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← Translating the British

Cartomancer's Avatar Jump to comment 16 by Cartomancer

Oh, there was just as much jingoism and nationalistic sentiment at the ancient games. More so in fact, given that to the Greek city-states the competition for political power, prestige and alliances was much more cut-throat and practically valuable than it is today. The Olympics was THE chief arena for inter-state political posturing. During the Peloponnesian War, for instance, Athens and Sparta would use the games to announce their respective alliances and enmities and court the support of the lesser states in their military endeavours. Athletes would frequently switch their national allegiances from one Olympiad to another if bribed to do so, and powerful patron states would sometimes lend fledgling colonies their best athletes in order to shore up and elevate their clients' political clout.

And as for the artists and poets, they'd go to seek sponsorship from wealthy patrons. It was a big commercial enterprise for them, rather than some pure celebration of artistic merit. Money and sponsorship deals are hardly a modern phenomenon. The other big sporting festivals - the Isthmian, Nemean and Pythian games - were less commercial and significant, but still served as an arena for such activities between Olympics. Athens tried very hard to promote its native Panathenaic games as a rival in the Greek games cycle in order to accrue further prestige and influence. It was a big deal.

The games were also open only to free-born Greek-speaking males (well, until a bunch of very persuasive Latin-speaking males with sharp swords convinced the Greeks to let them take part). There may have been one or two female events on the fringes from time to time, and there are scattered records of female chariot team owners, but it was overwhelmingly a masculine affair. And forget runners-up - there were no silver or bronze awards, it was winner takes all.

Sat, 11 Aug 2012 21:14:23 UTC | #950694