Date Presented:3 Mar.
Competition and combat have a historic tension in Greek myth and culture. Though the origination of athletics in ancient Greece may not have been martial, several literary examples from the classical Greek through imperial Roman periods make clear that a belief in an inextricable, etiological link between combat and athletic competition was widespread among ancient authors and observers. The hoplitodromos, or race in armor, is a representative example both of this etiological belief and of the evolution of Greek athletics over time. As the growing prevalence of hoplite warfare reduced the opportunity for warriors to earn kleos aphthitōn on the battlefield, athletic competitions became a partial replacement for the lost opportunities to achieve eternal glory. Further, the rise of a classical “gymnasion culture,” which valued physical beauty, youth, and eroticism most highly, may have sparked a pushback on the part of our ancient sources, who sought in return to emphasize all the more the martial practicality of athletic training and competitive events.