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Games




GAMES. The public games of Greece and Rome were athletic contests and spectacles of various kinds, generally connected with and forming part of a religious observance. Probably no institution exercised a greater influence in moulding the national character, and producing that unique type of physical and intellectual beauty which we see reflected in _____ art and literature, than the public contests of Greece. For them each youth was trained in the gymnasium, they were the central mart whither poet, artist, and merchant each brought his wares, and the common ground of union for every member of the Hellenic race. It is to Greece then that we must look for the earliest form and the fullest development of ancient games, and we propose in the present article to treat principally of the _____ _____. The shows of the Roman circus and amphitheatre were at best a shadow, and in the later days of the empire a travesty, of the Olympia and Pythia, and require only a cursory notice. "Corruptio optimi fit pessima." From the noblest spectacle in the world, the _____ Olympia, the downward course of public games can be traced, till we reach the ignoblest, the Roman amphitheatre, of whose horrors we may still form a faint picture from its last sur-vival, the Spanish bull-fight.

The earliest games of which we have any record are those games at the funeral of Patroclus, which form the subject of the twenty-third Iliad. They are noticeable both as showing that the belief that the dead would be appeased or gratified by the same exhibitions which pleased them in life was a common heritage of _____s and Romans from their Aryan progenitors, and as already including all the distinctive competitions which we find in historical times,—the chariot-race, archery, boxing, wrestling, and putting the weight. Each of the great Grecian games was held near some shrine or consecrated spot, and is connected by myth. or legend with some hero, demigod, or local deity.

The Olympian games were the earliest, and to the last they remained the most celebrated of the four national festivals. Olympia was a naturally enclosed spot in the rich plain of Elis, bounded on the N. by the rocky heights of Kronos, and on the S. and W. by the Alpheus and its tributary the Kladeus. There was the grove of Altis, in which were ranged the statues of the victorious athletes, and the temple of Olympian Zeus with the chryselephantine statue of the god, the masterpiece of Phidias. There Hercules (so ran the legend which Pindar has introduced in one of his finest odes), when he had conquered Elis and slain its king Augeas, conse-crated a temenos and instituted games in honour of his vic-tory. A later legend, which probably embodies historical fact, tells how, when Greece was torn by dissensions and ravaged by pestilence, Iphitus inquired of the oracle for help, and was bidden restore the games which had fallen into de-suetude ; and there was in the time of Pausanias, suspended in the temple of Hera at Olympia, a bronze disk whereon were inscribed, with the regulations of the games, the names of Iphitus and Lycurgus. From this we may safely infer that the games were a primitive observance of the Eleians and Pisans, and first acquired their celebrity from the powerful concurrence of Sparta. In 776 B.C. the Eleians, engraved the name of their countryman Coroebus as victor in the foot race, and thenceforward we have an almost un-broken list of the victors in each succeeding Olympiad or fourth recurrent year. For the next fifty years no names occur but those of Eleians or their next neighbours. After 720 B.c. we find Corinthians and Megareans, and later still Athenians and extra-Peloponnesians. Thus what at first was nothing more than a village bout became a bond of union for all the branches of the Doric race, and grew in time to be the high feast to which every _____ gathered, from the mountain fastnesses of Thessaly to the remotest ecolonies of Cyrene and Marseilles. It survived even the extinction of _____ liberty, and had nearly completed twelve centuries when it was abolished by the decree of the Christian emperor Theodosius, in the tenth year of his reign. The last Olympian victor was a Romanized Armenian named Varastad.

Let us attempt to call up the scene which Olympia in its palmy days must have presented as the great festival approached. Heralds had proclaimed throughout Greece the truce of God, which put a stop to all warfare, and ensured to all a safe conduct during the sacred month. So religiously was this observed that the Spartans chose to risk the liberties of Greece, when the Persians were at the gates of Pylae, rather than march during the holy days. Those white tents which stand out against the sombre grey of the olive groves belong to the Hellanodicae, or ten judges of the games, chosen one for each tribe of the Eleians. They have been here already ten months, receiving instruc-tion in their duties. All, too, or most of the athletes must have arrived, for they have been undergoing the indispens-able training in the gymnasium of the Altis. But along the "holy road" from the town of Elis there are crowding a motley throng. Conspicuous in the long train of pleasure--seekers are the _____ sacred deputies, clad in their robes of office, and bearing with them in their carriages of state offerings to the shrine of the god. Nor is there any lack of distinguished visitors. It may be Alcibiades, who, they say, has entered no less than seven chariots ; or Gorgias, who has written a famous _____ for the occasion; or the sophist Hippias, who boasts that all he bears about him, from the sandals on his feet to the dithyrambs he carries in his hand. are his own manufacture; or Aetion, who will exhibit his picture of the Marriage of Alexander and Roxana—the picture which gained him no less a prize than the daughter of the Hellanodices Praxonides; or, in an earlier age, the poet-laureate of the Olympians, Pindar himself. Lastly, as at the mediaeval tournament, there are "store of ladies whose bright eyes rain influence ;" matrons, indeed, are excluded on pain of death, but maidens, in accordance with Spartan manners, are admitted to the show.

At daybreak the athletes presented themselves in the Bouleuterion, where the presidents were sitting, and proved by witnesses that they were of pure Hellenic descent, and had no stain, religious or civil. on their character. Laying their hands on the. bleeding victim, they swore that they had duly qualified themselves by ten months’ continuous training in the gymnasium, and that they would use no fraud or guile in the sacred contests. Thence they pro-ceeded to the stadium, where they stripped to the skin and anointed themselves. A herald proclaimed—"Let the runners put their feet to the line," and called on the spectators to challenge any disqualified by blood or character. If no objection was made, they were started by the note of the trumpet, running in heats of four, ranged in the places assigned them by lot. The presidents seated near the goal adjudged the victory. The footrace was only one of twenty-four Olympian contests which Pausanias enumerates, though we must not suppose that these were all exhibited at any one festival. Till the 77th Olympiad all was concluded in one day, but afterwards the feast was extended to five. The order of the games is for the most part a matter of conjecture, but, roughly speaking, the historical order of their institution was followed. We will now describe in this order the most important.





(1.) The foot-race. For the first 13 Olympiads the _____, or single lap of the stadium, which was 200 yards long, was the only contest. The _____, in which the course was traversed twice, was added in the 14th Olympiad, and in the 15th the _____, or long race, of 7, 12, or, according to the highest computation, 24 laps, over 3 miles in length. We are told that the Spartan Ladas, after winning this race, dropped down dead at the goal. There was also, for a short time, a race in heavy armour, which Plato highly commends as a preparation for active service. (2.) Wrestling was introduced in the 18th Olympiad. The importance attached to this exercise is shown by the very word palaestra, and Plutarch calls it the most artistic and cunning of athletic games. The practice differed little from that of modern times, save that the wrestler’s limbs were anointed with oil and sprinkled with sand. The third throw, which decided the victory, passed into a proverb, and struggling on the ground, such as we see in the famous statue at Florence, was not allowed, at least at the Olympia. (3.) In the same year was introduced the _____, a com-bination of the five games enumerated in the well-known pentameter ascribed to Simonides:—

_____

Only the first of these calls for any comment. The only leap practised seems to have been the long jump. The leapers increased their momentum by means of _____ or dumb-bells, which, they swung in the act of leaping. By the help of them, and of the spring-board, enormous dis-tances were covered, though the leap of 55 feet with which Phayllus is credited is simply incredible. It is disputed whether a victory in all five contests, or in three at least, was required to win the _____ (4.) Boxing was added in the 23d Olympiad. The rules were much the same as those of the modern ring, except that the boxer’s fists and wrists were armed with straps of leather. The force of the blow was thereby increased; but no arm so terrible as the cestus of the Romans can ever have been admitted in _____ contests, seeing that the death of an antagonist not only disqualified a combatant, but was severely punished. In the pancratium, a combination of wrestling and boxing the use of these straps, and even of the clenched fist, was disallowed. (5.) The chariot-race had its origin in the 23d Olympiad. It was held in the hippodrome, a race-course 1200 feet long by 400 broad, laid out on the left side of the hill of Knonos. The whole circuit had to be traversed twelve times. In the centre near the further end was the pillar or goal (the spina of the Romans), round which the chariots had to turn. "To shun the goal with rapid wheels" has been well selected by Milton as the most graphic feature of the Olympian games. So dangerous indeed was the manoeuvre that, according to Pausanias, a mysterious horror attached to the spot, and horses when they passed it would start in terror without visible cause, upsetting the chariot and wounding the driver. The number of chariots that might appear on the course at once is uncertain. Pindar (Pyth., v. 46) praises Arcesilaus of Cyrene for having brought off his chariot uninjured in a contest where no fewer than forty took part. The large outlay involved excluded all but rich competitors, and even kings and tyrants eagerly contested the palm. Thus in the list of victors we find the names of Cylon, the would-be tyrant of Athens, Pausanias the Spartan king Archelaus of Macedon, Gelon and Hiero of Syracuse, and Theron of Agrigentum. Chariot-races with mules, with mares, with two horses in place of four, were successively introduced, but none of these present any special interest. Races on horseback date from the 33d Olympiad. As the course was the same, success must have depended on skill as much as on swiftness. Lastly, there were athletic con-tests of the same description for boys, and a competition of heralds and trumpeters, introduced in the 93d Olympiad.

The prizes were at first, as in the Homeric times, of some intrinsic value, but after the 6th Olympiad the only prize for each contest was a garland of wild olive, which was cut with a golden sickle from the kallistephanos, the sacred tree brought by Hercules "from the dark fountains of Ister in the land of the Hyperboreans, to be a shelter common to all men and a crown of noble deeds" (Pindar, Ol., iii. 18). _____ writers from Herodotus to Plutarch dwell with com-placency on the magnanimity of a race who cared for no-thing but honour and were content to struggle for a corrup-tible crown. But though the _____ games present in this respect a favonrable contrast to the greed and gambling of the modern race-course, yet to represent men like Milon and Damoxenus as actuated by pure love of glory is a pleasing fiction of the moralists. The successful athlete received in addition to the immediate honours very substantial rewards. A herald proclaimed his name, his parentage, and his country ; the Hellanodicae took from a table of ivory and gold the olive crown and placed it on his head, and in his hand a branch of palm; as he marched in the sacred revel to the temple of Zeus, his friends and admirers showered in his path flowers and costly gifts, singing the old song of Archilochus, _____, and his name was canonized in the _____ calendar, Fresh honours and rewards awaited him on his return home. If he was an Athenian he received, according to the law of Solon, 500 drachmae, and free rations for life in the Prytaneum ; if a Spartan, he had as his prerogative the post of honour in battle. Poets like Pindar, Simonides, and Euripides sung his praises, and sculptors like Phidias and Praxiteles were engaged by the state to carve his statue. We even read of a breach in the town walls being made to admit him, as if the common road were not good enough for such a hero; and there are well -attested instances of altars being built and sacrifices offered to a successful athlete. No wonder then that an Olympian prize was regarded as the crown of human happiness, Cicero, with a Roman’s contempt for _____ frivolity observes with a sneer that an Olympian victor receives more honours than a triumphant general at Rome, and tells the story of the Rhodian Diagoras, who, having himself won the prize at Olympia, and seen his two sons crowned on the same day, was addressed by a Laconian in these words:—"Die, Diagoras, for thou hast nothing short of divinity to desire." Alcibiades, when setting forth his services to the state, puts first his victory at Olympia, and the prestige he had won for Athens by his magnificent display. But perhaps the most remarkable evidence of the exaggerated value which the _____s attached to athletic prowess is a casual expression which Thucydides employs when describ-ing the enthusiastic reception of Brasidas at Scione. The Government, he says, voted him a crown of gold, and the multitude flocked round him and decked him with garlands, as though he were an athlete.





The above description of the Olympian games will serve generally for the other great festivals of Greece. Without entering on any detailed account of these, it will be sufficient here to glance at the most prominent characteristics of each.

The Pythian games, second only to the Olympian in importance, were founded after the first Sacred War out of the spoils of Cirrha, 595 B.C. Originally a local festival held every eighth year in honour of the Delphic god, with no other contests but in the harp and the paean—in fact a sort of _____ Eisteddfod—they developed into a common _____ for all Greece (so Demosthenes calls them), with all the games and races of Olympia, from which they were distinguished only by their musical and poetical com-petitions. They were held under the superintendence of the Amphictyones in the autumn or first half of every third Olympian year. The prizes were a wreath of laurel and a palm.

The Nemean games, originally a warlike gathering and review, were held in honour of Nemean Zeus at the grove of Nemea, between Cleonae and Phlius, in the second and fourth year of each Olympiad. They date from about 570 B.C. The prize was a chaplet of parsley.

The Isthmian games, founded a little earlier than the Nemean, partook at first of the nature of mysteries. They were held on the narrowest part of the Isthmus of Corinth in honour of Poseidon in the first and third year of each Olympiad. Their prize was a wreath of pine leaves. The importance of the Isthmian games in later times is shown by the fact that Flamininus chose the occasion for proclaim-rig the liberation of Greece, 196 B.C. That at a later anniversary (67 A.D.) Nero repeated the proclamation of Flamininus, and coupled with it the announcement of his own infamous victory at Olympia, shows alike the hollowness of the first gift and the degradation which had befallen the _____ games, the last faint relic of _____ worth and independence.

The Ludi Publici of the Romans included feasts and theatrical exhibitions as well as the public games with which alone we are concerned. As in Greece, they were intimately connected with religion. At the beginning of each civil ear it was the duty of the consuls to vow to the gods games for the safety of the commonwealth, and the expenses were defrayed by the treasury. Thus, at no cost to thems-elves, the Roman public were enabled to indulge at the same time their religious feelings and their love of amusement. Their taste for games naturally grew till it became a passion, and under the empire games were looked upon by the mob as one of the two necessaries of life The aediles who succeeded to this duty of the consuls were ex-pected to supplement the state allowance from their private purse. Political adventurers were not slow to discover so ready a road to popularity, and what at first bad been ex-lusively a state charge devolved upon men of wealth and ambition. A victory over some barbarian horde or the death of a relation served as the pretext for a magnificent display. But the worst extravagance of private citizens was eclipsed by the reckless prodigality of the Caesars, who squandered the revenues of whole provinces in catering for he mob of idle sight-seers on whose favour their throne depended. But though public games played as important a part in Roman as in _____ history, and must be studied by the Roman historian as an integral actor in social and political life, yet, regarded solely as exhibitions, they are comparatively devoid of interest, and we sympathize with Pliny, who asks his friend how any man of sense can go day after day to view the same dreary round of fights and races.

It is easy to explain the different feelings which the games of Greece and of Rome excite. The _____s at their best were actors, the Romans from first to last were spectators. It is true that even in _____ games the professional element played a large and ever-increasing part. As early as the 6th century B.C. Xenophanes complains that the wrestler’s strength is preferred to the wisdom of the philo-sopher, and Euripides, in a well-known fragment, holds up to scorn the brawny swaggering athlete. But what in Greece was a perversion and acknowledged to be such, the Romans not only practised but held up as their ideal. No _____, however high in birth, was ashamed to compete in person for the Olympic crown. The Roman, though little inferior in gymnastic exercises, kept strictly to the privacy of the palaestra ; and for a patrician to appear in public as a charioteer is stigmatized by the satirist as a mark of shameless effrontery.

Roman games are generally classified as fixed, extra-ordinary, and votive; but for our present purpose they may be more conveniently grouped under two heads according to the place where they were held, viz,, the circus or the amphitheatre.

For the Roman world the circus was at once a political club, a fashionable lounge, a rendezvous of gallantry, a betting ring, and a playground for the million. Juvenal, speaking loosely, says that in his day it held the whole of Rome; and there is no reason to doubt the precise statement of P. Victor, that in the Circus Maximus there were seats for 350,000 spectators. Of the various Ludi Circences it may be enough here to give a short account of the most important, the Ludi Magni or Maximi.

Initiated according to legend by Tarquinius Priscus, the Ludi Magni were originally a votive feast to Capitoline Jupiter, promised by the general when he took the field, and performed on his return from the annual campaign. They thus presented the appearance of a military spectacle, or rather a review of the whole burgess force, which marched in solemn procession from the Capitol to the forum and thence to the circus, which lay between the Palatine and Aventine. First came the sons of patricians mounted on horseback, next the rest of the burghers ranged according to their military classes, after them the athletes, naked save for the girdle round their loins, then the company of dancers with the harp and flute players, next the priestly colleges bearing censers and other sacred instruments, and lastly the simulacra of the gods, carried aloft on their shoulders or drawn in cars. The games themselves were four fold:—(1) the chariot race; (2) the ludus Troioe; (3) the military review; and (4) gymnastic contests. Of these only the first two call for any comment. (1.) The chariot employed in the circus was the two-wheeled war car, at first drawn by two, afterwards by four, and more rarely by three horses. Originally only two chariots started for the prize, but under Caligula we read of as many as twenty-four heats ran in the day, each of four chariots. The distance traversed was fourteen times the length of the circus or nearly five miles. The charioteers were apparently from the first professionals, though the stigma under which the gladiator lay never attached to their calling. Indeed a successful driver may compare in popularity and fortune with a modern jockey. The drivers were divided into companies distinguished by the colours of their tunics, whence arose the faction of the circus which assumed such importance under the later emperors. In republican times there were two factions, the white and the red; two more, the green and the blue, were added under the empire, and for a short time in Domitian’s reign there were also the gold and the purple. Even in Juvenal’s day party spirit ran so high that a defeat of the green was looked upon as a second Cannae. After the seat of empire had been transferred to Constantinople these factions of the circus were made the basis of political cabals, and frequently resulted in sanguinary tumults, such as the famous Nika revolt (532 A.D.), in which 30,000 citizens lost their lives. (2.) The Ludus Troiae was a sham fight on horseback in which the actors were patrician youths. A spirited description of it will be found in the 5th Aeneid. See also CIRCUS.

The two exhibitions we shall next notice, though occasionally given in the circus, belong more properly to the amphitheatre. Venatio v, as the baiting of wild animals who were pitted either with one another or with men—captives, criminals, or trained hunters called bestiarii. The first certain instance on record of this amusement is in 186 B.C., when M. Fulvius exhibited lions and tigers in the arena. The taste for these brutalizing spectacles grew apace, and the most distant provinces were ransacked by generals and proconsuls to supply the arena with rare animals—giraffes, tigers, and crocodiles. Sulla provided for a single show 100 lions, and Pompey 600 lions, besides elephants, which were matched with Gaetulian hunters. Julius Coesar enjoys the doubtful honour of inventing the bull-fight. At the inauguration of the Colosseum 5000 wild and 4000 tame beasts were killed, and to commemorate Trajan’s Dacian victories there was a butchery of 11,000 beasts. The naumachia was a sea fight, either in the arena, which was flooded for the occasion by a system of pipes and sluices, or on an artificial lake. The rival fleets were manned by prisoners of war or criminals, who often fought till one side was exterminated. In the sea fight on Lake Fucinus, arranged by the emperor Claudius, 100 ships and 19,000 men were engaged.

But the special exhibition of the amphitheatre was the mumus gladiatorium, which dates from the funeral games of Marcus and Decimus Brutus, given in honour of their father, 264 B.C. It was probably borrowed from Etruria, and a refinement on the common savaue custom of slaughtering slaves or captives on the grave of a warrior or chieftain. Nothing so clearly brings before us the vein of coarseness and inhumanity which runs through the otherwise noble character of the Roman, as his passion for gladiatorial shows. We can fancy how Pericles, or even Alcibiades, would have loathed a spectacle that Augustus tolerated and Trajan patronized. Only after the conquest of Greece we hear of their introduction into Athens, and they were then admitted rather out of compliment to the conquerors than from any love of the sport. In spite of numer-ous prohibitions from Constantine downwards, they continued to flourish even as late as St Augustine. To a Christian martyr, if we may credit the story told by Theodoret and Cassiodorus, belongs the honour of their final abolition. In the year 404 Telemachus, a monk who had travelled from the East on this sacred mission rushed into the arena and endeavoured to separate the combatants. He was instantly despatched by the praetor’s orders; but Honorius, on hearing the report, issued an edict abolishing the games, which were never afterwards revived. See GLADIATORS. (F. S.)



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