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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…

Demaratus

(514 words)

Author(s): Meier, Mischa (Bielefeld) | Strothmann, Meret (Bochum) | Kinzl, Konrad (Peterborough) | Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne) | Badian, Ernst (Cambridge, MA) | Et al.
(Δημάρατος; Dēmáratos). [German version] [1] Corinthian aristocrat 7th cent. BC Corinthian aristocrat, member of the  Bacchiadae family. D. made his fortune as a merchant around the middle of the 7th cent. BC, mainly through trade with Etruria. When he had to leave Corinth during the rule of  Cypselus he settled in Tarquinii with his followers and married an Etruscan aristocrat. According to ancient tradition the marriage produced two sons, one of whom became the first Etruscan king of Rome,  Tarquinius P…

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…

Bow-shooting

(369 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] In contrast to the ancient Middle East [1] and ancient Egypt [2. 42-54; 3. 1,139-189, 2, pl. 68-83, 446-450, folding plate A], where impressive reports and depictions of competitions or royal demonstrations in the art of bow-shooting (especially from Amenophis II, 1438-1412 BC) have survived, bow-shooting played only a modest role in athletic contests of later Greece [4.365-371; 5.155-158]. However, bow-shooting appears a number of times in both the Iliad (23,850-883; and, followi…

Fist-fighting

(875 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] (πυγμή, πύξ; pygmḗ, pýx; pugilatio, pugilatus). There is already evidence of the discipline in the pre-Greek period (Egypt [1. N 1-2]; Mesopotamia [2. fig. 69; 3. 16f.]) and it was also practised in ancient marginal cultures (Etruria [4. 181-268]; representation on situlae [4. 168-174; 185f.; 226-231]; Lucania [5. 54f.]). In the early Greek Aegean area impressive documents from Thera (fresco of the so-called ‘boxing princes’) [6. pl. 38; 7. 43-45] and the depiction on a rhyton from Hagia Triada [6. pl. 106f.; 7. 43-45]…

Apobates

(258 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] (ἀποβάτης; apobátēs). Relic of an early style of combat portrayed in Homer [1.31], the apobates contest, in which an armed man sprang from a moving chariot, had to run for a distance and then jump back aboard (?) while the driver kept the vehicle moving, evidently later enjoys high favour as a sporting event only in Athens [2.188-189; 3.138-141]. The complex discipline, where, besides equestrian qualities, great skill on the part of the armed runner and precise co-ordination between him and the …

Dolichos

(314 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] (δόλιχος; dólichos). Longest running race at Greek sporting events. At Olympia, where the dolichos reportedly came into the program in 720 BC (15th Olympiad) as third sport, it probably covered a stretch of 20 stades ( c. 3,845 m) [1. 108f.]. Over that distance the disadvantage of turning around a central post ( Diaulos), was reduced. Graphic [2] and archaeological (Nemea [3]) evidence to this effect should therefore be taken seriously. A good turning technique created distinct advantages. Successful dolichos-runners were, by way of example, the periodonikai (vic…

Nemea

(1,080 words)

Author(s): Käppel, Lutz (Kiel) | Lafond, Yves (Bochum) | Olshausen, Eckart (Stuttgart) | Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
(Νεμέα; Neméa). [German version] [1] Nymph after whom Nemea [2,3] was named Nymph, after whom N. [2,3] was named, daughter of the river god Asopus and Metope (Paus. 2,15,3; schol. Pind. Ol. 6,144 Dr.) or of Zeus and Selene (hypothesis c on Pind. Nem.); mother of Opheltes (Aesch. TrGF 3 F *149a). Käppel, Lutz (Kiel) [German version] [2] Name of a river, a basin and a sacred grove This item can be found on the following maps: Athletes | Education / Culture (Νεμέα; etymological meaning ‘pasture’; other etymology possibly after a nymph N. in Paus. 2,15,3). Name of: 1) a river whi…

Periodos, Periodonikes

(275 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] (περίοδος/ períodos, περιοδονίκης/ periodoníkēs). The four most significant Panhellenic agons (Sports festivals) at Olympia, Delphi, Nemea and the Isthmus were brought together from the 3rd cent. BC under the term periodos ('circuit'). An athlete who had been victorious at least once in each of those games received the honorary title of periodoníkēs documented only from the 2nd cent. AD (cf. today's Grand Slam for success in the four most important international tennis tournaments of the year). Only c. 60 ancient athletes were entitled to this distinction …

Mnesibulus

(227 words)

Author(s): Engels, Johannes (Cologne) | Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
(Μνησίβουλος/ Mnēsíboulos). [German version] [1] Athenian defendant, after 356 BC The Athenian M. was involved after 356 BC in a lawsuit for false testimony ( pseudomartyrías díkē ) on behalf of his brother-in-law Theophemus in an earlier aikeía suit ( aikeías díkē ) (cf. Dem. Or. 47,5 and 53 = Apollodoros; Din. fr. 97 Conomis). Apollodorus [1]; Demosthenes [2] Engels, Johannes (Cologne) Bibliography Davies, 225-226  PA 10265  Traill, PAA 655710. [German version] [2] Condemned Athenian, before 324/3 BC Athenian from the deme of Acharnae, was condemned at first before 324/…

Theogenes

(485 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne) | Schmitz, Winfried (Bielefeld) | Ameling, Walter (Jena)
(Θεογένης/ Theogénēs). [German version] [1] Athlete from Thasos, 5th cent. BC Famous fighter from the island of Thasos, Olympic champion in 480 BC (against Euthymus of Locri [1. nos. 191; 214; 222]) in fist-fighting [1. no. 201] and in 476 BC in pankration [1. no. 215]. This constellation of victories was first documented for T. on an inscription in Delphi [2. no. 37] dating from the 2nd cent. BC, which attests that the athlete was adored by his home polis for as long as four generations after his death. Pausanias tells of three victories in Delphi, ten in the Isthmia a…

Agonothetes

(400 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] (ἀγωνοθέτης; agōnothétēs). While nothing is known of the office and function of the agonothete in pre-Greek times, Achilles as patron of the funeral games in honour of Patroclus already entirely fulfils the duties of later agonothetes (Hom. Il. 23,257-897) [1.81-82]. As patron he provides and distributes valuable prizes from among his own possessions, and repeated calls are made on his abilities as arbiter (disputes, distribution of special prizes). At the same time, he is active a…

Pythionikai

(225 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] (Πυθιονῖκαι/ Pythionîkai, 'victors at the Pythian Games'). Victors at Olympia were in many cases also successful at the Pythia [2] [1]. A list of Pythionîkai was drawn up by Aristotle [6] and his relative Callisthenes [1] [2. 139-144; 3]. Some of the inscriptions written in their honour have survived (FdD 2,1; 2,400; [2. 141-144]). Twelve of the odes of Pindarus [2] are dedicated to Pythionîkai. In Delphi, important anathḗmata (Anathema) have been found, such as the 'charioteer' given by the Sicilian tyrant Polyzalus  [4. no. 13] and the votive g…

Riding

(494 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] (Sport; κέλης/ kélēs). Although there is evidence, for instance from Egypt [1], of riding on horseback as early as the mid-2nd mill. BC, it was only in Greece that it became a sporting discipline, riding competitions having apparently taken place at the Olympic Games (Olympia IV) from 648 BC. Like chariot-racing (Circus II, Hippodromos [1]), riding was the province of the nobility. Among the 31 preserved names of Olympic victors in riding are well-known names such as Hieron [1] I, t…

Running (competitions)

(579 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] Running first appears in Sumeria as a royal attribute [1]. The Egyptian pharaoh showed his running ability in the ritual of the Jubilee Feast (Egyptian ḥb-sd) [2]. The first evidence of competition is among the Hittites, where the office of royal bridle-holder was awarded as a prize in a competitive race [3]. Soldiers of the Egyptian king Taharka performed a race over a distance of c. 100 km after a long period of daily training in 686/685 BC [4]. Running was an essential part of Patroclus' funeral agon (Hom. Il. 23,740-797), held by the 'fleet-footed' (πόδας ὠκύς, pódas ōkýs)…

Phrynon

(209 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne) | Kinzl, Konrad (Peterborough)
(Φρύνων; Phrýnōn). [German version] [1] Olympic victor Victor at Olympia. Moretti [1. no. 58] dates his victory (in the pankration rather than the stadion) [2. 213: A 68] to the 36th Games = 636 BC. According to ancient tradition he died in 607/6 in a duel with  Pittacus of Mytilene over the ownership of  Sigeum. His activities as an oikistḗs (founder of a colony) suggests an aristocratic origin ([3. 63], otherwise [4. 160 note 59]). Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne) Bibliography 1 L. Moretti, Olympionikai, 1957 2 D.G. Kyle, Athletics in Ancient Athens, 21993 3 H.W. Pleket, Zur Soziologie…

Actia

(269 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] Augustus founded the penteteric Actia in commemoration of the decisive victory won by him over Marcus Antonius in the sea battle off Cape Actium on 2 September 31 BC (Str. 7,325; Suet. Aug. 18; Cass. Dio 41,1); they were probably celebrated for the first time on the anniversary of the battle in 27 BC [1.105-106] and elevated to the status of periodos. Cited in many victory rolls during the Imperial Age, sometimes in the same breath as the Olympic and Pythian games [2.275]. They comprised a programme that included gymnastics, the arts (Stat.…

Swimming

(387 words)

Author(s): Decker, Wolfgang (Cologne)
[German version] (Egyptian nbj; Greek κολυμβᾶν/ kolymbân; Latin natare). Swimming was a basic cultural skill as early as in ancient Egypt ([1]; likewise later in Greece, Pl. Leg. 689d; in Rome, Suet. Aug. 64,3: Augustus teaches his grandsons to swim) and was part of the education syllabus of high-ranking people, even of the king's children (biography of nomarch Cheti, end of 3rd millennium BC [2. document 3]). There are also sufficient sources for the Ancient Near East to assume that swimming was known …
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