Clas 0210/arch0200 Sport in the Ancient Greek World

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CLAS 0210/ARCH0200

Sport in the Ancient Greek World
Spring Semester 2010

Classics / Archaeology and the Ancient World

Brown University
Class: MWF 12-12:50 pm, 008 Rhode Island Hall

Instructor: Professor John Cherry

Phone: 863-6412; e-mail:

Office Hours: Monday 2-4 p.m. (or by appointment)

Office: Room 105 Rhode Island Hall

Class wiki site:

Course Description:

Athletics and sports were as popular and significant in the ancient Greek world as they are today, and so offer a good introduction to many aspects of Greek culture over the centuries. Illustrated lectures, reinforced and amplified by readings from ancient and modern writers, as well as by discussion in class, will introduce you to such topics as: the development of Greek athletics, sites where games were held, the nature of individual events, and social implications such as athletic professionalism, women and athletics, the role of sport in Greek education, etc. Wider cultural aspects to be explored include the religious, political, and economic contexts of athletics; how their ideology found expression in literature and the visual arts; issues of class, gender, nationalism, and ethnicity; and, of course, whether the modern Olympic Games are anything like the ancient ones. You will encounter the primary data drawn from archaeology, art, and literature, and read modern studies of this ancient evidence.

None (but any previous courses in Classics, Archaeology and the Ancient World, or Ancient Studies will help... )

Grades will be based on:

• take-home Midterm Exam (20%, issued March 12, due March 15)

• Final Exam (25%)

• three short quizzes (5% each, Feb. 19, Mar. 26, and Apr. 16)

• one Internet-based assignment (10%, due Mar. 22)

• one short (8-10 pages) term paper (20%, due May 7)

• attendance, active participation, office hours (10%)

• The essay-based, take-home, Midterm Exam will be handed out in class on Friday March 12, and will be due at the following class (Monday March 15). The Final Exam (2 hours) will consist of a combination of visual and verbal identifications, plus an essay.

• Your short paper will be based on a topic agreed upon with me in advance (you will need to come to office hours to discuss it) and should provide a detailed discussion of some aspect of sport in the ancient world. Since this paper is not due until near the end of the Reading Period, there is no acceptable excuse for late papers.

• Readings from the required textbooks have been sequenced to correspond, approximately, to the topics I shall be presenting in class at, or soon after, the time you’ll be reading them. I expect you to do these readings regularly by the stated deadlines (see below), and to come to class prepared to discuss them in an informed manner; your active participation in discussion will count towards your final grade.

Provisional Course Outline:
Week 1

Jan. 27 Introduction to the class and logistical matters. The nature of sport. Olympic facts and myths.

Jan. 29 The ancient games as ritual and politics.

Week 2

Feb. 1 The prehistory of Greek sport: Minoan and Mycenaean.

Feb. 3 Sport in Homer and the epic tradition.

Feb. 5 The origins of Greek athletic festivals.

Week 3

Feb. 8 Olympia, the Olympic games and its athletic program.

Feb. 10 Video: The Real Olympics, Part I.

Feb. 12 Discussion

Week 4

Feb. 15 Spectators and facilities at the site of Olympia.

Feb. 17 Athletic events I: running and jumping

Feb. 19 Quiz 1. Experimental archaeology: Video, Nemea and the hysplex.

Week 5

Feb. 22 No class — Brown Long Weekend.

Feb. 24 Athletic events II: the pentathlon.

Feb. 26 Athletic events III: combat sports and equestrian events.

Week 6

Mar. 1 Festivals other than the Olympics: the rise of the periodos.

Mar. 3 The games at Delphi.

Mar. 5 The games at Isthmia and Nemea.

Week 7

Mar. 8 Rules, officials, judges, bribery, and corruption.

Mar. 10 Gymnasia, training, trainers, and athletic diets.

Mar. 12 Ancient sports anecdotes.

Take-home Midterm Exam issued.

Week 8

Mar. 15 Civic athletics: the Panathenaia of Athens, I.

Take-home Midterm Exam due.

Mar. 17 Civic athletics: the Panathenaia of Athens, II.

Mar. 19 What happened if you won? II: Victors’ statues, politics.

Week 9

Mar. 22 What happened if you won? II: Victory poetry

Internet assignment due

Mar. 24 Women and ancient Greek sport.

Mar. 26 Quiz 2. Opening ceremonies (discussion).

Week 10

Mar. 29 Spring Break: No classes.

Mar. 31 Spring Break: No classes.

Apr. 2 Spring Break: No classes.

Week 11

Apr. 5 Sport and the erotic.

Apr. 7 The issue of nudity.

Apr. 9 Hellenistic athletics and the internationalization of sport.

Week 12

Apr. 12 What did the Romans do with Greek sport?

Apr. 14 Dissenting voices: ancient critics of athletes and the games.

Apr. 16 Quiz 3. Discussion

Week 13

Apr. 19 Video: The Real Olympics, Part II.

Apr. 21 Into the modern era: transformation of the ancient Olympics.

Apr. 23 Modern myths of Olympic amateurism and professionalism.

Week 14

Apr. 26 Dangerous Olympics: Nazism and Riefenstahl’s Olympia [video]. Discussion

Apr. 28 Wrap-up and review for final exam.

Apr. 30 Reading Period begins

May 7 (5 p.m.) Written paper due

May 11-21 Exam Period

Required textbooks:

(1) Stephen G. Miller, ARETE: Greek Sports from Ancient Sources (3rd edn., Berkeley 2004, paperback)

(2) Stephen G. Miller, Ancient Greek Athletics (Yale, 2004, hardback)

(3) Judith Swaddling, The Ancient Olympic Games (2nd edn., Texas 2002, paperback)

(4) David C. Young, A Brief History of the Olympic Games (Blackwell 2004, paperback)

All four books are available at the Brown Bookstore

Schedule of readings from required textbooks:
Arete = Stephen G. Miller, ARETE: Greek Sports from Ancient Sources

Miller = Stephen G. Miller, Ancient Greek Athletics

Swaddling = Judith Swaddling, The Ancient Olympic Games

Young = David C. Young, A Brief History of the Olympic Games
Week 1 Miller, chs. 1-3; Young, ch. 1
Week 2 Miller, ch. 6; Arete, ch. I; Young, ch. 2
Week 3 Swaddling, chs. 1-5; Young, ch. 5
Week 4 Swaddling, chs. 6-8; Young, ch. 3
Week 5 Miller, ch. 4; Arete, ch. III; Young, ch. 4
Week 6 Miller, ch. 5
Week 7 Miller, ch. 7; Arete, ch. IV; Young, chs. 7-8
Week 8 Miller, chs. 10-11; Arete, chs. V and VI; Young, ch. 6
Week 9 Miller, ch. 8; Arete, chs. VIII and X; Young, chs. 9-10
Week 10 [Spring Break.] Arete, chs. II and VII
Week 11 Miller, chs. 9 and 12; Young, ch. 11
Week 12 Arete, chs. XI and XII; Young, ch. 12
Week 13 Miller, chs. 13-16; Arete, chs. XIII-XV; Young, ch. 13
Week 14 Swaddling, ch. 9

Other Resources:

• A selection of key books on topics relating to ancient Greek sport, in its widest sense, will be placed on reserve in the non-circulating library on the second floor of the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World (Rhode Island Hall).

• You will use The Perseus Digital Library (a huge text and image database of ancient Greek civilization, accessible at ). I will direct you to, and encourage you to make use of, other resources available on the Web, including a few on-line articles. Here are some links to start with (mostly about ancient Olympic Games, but with much information about ancient sport in general)

[The Ancient Olympics: A Special Exhibit of the Perseus Digital Library Project]

[The Real Story of the Ancient Olympic Games, from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology]

[Official website of the Olympic movement]

[The Olympic Games in the Ancient Hellenic World: A Virtual Museum, from Dartmouth College]

[Press clippings and weblinks about the Ancient and Modern Games]

[Ancient Olympics Guide, from Archaeology magazine]

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