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Reviewed by:
  • Arete: Greek Sports from Ancient Sources by Stephen G Miller, and: The Ancient Olympics by Nigel Spivey
  • Donald G. Kyle
Miller, Stephen G. Arete: Greek Sports from Ancient Sources. 3rd and expanded ed., with a new foreword by Paul Christesen. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2012. Pp. xix+235. Bibliography, index, and glossary. $27.95 pb.
Spivey, Nigel. The Ancient Olympics. 2nd ed., with a new preface. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Pp. xxvii+279. Sources and further reading, index, and illustrations. $18.95 pb.

The years of quadrennial summer modern Olympic games traditionally offer prime opportunities for authors and presses to publish works on ancient Greek sport. For example, the Olympics of 2004 in Athens, the “birthplace” of the games, inspired a bumper crop of at least a dozen ancient Olympic and ancient sport books, notably David C. Young’s A Brief History of the Olympic Games and Stephen G. Miller’s Ancient Greek Athletics. (For a discussion of six works, see Jason Peter König, “Olympics for the Twenty-first Century,” Journal of Hellenic Studies 125 [2005]: 149–153.) Significantly, the 2008 Beijing Olympics, in a non-European setting, did not (and Rio 2016 may not) inspire a large crop, although Judith Swaddling did offer a second revised and updated edition of her The Ancient Olympic Games. The awarding of the 2012 games to London, still relatively a [End Page 355] bastion of modern Hellenism, brought some well-written popular volumes (e.g., Alan Beale, Greek Athletics and the Olympics [2011], David Stuttard, Power Games: Ritual and Rivalry at the Ancient Olympics [2011], Neil Faulkner, A Visitor’s Guide to the Ancient Olympics [2012]). Such accessible works help show the potential of studying ancient sport as a realm of activity crucial to Greek society, culture, and identity.

This review concerns republications of two volumes from 2004 in 2012 in slightly altered forms: Spivey’s work as a second edition and Miller’s as a reprinting of his third edition with a new preface. Both of these works were fine in their 2004 versions, and they would have remained useful and popular from many years. That both books are in paperback with new cover illustrations (both with discus images) suggests that the initiative for the republications came from their prestigious but profit-seeking presses, but what constitutes a “new” edition and not just a revised reprinting? When is another edition needed or justified, and how should it be done? (With reflexivity I admit that such questions are on my mind as I contemplate a second edition of my Sport and Spectacle in the Ancient World [2007].)

Based on his decades of archaeological investigation and his design and teaching of a course on ancient sport at the University of California, Berkeley, Miller’s Arete is an excellent sourcebook for teaching ancient sport, especially in tandem with his Ancient Greek Athletics. Arete is clear, reliable, and rich with 256 precious literary and epigraphical sources such as Pausanias, Plato, a Panathenaic prize list from Athens, and a gymnasium inscription from Verroia in Macedonia. Fifteen chapters cover Homer and early Greek sport, nudity, athletic events, Panhellenic and local festivals, games in society, women, athletes, education and the gymnasium, Hellenistic and Roman eras, themes of professionalism and nationalism, and Pindar and athletic ideals.

Now retired, Miller did not undertake another revision of Arete, so the text of the third edition of 2012 remains the same as that of the second edition of 2004. Miller, however, approved a republication of a slightly different version of the third edition with a new foreward by Paul Christesen of Dartmouth College. Some readers may recall that Miller wrote an eight-page “Preface to the American Edition” for Ares Publishers’ 1978 reprint of Gardiner’s 1930 Athletics of the Ancient World. Miller’s new preface helpfully updated Gardiner on more recent research, and he graciously recognized Gardiner’s dedication and contributions. Thus it is entirely appropriate that Yale University Press turned to a star of a new generation of ancient sport historians to introduce and applaud Miller and his Arete.

After publishing essays on nudity and the sixth-century explosion of Greek sport, Christesen...


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