Arete: Greek Sports from Ancient Sources

Arete: Greek Sports from Ancient Sources

Arete: Greek Sports from Ancient Sources

Arete: Greek Sports from Ancient Sources


From the informal games of Homer's time to the highly organized contests of the Roman world, Miller has compiled a trove of ancient sources: Plutarch on boxing, Aristotle on the pentathlon, Philostratos on the buying and selling of victories, Vitruvius on literary competitions, and Xenophon on female body building. Arete offers readers an absorbing lesson in the culture of Greek athletics from the greatest of teachers, the ancients themselves, and demonstrates that the concepts of virtue, skill, pride, valor, and nobility embedded in the word arete are only part of the story from antiquity. This bestselling volume on the culture of Greek athletics is updated with a new preface by leading scholar Paul Christesen that discusses the book's continued importance for students of ancient athletics.


The book that you hold in your hands has as its title a single Ancient Greek word, arete, but thesauros, another word from the same language, might better describe its contents. A thesauros is a treasure, or the container for a treasure, and Stephen Miller’s Arete contains a particular kind of treasure, in the form of a carefully selected collection of primary source evidence for the history of sports in ancient Greece. The wide range of material found in Arete, taken from literary works, papyri, and inscriptions, reflects Professor Miller’s unmatched scholarly expertise and decades of experience in teaching courses on Greek sports at the University of California, Berkeley. As will become apparent, all this source material is nicely organized, carefully explained, and translated into highly readable English. For anyone new to the subject, especially those who cannot easily make their way through the relevant texts in the original languages, Arete represents an invaluable resource that admirably serves its intended purpose of facilitating the study of Greek sports.

The publication of the first edition of Arete in 1979 reflected and was part of a major shift in the study of sports history, and the republication of the third edition is a fitting occasion to take stock of the enduring significance of Arete, and, more generally, of Professor Miller’s work on the history of Greek sports.

The present volume appears at a time when new books and articles on Greek sports are produced regularly and in considerable quantity. It may, therefore, come as something of a surprise that until very recently there was little scholarly interest in the history of sports, either ancient or modern.

Scholarly disinterest in sports is in and of itself a remarkable phenomenon. Sports were a fundamentally important element of life in ancient Greece. To give but one example, the various communities on the Greek . . .

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