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Sport and Spectacle in the Ancient World

ISBN: 978-0-631-22970-4
424 pages
September 2006, Wiley-Blackwell
Sport and Spectacle in the Ancient World (0631229701) cover image
This is a readable, up-to-date, illustrated introduction to the history of sport and spectacle in the ancient world from the Ancient Near East through Greek and Hellenistic times and into the Roman Empire.

  • Covers athletics, combat sports, chariot racing, beast fights and gladiators.

  • Traces the precursors of Greek and Roman sports and spectacles in the Ancient Near East and the Bronze Age Aegean.

  • Investigates the origins, nature and meaning of sport, covering issues of violence, professionalism, class, gender and eroticism.

  • Challenges the notion that Greek sport and Roman spectacle were polar opposites.

  • Approaches sport and spectacle as overlapping and compatible features of civilized states and empires.
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List of Illustrations.

List of Maps.

Abbreviations.

Preface and Acknowledgements.

Introduction: Ancient Sport History.

Why Sport History.

Why Ancient Sport History.

Word Games and Wars of Words: Conceptualizing Sport and Spectacle.

Challenges: Evidence, Chronology and Modernism.

Sports and Spectacles as Cultural Performances.

Greece and Rome: Positive and Negative Classicism.

Sports as Spectacles, Spectacles as Sport.

Sport as History and History as Sport.

1. Origins and Essences: Early Sport and Spectacle.

Mesopotamian Combat Sports and Running.

Egypt: from Hunting to Sporting Pharaohs.

Royal Hunts as a Near Eastern Tradition.

Conclusions: States and Sports, Empires and Spectacles.

2. Late Bronze Age Minoans, Hittites and Mycenaeans.

Minoan Performances: Rites, Contests or Spectacles.

Hittite Contests.

Mycenaean Contests.

3. Sport in Homer: Contests, Prizes, Heroes and Honor.

Funeral Games for Patroklos: Prizes and Reconciliation.

The Odyssey: Sport and Returning Home.

4. Archaic Greece: Athletic Festivals in an Age of Change.

Factors and Features in the Growth of Archaic Athletics.

Conclusion: The Coming of Age of Greek Sport.

5. In Search of the Real Ancient Olympics.

The Olympics of Illusion and Allusion.

Modern Myths and Invented Traditions.

The Morass of Olympic Origins: Explanations and Excavations.

6. Ancient Olympic Games: Setting, Operation, Contests, and Spectacle.

The Physical Context: Site, Sights and Facilities.

The Olympic Athletic Festival: Operation and Administration.

The Program of Contests.

Olympia and Spectacle: Politics, Perfidy, Performance.

7. The Panhellenic Circuit of Sacred Crown Games.

Pythian Games.

Isthmian Games.

Nemean Games.

8. Athens- City of Contests and Prizes.

The Panathenaic Games: Sacred and Civic Athletics.

Other Athletic Festivals [insert: Calendar of Festivals with Competitions].

Athletic Facilities.

Politics, Patronage and Sport in Democratic Athens.

Athenian Competitors and Competitors at Athens *.

Critics and Popular Attitudes.

Fourth-Century and Proto-Hellenistic Trends.

9. Spartan Sport and Physical Education: Building the Body Politic.

Spartan Physical Education and the State.

Spartan Athletics.

Kyniska and Spartan Chariot-Racing at Olympia.

10. Athletes: Myths, Motives, and Mobility.

Athletic Stars and Stories.

Victory and Glory: Pindaric Praise and Ideology.

Athletes and Social History: Professionalism, Decline or Democratization.

11. Females and Greek Athletics.

The Heraia and Girls Races in the Stadium at Olympia.

Women at the Male Olympics.

Virgin Olympic Spectators.

12. Macedon and Hellenistic Sport and Spectacle (to ca. 200 BC).

Alexander the Great: Becoming Near Eastern through Spectacles.

Hellenistic Sport and Spectacle.

13. The Roman Republic: Festivals, Celebrations, and Games.

Etruscan Sport and Spectacle: Greek Gifts and Roman Roots.

Roman Festivals and Entertainments.

Chariot Racing at Rome.

Triumphs: Spectacles of Military Victory.

Hunts and Beasts: Conquests and Games.

Gladiators: Combats, Infamy and Virtue.

Romans and Greek Sport.

Hellenistic-Roman Spectacular Discourse.

14. Late Republic and Augustus: Spectacles, Popular Politics, and Empire.

The Meaning of Gladiatorial Combat.

Sulla, Pompey and Caesar: Magnificence and Munificence.

Augustus: Unification and Imperial Rule through Spectacle and Sport.

Augustus the Showman.

Augustus the Ringmaster: Arena Reforms and Regulations.

15. Spectacle, Sport, and the Roman Empire (I).

Days at the Races: Chariot Racing and the Roman Empire.

Imperial Triumphs.

Gladiators, Arenas and Empire.

Beast Hunts: Nature and Empire.

Spectacular Executions: Beasts and Social Order.

Emperors, Spectacles, and Scandals.

Conclusion: Sport and/or/as Spectacle.

Selected Bibliography.

Index.

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Donald G. Kyle is Professor and Chair of History at the University of Texas at Arlington. An award-winning teacher, he has been honoured by the University as a Distinguished Teaching Fellow. He has published Athletics in Ancient Athens (Revised Edition, 1993) and Spectacles of Death in Ancient Rome (1998) and co-edited Essays on Sport History and Sport Mythology (1990). He has appeared in History Channel shows on gladiators (1996) and crime in Rome (2005) and PBS and History Channel shows on the Ancient Olympics (2004).
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  • A readable, illustrated, up-to-date discussion of ancient public, competitive physical performances.
  • Covers athletics, combat sports, chariot racing, beast fights and gladiators.
  • Traces the precursors of Greek and Roman sports and spectacles in the Ancient Near East and the Bronze Age Aegean.
  • Broad in chronological scope, covering over 2000 years of history.
  • Investigates the origins, nature and meaning of sport, covering issues of violence, professionalism, class, gender and eroticism.
  • Challenges the notion that Greek sport and Roman spectacle were polar opposites.
  • Approaches sport and spectacle as overlapping and compatible features of civilized states and empires.
See More
“Whether a fan of sport or not, every reader will find something of interest and value in this book.” (The Historian, Spring 2009)

Winner of the 2008 Book Award of the North American Society for Sport History

"A masterful compendium of our current state of knowledge in the ever-expanding field of ancient sport, covering a wide range of historical periods and civilizations. As such, Sport and Spectacle will become an indispensable work of reference for students in courses on ancient sport and researchers who are not very familiar with the field. At the same time, Kyle is cognizant of the latest scholarship and engages with it closely, often in an insightful and original manner. As a result, Sport and Spectacle is also an invaluable scholarly contribution ... In short, this is a book written with knowledge, enthusiasm and wit. It will be enjoyed and employed for decades to come." (International Journal of the History of Sport)

“A pioneer in the resurgence of research on Greek sport … No-one is better qualified to write an English-language synthesis on sport and spectacle in the ancient world. This book does not disappoint … Whatever place and time Kyle examines, fresh and persuasive insights abound.” (Bryn Mawr Classical Review)

"Here one will find not only impressive breadth of coverage (from 2000 BC Mesopotamia to the banning of gladiatorial combats in AD 404), but also detailed analysis based upon a solid theoretical platform of ancient sport studies." (Greece and Rome)

“There are many plums in this rich and well-illustrated pudding of a book. . . Do not hesitate to put in your thumb.”
Paul Cartledge, Times Higher Education Supplement

“Donald Kyle has given us both a broad overview and a richly detailed examination of ancient sport. It is a mature work, the result of a lifetime of research into the subject, and an extremely important addition to it. This book brings us the current status of our knowledge and will have lasting importance.”
–Stephen G. Miller, University of California, Berkeley

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