jump

(341 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] (Greek ἅλμα; hálma; Lat. saltus). In Egypt a type of high long jump was known as a children's game already in the Old Kingdom [1. 619 f.]. In Graeco-Roman antiquity there is evidence of the long jump (LJ) as an individual competition only in myth (e.g. Hom. Od. 8,128). In actual athletic practice, however, it always occurs (presumably as the second discipline) in the context of the péntathlon . According to [2. 57-60], this is a continuous quintuple jump (cf. Them. in Aristot. Ph. 5,3) from standing. It was often performed to th…

Diaulos

(252 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] (δίαυλος; díaulos) ‘double flute’ and by analogy ‘double run’; Greek athletic event, run over two lengths of the stadium or about 385 m overall [1. 69f.]. To prevent the runners on the outermost track from being disadvantaged during the relatively short distance, each runner had a separate turning-post and the neighbouring track was kept free for the second lap [2. 106-110; 3]. In this way the number of actual starting places was half the number of those actually available. A central turn as at Dolichus would inevitably have caused scrimmages and fouls. At Olympia the dia…

Javelin throwing

(167 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] Outside the Graeco-Roman world, sporting use of the javelin (ἀκόντιον; akóntion, δόρυ; dóry, Lat. iaculum) is attested only for Etruria [1. 306-314]. In Homer (Hom. Il. 23,618-623; 629-637; 884-897: uncontested victory for Agamemnon; Hom. Od. 4,625-627; 8,229), javelin-throwing is still a separate discipline. Later on, it is almost only conducted as the third discipline in the framework of the  pentathlon. The sling-strap fastened onto the javelin (ἀγκύλη; ankýlē, Lat. amentum) increased the distance of the throw, the distance determining the winn…

Korykos

(117 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] (κώρυκος; kṓrykos, Lat. follis pugilatorius). A hanging sack of sand (filling also: flour, fig seeds), used by boxers ( Fist-fighting) and pancratists ( Pankration) as a training aid (Phil. Perì gymnastikês 57). It was also used for physiotherapeutic purposes (Gal. De sanitate tuenda 2,8,1-2; 2,10,1; Hippoc. Perì diaítēs 2,64; 3,81). For the well-known representation of the punching of the korykos on the Ficoronian Cista, see [1. fig. 119]. Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne) Bibliography 1 R. Patrucco, Lo sport nella Grecia antica, 1972, 263-265. J. Jüthner, s.v. K. (5)…

Victor statues

(501 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] Victors in Greek agones (mainly in Olympia; Olympic champions) were awarded the right to erect life-size bronze statues of themselves at the place of competition (and in their home towns), but because of the great cost (ten times the yearly earnings of a craftsman [1. 125]) this was not taken up by all of them. An athlete would therefore only rarely receive more than one VS (three recorded only for Dicon from Caulonia, Paus. 6,3,11) for all his victories. The practice started with…

Prizes (games)

(417 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] Evidence that prizes were given out in athletic competitions exists as early as for the Sumerians [1], Egyptians [2] and Hittites [3; 4] (silver ring; banquet; cake, silver, ram, the courtly office of royal bridle keeper). The woman as a prize in the bridal agon legitimizes rule (examples: the Egyptian tale of 'The enchanted Prince' [2. 67, 78]; myth of Pelops in Olympia [5]; Odysseus' archery competition: Hom. Od. 21; Agariste, daughter of Cleisthenes of Sicyon: Hdt. 6,126-130). The riches that Achilles offers at Patroclus' funeral agon are vast: women, animals, …

Pentathlon

(466 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] (πένταθλον; péntathlon). First ever multi-discipline event in the history of sport, held in Olympia allegedly from 708 BC for men, and just once for youths in 628 BC. Mythical derivation from the campaign of the Argonauts (Philostr. Perì gymnastikês 3) [1]. The strong iconographic presence and long tradition with sources that are at times difficult to analyse have led to appreciable differences in interpretation both as regards the running and order of the exercises (but not of the…

Discus throwing

(385 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] The discus (δίσκος, dískos) was originally a product of copper smelting, a solidified puddle. In origin a desirable Bronze Age commodity, it developed into a piece of sports equipment. In the Iliad (23,826-849), where it appears as σόλος ( sólos) (23,826, 839, 844; this poetic term also in Quint. Smyrn. 4,436), this link is still tangible, because in the discus throwing contest, the discus is both projectile and prize, however, anachronistically made of iron [2]. As a throwing disc made of metal (occasionally stone), between 17 and 32 cm in diameter and c. 4-5 kg in wei…

Olympic champions

(463 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] (ὀλυμπιονῖκαι/ olympionîkai). The victory won at Olympia [IV] was considered the greatest of all victories in the Greek games. Pindar (Ol. 1,3-7) is not the only witness to this, the idea is also confirmed by the frequent accentuation of this place of competition in victory inscriptions [1; 2 passim]. The glory of Olympic champions, in which the home cities also bathed, was proverbial (Plat. Rep. 5,465d). Victory odes ( epiníkia ) were written to them (e.g. Pind. Ol. 4; 5 to Psaumis of Camarina, victor in the chariot race). Statue…

Milon

(396 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] [1] see Medon [7] see Medon [7] Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne) [German version] [2] Famous wrestler from Croton, 6th cent BC. Milon (Μίλων) of Croton. A wrestler, one of the most famous athletes of Greek antiquity, with 32 victories at Panhellenic competitions ( Sports festivals). No other ancient athlete won six times at Olympia as he did (540; 532-516 BC) [1. no. 115, 122, 126, 129, 133, 139]; he was also a six-time periodonikēs ( Periodos, Periodonikes) [2. 16-18; 3. 340]. His countryman Timasitheus [1. no. 145] thwarted his attempt at a seventh Olympi…

Athletes

(954 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] With their designation by name, athletes step out of the anonymity of prehistoric sports and become individual figures in the history of sports. Examples of early athletes are Pharao Djoser at the Jubilee race (3rd dynasty, 2624-2605 BC) [1.A 6-9] and especially Amenophis II (18th dynasty, 1438-1412 BC) with his accomplishments in archery [2.44-50], and Šulgi of Ur (end of the 3rd millennium BC) [3; 4. 46-53] and Šulgigalzu [4. 30f.] should also be placed in this array. As individ…

Pulydamas

(136 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] (Πουλυδάμας/ Poulydámas; also Polydamas/Πολυδάμας/ Polydámas) of Scotussa (Thessaly). Victor at the Olympic Games (Ol. 93 = 408 BC) in the pankration , of unusual body size whose deeds were embellished by legend (Paus. 6,5,4-9). His fight with the lion and his appearance at the royal Persian court where he was said to have killed unarmed three armed bodyguards of Darius II are depicted on the base of his victor's statue in Olympia, which was sculpted by Lysippus [2] and was alleged …

Capitolea

(182 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] ( Agon Capitolinus). In contrast to the Neroneia, the Capitolea festival, introduced by the emperor Domitian in Rome in AD 86 (Suet. Dom. 4,4), considerably outlasted their founder because of their name connection with Jupiter Capitolinus. The highly regarded contest based on the Greek model and consisting of an athletic (held in the stadium Domitiani, now the Piazza Navona [1]), musical and hippic programme, certainly won by 64 victors [2. 123-155], still existed in the middle of the 4th cent. During Domitian's rule, it also comprised a cursus virginum (‘race of yo…
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