Eros and Greek Athletics

Eros and Greek Athletics

Language: English

Pages: 468

ISBN: 0195149858

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.


















from atalanta and athletic myths of gender 185 the iconography of the naked girl runners at Brauron, all of whom are much younger. The graceful, contraposto stance with hands up to adjust the cap recall her pose in a wrestling scene of earlier date which will be discussed later (fig. 7-7).20 The contrast of female grace and beauty with allusion to her wrestling prowess incorporates the contradictions inherent in the heroine. Atalanta in Art: Wrestling The more numerous vases with wrestling

the athletic residue? The philosopher Synesius (4–5 c. a.d.) portrays Konisalos as a god in fact antithetical to athletic enterprises when he criticizes a licentious slave whom he purchased as a trainer: “[he is] not in the least suitable to the overseers of the palaestra, Hermes and Heracles. But he serves Kotus and the other Attic Konisaloi” (Ep. 32). Synesius, like many philosophers before him, sternly disapproves of the widespread role of Eros in the gymnasium (ch. 8). The point of Synesius’

and passion—one is reminded of the sublime eroticism of Odysseus, brine-covered and washed up on the shores of Phaeacia, standing naked before the maiden Nausicaä. Nudity is known to have served several religious and magic functions in ancient society, but cultic nudity among Greek girls and boys seems to have had the special significance of designating youths involved in special rituals at a stage prior to adulthood.23 Spartan boys, for example, competed in age-groups in the Gymnopaedia, or

is one cryptic literary tradition in Aristophanes, Peace 873–76, its scholia, and Suda, s.v. “Brauron,” which some have seen as a link between the Brauronia to Artemis and a Dionysian Theoria at that site.59 The association is made since Brauron is mentioned and the Theoria, like the Brauronia, is a penteteric festival. During the Theoria men got drunk and seized the many prostitutes who were found at Brauron. The Scholiast’s report sounds to some like “a feeble attempt to explain the text.”60

Beazley, Paralipomena, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1971) 292; black-figure Attic lekythos, attributed to the Bedlam Painter of Athens, but from Salamis (= Kahil [1965] pl. 10.6–7). Three girls in short chitons run to the right, away from an altar. Implausibly associated with the Olympian Heraia race by J. W. Kyle, “The Maiden’s Race on an Attic Vase,” American Journal of Archaeology 6 (1902) 53. For other scenes of running in the vicinity of an altar, see app. 6.1, nos. 1, 4, 17, and 28 (cf. fig.

Download sample