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Ancient Olympics: ‘Like Vince Lombardi On The PGA Circuit’

Date:
July 1, 2008
Source:
University of Maryland, College Park
Summary:
The modern Olympic ideals differ dramatically from the way the games were actually played in ancient Greece, says a classicist who has heavily researched the Olympic past. The ancient games featured professionals with a "winning is everything" philosophy.

"Ancient Olympiads were more like the modern PGA golf circuit than the amateur ideal advanced for most of the 20th century," says Hugh Ming Lee, a professor of classics at the University of Maryland.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Maryland, College Park

The modern Olympic ideals differ dramatically from the way the games were actually played in ancient Greece, says a University of Maryland classicist who has heavily researched the Olympic past. The ancient games featured professionals with a “winning is everything” philosophy.

“Ancient Olympiads were more like the modern PGA golf circuit than the amateur ideal advanced for most of the 20th century,” says Hugh Ming Lee, a professor of classics at the University of Maryland. “The Greeks and Romans awarded honors to the most accomplished athletes and paid them for their efforts. These professionals traveled a competitive circuit. The Vince Lombardi notion of winning is much closer to the original Olympic spirit.”

Ancient athletes resorted to various “potions” to gain a competitive edge. “The dung of a wild boar was honored for the powers it conferred on charioteers,” Lee points out. “Even the emperor Nero tried it.”

Modern-day ‘Ultimate Fighting’ resembles the Greek’s pankration, where almost everything short of eye-gouging and biting was permitted. “If it weren’t for the nudity, the ancient games would have played well on modern TV,” Lee says.

The ancient Greeks played the games under a flag of truce to give athletes safe passage. The games offered a respite from war, according to Lee. The athletes ran the final race of the Olympiad in armor, perhaps to acknowledge the coming end of the truce.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Maryland, College Park. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Maryland, College Park. "Ancient Olympics: ‘Like Vince Lombardi On The PGA Circuit’." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 July 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080628162032.htm>.
University of Maryland, College Park. (2008, July 1). Ancient Olympics: ‘Like Vince Lombardi On The PGA Circuit’. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080628162032.htm
University of Maryland, College Park. "Ancient Olympics: ‘Like Vince Lombardi On The PGA Circuit’." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080628162032.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

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