Reflections on the number of athletic competitions in pre-Hellenistic Greece

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This paper presents some brief reflections on the cultural rôle played by athletics in Prehellenistic Greece, and it does so by considering the contexts in which athletic competitions took place and by attempting to estimate, in a very rough way, how many religious festivals included athletic competitions in their festivities in the late archaic and classical periods. This question has not previously been seriously considered by scholars, but this paper ‘guestimates’ that the number of athletic festivals ran, very probably, into several hundreds already by the end of the fourth century. It does so by briefly surveying epinician poetry, epigraphic, numismatic and literary evidence as well as archaeological evidence. Thus, the situation from which the much celebrated explosion agonistique of the later Hellenistic and Imperial periods was ignited, was a situation in which the athletic festival was already one of the truly defining features of Greek civilisation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAthletics in the Hellenistic World
EditorsChristian Mann, Sofie Remijsen, Sebastian Scharff
Number of pages10
Place of PublicationStuttgart
PublisherFranz Steiner Verlag
Publication date28 Nov 2016
Pages31-41
Article number2
Chapter2
ISBN (Print)978-3-515-11571-1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2016

ID: 169356826