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HUMANITIES 169 Mark Golden. Sport and Society il1 Ancient Greece Key Themes in Ancient History. Cambridge University Press. xiv, 216. us $19.95 Appropriately, I began this review sitting on the balcony of an apartment just off Koroibos street, named for the first Olympic victor, in an Athens busily preparing itself for the 2004 Olympics. On North American campuses today, ancient athletics are a hot topic. Students of all sorts are drawn to classes on Greek (and Roman) sport for a variety of reasons. Many come from genuine interest; some, unfortunately, register in the mistaken belief that ancient athletics are an easy way to earn credit. Easy they definitely are notas anyone can tell you who has tried to assemble the scattered material, much available only in out-of-the-way specialist journals, for classroom presentation. Teachers are also bedevilled by the lack of an up-to-date textbook that offers a nuts-and-bolts overview of the technical details of ancient athletics without the appalling class and ethnic biases of most texts in use today. Mark Golden has gone a long way towards solving the first problem with a book that attempts to place Greek athletics (which he consistently refers to as 'sport') in its societal context. Sport and Society in Ancient Greece will serve nonspecialist scholars and teachers well with Golden's engaging, and idiosyncratie, suggestions on how to approach the study of ancient athletics. But Sport and Socien} is definitely not an intraduction in the conventional sense. Readers who need to know about how an ancient starting gate (husplex) worked, where the hippodrome at Olympia was, or even what an ancient stadium looked like will not find enlightenment here. Instead of explainiitg what some might call technicalities, Golden offers his own personal view of sport's place in Greek society, a very subjective approach presumably designed to stimulate readers to construct their own view of Greek athletics. In five chapters, plus a short conclusion, Golden sets out his view of Greek athletics as a multifaceted means of drawing boundaries and emphasizing differences- between Greeks and non-Greeks (barbarai)I elite and non -elite, male and female, winners and nonwinners (losers). Along the way, especially in the first two chapters, he canvasses such well-known chestnuts as the links between athletics, warfare, and religion, as well as the competitive nature of the Greeks. The last, and best chapter contains a post-Marxist analysis of the Heracles myth, in terms of the denigration of wage-labour, and an interesting account of Athenian athletics as a means of easing class rivalry. His section on the reality and Significance of athletic nudity is useful; howeverI its treatment of the so-called perizoma vases from the late sixth century BC, which seem to show loinclothed runners, is rather anodyne. Any decent photograph will make clear that the loincloths were applied to anatomically complete figures after firing, evidently for the Etruscan market. 170 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 In so wide-ranging abook as this, specialists will no doubt find the usual quota of minor inaccuracies and pOints of disagreement. I could find only one serious error: in his 'cautionary tale' on the difficulty of interpreting archaeological remains, Golden uses a 1988 article by the then-excavator of Olympia, who thought that what the great German archaeologist Wilhelm Dorpfeld had seen as the stone boundary of a Bronze Age tumulus was actually a natural line of stones. By 1990, however, excavation on the site vindicated Dorpfeld's supposition by showing that the turnulus with surroundingbuildings did in fact date from the early Bronze Age, as the editor of that year's Archaeological Reports noted. The moral: never bet against the German greats unless you know you hold all the cards. Golden provides a useful, stimulating overview for people with some knowledge of antiquity. The book makes enjoyable reading: he studs the text with a plethora of witty modern parallels, some of which may baffle non-North American readers as much as references to 'googlies' and LBWS in works by British scholars have long puzzled Canadians and Americans. Academics who face the prospect of teaching the subject for the first time or want a conceptual...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 169-170
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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