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Athletics: Track, Field, Wrestling, and Boxing
be sure to check our special feature:
Real Story of the Ancient Olympic Games
To be an athlete in ancient Greece meant literally "to compete for a
prize." Prizes could be of material value (money or objects) or of symbolic
worth, like the plain wreaths of leaves awarded at Olympia, Delphi, Isthmia
and Nemea. At the Panathenaic Games in Athens the amphoras presented to victorious
athletes were filled with a particularly high-quality grade of olive oil.
They must have been prized nearly as much for their contents as for the commemorative
worth of their painted athletic scenes. An event composed of five individual
contests, which included the discus, javelin, long jump, wrestling, and a
foot race, was called the pentathlon. Its name continues in use today, although
in the modern pentathlon several of the events have changed.
|Attic Black Figure Amphora
ca. 510-490 BC
A boxing contest or pugme. Two boxers wear soft leather himantes or boxing
gloves. The man with the long stick is either a judge or trainer. A naked
youth stands by, holding extra himantes.
H. 29.2; L. 18.5; Dia. 17.0 cm. Photo by Maria Daniels for the Perseus
|Attic Red Figure Kylix
ca. 460-450 BC
By the Penthesilea Painter
A pair of athletes leave a palaestra. One carries a bagged discus and
raises his bronze strigil or scraper. The other carries his cloak. On
the wall hangs an aryballos or container in which athletes kept oil to
clean their bodies. After exercise the oil was scraped off with the bronze
H. 7.8; L. 29.0; Dia. 22.2 cm. Photo by Maria Daniels for the Perseus
Attic Red Figure Kylix
ca. 490-480 BC
Two young men wrestle. Above them hangs a discus in its bag and a pair
of jumping weights called halteres. Long jumpers used the weights to increase
their competition distances by vigorously swinging them forward at the
moment of takeoff. The coach or trainer stands to the left of the wrestlers,
leaning on his staff and holding a long forked branch. The low column
at the left suggests either a palaestra or gymnasium setting.
H. 9.4; L. 30.7; Dia. 23.6 cm. Photo by Maria Daniels for the Perseus
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