To Cite This Issue

Classics@13: Greek Poetry and Sport

Edited by Thomas Scanlon

Many studies on Pindar, Homer, and other poets have discussed the specific uses of sport in each context, and studies on Greek sport have acknowledged the ways in which agonistic values and practices have been reflected in poetic literature, but there has been no single collection of studies devoted specifically to the intersection of Greek poetry and sport. The volume includes a range of contributors who represent a diversity of genres, periods and approaches. Most of the studies cut across strict poetic genres, or even mix poetry and prose in their approach. Importantly, there are several threads that unite the studies with one another. The use and ritual incorporation of the hero is taken as a shared concern from very different approaches in Nagy, more centrally on Pindar, and Scanlon, looking at Homer and the Olympic ritual. Geographical space as a feature of poetry is a concern of both Eckerman (in Pindar) and Remijsen-Scharff (in epigrams). Rich intertextuality and the use of athletic metaphor to advance themes and connect with earlier epic within an author's work defines the core contributions of Kratzer on Euripides' Alcestis and Visa-Ondarçuhu on Apollonius' Argonautika. Nicholson and Stocking uncover poetically based cultural touch points, Nicholson from the view of injuries and death in Homer and other sources on Greek sport, and Stocking from a focus on the construction of eras in Philostratus, who reformulates Hesiod's Five Races of Man. Sport was never out of poetic fashion, never so thoroughly worked in metaphor or stock images or contest descriptions that poets avoided that turf. Poetry's interest in sport survived the rise and fall of genres like epinikia and satyr plays, and the rise and fall of myriad political and cultural changes in the Greek Mediterranean. We can only speculate on the many and complex reasons for the grip of poetry on sport and vice-versa, but they no doubt include Homeric intertextuality, the universal appeal of the topic to the elite and the dêmos, the universal presence of gymnasia and agonistic festivals (both blending poetry and sport), and the agonistic resonances between poetry and sport.


Thomas Scanlon, Introduction and Overview.

Gregory Nagy, Harvard University and the Center for Hellenic Studies, “Athletic Contests in Contexts of Epic and Other Related Archaic Texts.”

Thomas Scanlon, University of California, Riverside, “Homer and the Olympics.”

Christopher Eckerman, University of Oregon, "Behind the Camera: Athletes and Spatial Dynamics in Pindar’s Olympian One."

Patrick O'Sullivan, University of Canterbury, New Zealand, "Pindar and the Poetics of the Athlete."

Nigel Nicholson, Reed College, “The Athlete’s Body and the Rhetoric of Injury.”

Emily Kratzer, Butler University, “Mortality is Hard to Wrestle With: Cosmology and Combat Sports in the Alcestis.

Valérie Visa-Ondarçuhu, Professeur de Langues et littératures grecques, Université de Toulouse II-Le Mirail, "Le héros nu: Jason à l'épreuve ou les souvenirs athlétiques d'Achille et d'Ulysse dans les Argonautiques."

Charles Stocking, University of Western Ontario, “Ages of Athletes: Generational Decline in Philostratus’ Gymnasticus and Archaic Greek Poetry.”

Sofie Remijsen and Sebastian Scharff, Universität Mannheim, "The Expression of Identities in Hellenistic Victor Epigrams."