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When the Olympics take place, students explore Pankration and other ancient games

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Watching the Japanese Olympics, a group of students from the University of Toronto are learning about the origin and historical importance of such an athletic sport that began about 3,000 years ago.


The third grade course offered by the classical department of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences is called Sports & Festivals. It is taught by PhD candidate Naomi Noifeld.

In class, students explore the role of athletics and religious festivals in ancient Greek and Roman societies. Exercise event‘Political, social and religious influences.

“We are looking at our competitors,” says Neufeld. “What is their social status? What? Political significance Behind the hosts of these games? What is the religious significance? Further research to understand the world of Greece and Rome.

“Being an archaeologist, the context is everything. If you don’t understand the big picture, you’ll only get an isolated look.”

While the Olympic Games are currently being held in Tokyo, there is also debate over the ancient roots of the Games.

Greek athletes originally participated in all stadium events naked, but some Olympic events haven’t changed much compared to the ancient world.

“It was one of the most important elements of the game,” Neufeld said, saying that nudity, which competes with training, is a source of pride. “In fact, the Greeks looked down on those who dressed and exercised as’barbarians’.”

Outfits aside, many of the running races and other athletics, wrestling and boxing haven’t changed relatively.

“They also played a sport called Pankration, which combines boxing and wrestling,” says Neufeld, an essentially Greek version of mixed martial arts.

The first pentathlon included running race length, discus, long jump, javelin throw, and finally a wrestling match between two top athletes from the previous event. Today’s pentathlon includes a very different format consisting of pistol shooting, fencing, swimming races, equestrian show jumping, and 3,200-meter cross-country races.

There were few events that got people up like chariot racing. It is often celebrated in Hollywood movies. “In the ancient world, chariot racing was one of the best and most exciting events,” says Neufeld.

What are the other similarities between ancient games and today’s games? Various sports came and went over time.

In some of the early games, the Greeks held a mule kart race called Apene. This wasn’t as fast or flashy as horse racing. “This event wasn’t popular in the classical era,” says Neufeld.

There was also a race called Calpe, in which the athlete rode a few laps around the track and walked down the last lap next to it.

Neufeld explains that there was a significant difference in the meaning of the games of ancient Greece and Rome.

“In Greece, these games were for free Greek citizens only,” she says.Athletes were expensive Social status, Often regarded as the elite of society. And they proudly represented the various city-states known as Police. Their success in the game was seen as representing Police’s ability to produce great citizens.The Greeks also firmly believed Physical fitness And the pleasant appearance represents a strong personality and spirit.

In Rome, the functionality of the game was different. Athletic events have become a powerful political tool, more of a spectacle than a competition.

“Participants in these games had low stats,” Neufeld says. “The elite will see them as a form of entertainment, and if politicians play gorgeous games, they can get the support to run for politicians, or the emperor gets the support of the people. You will be able to appease them in times of trouble. “

It is from such competition that the phrase “bread and circuse” was invented by the Roman satirist Juvenal. This phrase means producing public approval not by the excellence of public services, but by diversion or by meeting the basic needs of the population by providing food and entertainment.

Roman politicians have generated a lot of support through events featuring gladiators. But it wasn’t as perfect as Hollywood portrayed, Neufeld says.

“The earliest games recorded in Roman history were played in connection with funeral events, so violent sports were a kind of ritual blood to soothe dead ghosts. It has been interpreted, “says Neufeld. “And it wasn’t just about brutal slaughter. It was reserved for public executions. Audiences wanted to see evenly matched enemies fighting with skill, patience, and indomitable spirit. Was there.

“If the defeated gladiator fights well and bravely, he can escape.”

Despite the differences, the athletics of both cultures were closely linked to religion.

“Greek athletic competitions were held during religious festivals in honor of the gods and may have been considered a tribute to the gods,” says Neufeld. “A major game in which Greek citizens of all police can gather and compete was held in religious sanctuaries such as Delphi and Olympia, where the gods have temples and can make sacrifices.”

In early Rome, the victorious general vowed to hold Rudy (athletic and chariot races) if the gods gave him military success. “Then these games were held thanks to the gods,” says Neufeld.

Sarah Cassidy, a fourth-year political science student at University College, majoring in classical and sociology, says she enjoys the course.

“I wanted to know more about the social life of the ancient Greeks and Romans,” she says. “I often hear about the Olympics, chariot races, and gladiators, but before this class I had only general knowledge from media sources and culture. More about lesser-known festivals and their influence. I wanted to dig deeper and learn. These events affected the lives and history of the ancients.

“I didn’t expect to know how important these festivals are in protecting, expressing and maintaining the identities of Greece and Rome, as well as citizens and cities.”


The Olympics offer untapped opportunities to improve the health of all


Quote: When the Olympics take place, students will receive Pankration and other ancient times from https://phys.org/news/2021-08-olympics-students-explore-pankration-ancient.html on August 6, 2021. Explore the game (August 6, 2021)

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When the Olympics take place, students explore Pankration and other ancient games

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