The Victor's Crown: A History of Ancient Sport from Homer to Byzantium

The Victor's Crown: A History of Ancient Sport from Homer to Byzantium

The Victor's Crown: A History of Ancient Sport from Homer to Byzantium

The Victor's Crown: A History of Ancient Sport from Homer to Byzantium

Synopsis

The Victor's Crown brings to vivid life the signal role of sport in the classical world. Ranging over a dozen centuries - from Archaic Greece through to the late Roman and early Byzantine empires - David Potter's lively narrative shows how sport, to the ancients, was not just a dim reflectionof religion and politics but a potent social force in its own right. The passion for sport among the participants and fans of antiquity has been matched in history only by our own time.Potter first charts the origins of competitive athletics in Greece during the eighth century BC and the emergence of the Olympics as a preeminent cultural event. He focuses especially on the experiences of spectators and athletes, especially in violent sports such as boxing and wrestling, anddescribes the physiology of conditioning, training techniques, and sport's role in education. Throughout, we meet the great athletes of the past and learn what made them great. The rise of the Roman Empire transformed the sporting world by popularizing new entertainments, particularly gladiatorialcombat, a specialized form of chariot racing, and beast hunts. Here, too, Potter examines sport from the perspectives of both athlete and spectator, as he vividly describes competitions held in such famous arenas as the Roman Coliseum and the Circus Maximus. The Roman government promoted andorganized sport as a central feature of the Empire, making it a sort of common cultural currency to the diverse inhabitants of its vast territory. While linking ancient sport to events such as religious ceremonies and aristocratic displays, Potter emphasizes above all that it was the thrill of competition - to those who competed and those who watched - that ensured sport's central place in the Greco-Roman world.

Excerpt

This book began some twenty years ago when my friend Ludwig Koenen, then chair of my department, asked me to take over a long-standing course on ancient sport. The many students who have taken the course over the years have continued to spark my interest in the subject, and I want here to register my profound appreciation both of them and of the generations of graduate students who have borne much of the teaching workload with me and helped the course to evolve. I am very grateful to Richard Milbank at Quercus who took this project on, to Richard Milner who has seen it into press, Josh Ireland who has overseen production and for the exceptional talent of Sue Phillpott who copy edited the book.

In the last five years it has been my great good fortune to serve as a member of the University of Michigan’s Advisory Board on Intercollegiate Athletics, and, as chairman of the governing committee of the faculty senate for one of those years, to look at the business of sport with a fresh eye. I am profoundly grateful to President Mary Sue Coleman and Bill Martin, the athletic director while this book was being written, for their support in these tasks. I have also had the opportunity to meet and work with some truly remarkable coaches and athletic administrators, including Lloyd Carr, Carol . . .

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