Xenophanes of Colophon (570 – 475 BC) was an Ancient Greek philosopher, theologian, poet, and social and religious critic. He lived a life of travel, having left Ionia at the age of 25 and continuing to travel throughout the Greek world for another 67 years. Knowledge of his views comes from fragments of his poetry, surviving as quotations by later Greek writers. To judge from these, his elegiac and iambic poetry criticized and satirized a wide range of ideas, including Homer and Hesiod, the belief in the pantheon of anthropomorphic gods and the Greeks’ veneration of athleticism. He is credited with being one of the first philosophers to distinguish between true belief and knowledge, which he further developed into the prospect that you can know something but not really know it. Engraving from The History of Philosophy by Thomas Stanley published in three successive volumes between 1655 and 1661.
  • The Ancient Olympic games brought the polis together for communication and socializing
  • Halted conflict & wars
  • However due to branding of athletes to their specific city states, this created competition and rivalry between city-states
  • Lists were kept of the polis with most victories
  • Athletes would sometimes be hired by cities to represent them (I.e Astylos, double Olympic victor) competed first for Kroton (native), but then for Syracuse; this resulted in Kroton pulling down his statue and turned his house into a prison
  • Syracuse was notorious for poaching star athletes from other cities to compete on their team
  • Betrayal of your home polis: statues taken down, all victory rewards revoked, exile etc.
  • Sometimes athletes would default to other teams due to exile or being conquered, not always motivated by money
  • 5th– 6th century, polis, Kroton, dominated gymnikos agon; labelled as “jock factory”
  • Victors of crown games: free meal everyday for life, front-row seat at local games, tax exemptions, exemptions from other services
  • Xenophanes, criticizes how strength is unfairly valued over wisdom; only the athlete has something to gain from his victory
  • However, city states often were very proud of Olympic victors; printing their victories on coins and as a promotional tool for Elis (put patrons and gods on their coins to allure cults)
  • Game sanctuaries were often supportive and mutually assistive to each other (Olympia and Delphi, heralder), but rivalries could occur (Ie. Isthmia and Nemean, with pine to wild celery)
  • Curse of Moline: rivalry between Olympia and Isthmia; war between Herakles and Augeas/ Son of Aktor. During what should have been the scared truce for Isthmian games, they were ambushed and killed by Herkales. The sister of the sons, Moline, demanded justice from Argives (where Herakles lived), Corinthians also refuse to help. So she curses her country men, Eleans, all “they would never compete at the Isthmian Games”
  • Eleans did not compete in the Isthmian Games; political interest trumpeted the benefits of competition
  • Sybaris, tried to put out large cash game prizes around the same time as Olympia, didn’t work
  • Political tension would often be expressed in terms of fines/ floggings assessed by the sanctuary polis to aggressor states (i.e Eleans and Lakedaimonians feud over a fine and not allowing Lichas to win, the Lakediamonians later invade and Eleans climb onto roofs and temples to hide) — only transpired due to Eleans siding with the Athenians
  • Nemean games were removed from Nemea, after a fire/ invasion of Argos by Spartans
  • Isthmian games was held twice in the same year due to a conflict between Corinth and Argives
  • Olympic Games of 364: Arkadians invade & capture Olympia and prepare to hold the games; the Eleans attack during the games and defeat the Arkadians; They deem the as Anoylmpiad (non-olympiad)
  • Nemean Games of 271, moved to Argos; Aratos of Sikyon, wanted it held in Nemea, so any athlete he caught travelling to the games in Argos was captured and sold into slavery
  • Festival centres act as places to celebrate military victories by one polis over another (i.e Spartan defeat the Athenians at Battle of Tanagra; dedicate a shield to the temple of Zeus
  • Athenians build a stoa in Delphi will booty they gained from battle
  • Philip II of Macedon; extremely successful in promoting himself through the Olympics; with his horse race victories and coin branding – he was a major player in the games
  • Philip led the Fourth Scared War (culmination of Philip’s campaign in Greece (339–338 BC) and resulted in a decisive victory for the Macedonians.)
  • Philippeion built by him at Olympia
  • He established a league; that would meet at the games when they were going to be held; this removed individual city states from power
  • Hippias of Elis (420BC) creator of Olympic victor list; started tradition of naming the Olympaid after the victor of the stadion
  • Name, hometown, event,
  • Used this list as an accurate & universal guideline through history; kept time standardized due to each polis having its own lunar calendar
  • Athletics helped with the evolution of art in the ancient world
  • Kouroi, rigid figures with legs close together but one foot forward, arm straight down at the sides, stylized face (originally from Egypt) [Difference: Greek kouroi were nude]
  • Many statues were erected for Olympia victors and other young men looking to model in the nude; sculptors would often attempt to display motion in their statues
  • The Disk-thrower and Fillet-Binder are two famous statues that survive through duplication
  • Athletics also helped to develop literature (metaphors) [waves, boxer etc.]
  • Most important contribution of athletics: creation of concept of equality before the law (isonomia); foundation on which democracy is based [the objective criteria, all men nude, all men flogged regardless of money or power] excel with their beings, not their possessions
  • Popularity of athletics parallels the flourishing of Athenian democracy; defeat of the Persians
  • Sokrates was found guilty of impiety and corrupting youth of Athens. Either the death penalty or a proposal by him: he proposed that he should be penalized with free meals in the prytaneion. He stated his service was more valuable than anything that athletics could provide. He is still sentenced to death.

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