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Ancient Greek and Roman civilization have made many contributions to western civilization. Especially when it comes to politics, trade, and sports. From wrestling to javelin, ancient sports set the pace for some of the sports we have in our day and age, especially the Olympic Games. In Ancient Greek and Romans sports, athletes contested very hard and it was a public display that was a trait of the religious and social life of ancient Greece and Rome (Osborne 15). Ancient athletes trained and participated for physical exercise, competition, and to honor their gods. In this paper I will discuss the Greek and Roman attitudes toward sports.
The ancient competition, physically, was relatively different from the sporting events we have now a days. There were far fewer events and only free Greek men (and sometimes boys) were allowed to compete because of the brutality. Also, there weren’t any team sports; every sport was one man against another/others, because they were more concerned about individual merit. Some of the different sports the Greek’s participated in where javelin, running (with and without armor), and discuss. Moreover, some of the more brutal sports they embarked on where wrestling, boxing, and pankration (a form of wrestling and boxing). Some of the games where brutal and you had to participate naked, but it intended on showing the beauty of the human body. The four main cycles of games were the Olympic Games, the Pythian Games, the Isthmian Games, and the Nemean Games (Kyle 48).
Romans on the other hand based their sports around warlike displays, most notably the fights amongst gladiators. They included a gladiatorial combat, stage-plays, chariot races, athletic competitions, and a mock naval battle. Without a doubt, the Greek games depended for their entertainment value primarily on rivalry among athletes; while the Roman games were often describe by the staging of battles fought to the death and involved large numbers of human beings and also beasts (Kyle 184). The Roman sporting events I think were more brutal; especially when it comes to the fights amongst gladiators when most of the time they fought to their death. While on the other hand, the Greek’s were involved with the sports and the Roman’s simply watched them and cheered for the participant they wanted to win.
In conclusion, the Greek and Roman sports helped create some of the sporting events we have today and definitely started athletic competition. We can clearly see the love for sports in Greek and the Romans. We learn that the ancient Greeks and Romans shaped their own idea about the meaning of life. The Roman games were radically different from the Greek games in several respects. However, their sports show the mindset of the people of that time. The Greeks were more interested in showing off the human body while the Roman’s were more inclined on massacring the human body. I think this shows that compared to the Roman’s, the Greek’s valued human life more. Without a doubt modern Americans would find much of these sports awfully violent; particularly the hundreds of gladiator fights and animal fights, with their many public deaths of both people and animals.
Osborne, Robin Studies in Ancient Greek and Roman Society. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
Kyle, Donald G. Sport and Spectacle in the Ancient World. New York: Blackwell Pub, 2007.