When the Olympics are held, students explore the Pancrace and other ancient games

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Watching the Japanese Olympics, a group of students from the University of Toronto learn about the origin and historical significance of such an athletic sport which began about 3,000 years ago.

The third year course offered by the Classical Department of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences is called Sports & Festivals. It is taught by doctoral student 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 competition,” says Neufeld. “What is their social status? What? Political importance Behind the hosts of these games? What is the religious significance? Further research to understand the world of Greece and Rome.

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

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

Greek athletes originally participated in all stadium events naked, but some Olympic events have not changed much from the ancient world.

“It was one of the most important parts of the game,” said Neufeld, saying nudity, which rivals training, is a source of pride. “In fact, the Greeks despised those who dressed and exercised as ‘barbarians’.

Clothing aside, many running and other athletic, wrestling and boxing sports have not changed relatively.

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

The first pentathlon included the length of the run, the discus, the long jump, the javelin throw and finally a wrestling match between two top athletes from the previous event. Today’s pentathlon features 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 uplifted people like chariot races. It is often celebrated in Hollywood movies. “In the ancient world, chariot races were one of the best and most exciting events,” says Neufeld.

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

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

There was also a race called Calpe, in which the athlete did a few laps around the track and completed 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 reserved for free Greek citizens,” she says. Athletes were expensive. Social status, often considered the elite of society. And they proudly represented the various city-states known as the Police. Their success in the game was seen as representing the ability of the police to produce great citizens. The Greeks also strongly believed in physical fitness, and pleasant appearance represents a strong personality and spirit.

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

“The participants in these games had low statistics,” Neufeld said. “The elite will see them as a form of entertainment, and if politicians play magnificent games, they can gain the support needed to run for politicians, or the emperor will gain the support of the people. You will be able to appease them in difficult times. “

It was from such competition that the expression “bread and the circus” was coined by the Roman satirist Juvénal. This phrase means to generate public approval not by excellent public services, but by diversion or by meeting the basic needs of the population by providing food and entertainment.

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

“The earliest games recorded in Roman history were played in connection with funerary events, so violent sports were a kind of ritual blood to appease dead ghosts. It was performed,” says Neufeld. “And it doesn’t. “This was not just a brutal massacre. It was reserved for public executions. The public wanted to see equal enemies fight with skill, patience and indomitable spirit. Was there.”

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

Despite the differences, the athleticism of the two cultures was closely linked to religion.

“Greek sports competitions were held on religious festivals in honor of the gods and may have been seen as a tribute to the gods,” says Neufeld. “A major game in which Greek citizens of all police forces can come together and compete against each other has taken place at religious shrines such as Delphi and Olympia, where the gods have temples and can make sacrifices.”

At the start of Rome, the victorious general swore to hold Rudy (athletics and chariot races) if the gods gave him military success. “Then these games took place 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 course I only had general knowledge of media and culture. Learn more about lesser-known festivals and their influence. I wanted to dig deeper and learn. These events affected the life and history of the ancients.

“I never expected to know how important these festivals are in protecting, expressing and maintaining the identities of Greece and Rome, as well as of citizens and cities.”


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Quote: When the Olympics are held, 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 are held, students explore the Pancrace and other ancient games

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