The early history of sport and the art depicting ancient sporting events showed that it was all too frequently to the death or frequently caused a competitor to end up maimed.
In my earlier post I talked about the Romans, Mongols and the Hohokam, among others, but let’s not forget the Greeks.
They loved their sporting events and competitions. Usually only the higher class of nobles engaged in sports, but women were not allowed to contend. Only those that spoke Greek were permitted to participate. The games were a highly publicized and honored festival to be taken seriously. Bull-fighting events were popular from 1600-1100 BC. The Greeks even had celebratory competitions during funeral proceedings.
According to a video on http://www.olympic.org, Herocles started the Olympics about 800 BC. Before 684 BC only one day was given to the games. Up to the 5th Century BC 3 days were then allocated. After that 5 full days were given to the Olympic Games. The games were held only in Olympia, and, unlike our modern Olympics, did not take place in other countries or even other cities in Greece.
Some of the more common early Greek competitions carried over to the Roman games. Some of these events were running, boxing and wrestling. Balls were part of many events such as throwing and catching an inflated animal bladder or leather ball, a type of football, and repetitive ball bounce (where dropping or allowing a multiple bounce on the ground was not permitted). Other sports were weight lifting, petaurum (a giant see-saw or springboard that pitted one opponent against another, the loser getting knocked off), and the pancratium or pankration (wrestling and boxing together).
The Olympiads included other events such as, shot-put, javelin, long jump, and equestrian events (held in the hippodrome). Events were strictly organized and officiated.
Boxing initially was bare handed competition, but as the sport progressed leather binding was introduced for hand safety. That, however, often caused considerable damage to the faces of the opponents. Getting hurt or maimed occurred frequently, but was given high honors for the survival factor. Sacrificing losers did occur, but not as commonly as in earlier Roman times. Winners were given god-like stature and influential positions in government. Betting on participants was a huge diversion for the Greeks, as well as the early Romans.
Gymnastics were a large part of all-around athletic endeavors. They were held in special buildings called Agonistae. Arenas were built to hold these competitive festivals and games. The round form or circus and the palaestrae were also special buildings devoted only to athletes. “Althetae” devoted their entire life to competition and the games.
Artwork in both ancient Greece and Rome celebrated athletic prowess. Sport artwork, or art about sports, found its way onto earthenware, glasswork, sculpture, gold, silver and bronze reliefs, tapestries, clothing, carvings, and wall art.
Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games, which derived much of its influence from the Greeks, said, “The Olympic Games are not just ordinary world championships, but a four-yearly-festival of universal youth, ‘the spring of mankind’, with . . . multiple ambitions of all forms. To the Greeks, the Olympics were as much a matter of ART as athleticism”.
Today modern Olympic promoters use the finest in sports art, graphics, displays, and photographic production to advertise and announce the Games
What’s your favorite Olympic event? Find one in our SAI collection from our esteemed artists.