Ancient Greek Athletics Stephen G. Miller

Publication date:
01 May 2006
Yale University Press
304 pages: 254 x 178mm
221 b-w + 71 color illus.

A comprehensive survey of sports in ancient Greece, available just in time for the Summer Olympics in Athens

The earliest Olympic games began more than twenty-five-hundred years ago. What were they like, how were they organized, who participated? Were ancient sports a means of preparing youth for warfare? In this lavishly illustrated book, a world expert on ancient Greek athletics provides the first comprehensive introduction to the subject, vividly describing ancient sporting events and games and exploring their impact on art, literature, and politics.

Using a wide array of ancient sources, written and visual, and including recent archaeological discoveries, Stephen Miller reconstructs ancient Greek athletic festivals and the details of specific athletic events. He also explores broader themes, including the role of women in ancient athletics, the place of amateurism, and the relationship between athletic events and social and political life.

Published in the year the modern Olympic Games return to Athens, this book will be a source of information and enjoyment for anyone interested in the history of athletics and the origins of the world’s most famous sporting event.

Stephen G. Miller, professor of classical archaeology at the University of California, Berkeley, directs the excavations at Nemea in Greece, one of the major sites of ancient games. He is the author of many books, including Arete: Greek Sports from Ancient Sources.

"Concise yet comprehensive, and wonderfully illustrated . . . the crowning glory of a lifetime’s work in the field."—James Davidson, Daily Telegraph

"Excellently documented and marvelously illustrated."—Mary Beard, Times Literary Supplement

"Written with clarity and grace, Miller's work exemplifies arete, the excellence of virtue that the ancient Greeks sought to embody. For lay readers and scholars alike."—Library Journal

"Miller proves that a good scholar can write clearly and engaging about a specialised research without prostituting scholarship to entertainment."—History Today

"There won’t be a classier tie-in to Athens 2004. . . . The most vivid portrait yet of the Olympic Games as they really were."—Scotsman

"[A] richly detailed study, beautifully illustrated."—Robert Stewart, Spectator

"[A] magisterial look at the history of the Olympics. . . . Nicely illustrated . . . presenting the most vivid portrait yet of the Olympic Games as they really were."—The Scotsman

Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2005

Received rating of "Outstanding" from 2005 University Press Books Committee

"Stephen G. Miller has written the finest, most complete and most useful account of ancient Greek Athletics that I have seen. It rests on a thorough knowledge of all the literary and material evidence and adds a thoughtful and unmistakable love for his subject."—Donald Kagan, author of The Peloponnesian War

"Miller’s Ancient Greek Athletics nowtakes the crown as the most complete and authoritative treatment of the subject in any language. In particular, the massive collection of illustrations and statuary is unparalleled and makes the text easy to interpret."—Frank Frost, professor of ancient history emeritus from UC Santa Barbara

"An olive wreath to Miller for producing an eminently readable, generously illustrated, and comprehensive text on Greek athletics. A must-read foreveryone interested in the role of sport in the ancient world."—Jenifer Neils, author of Goddess and Polis: The Panathenaic Festival in Ancient Athens

"Everyone interested in sports will want to own this book, which is a lucid introduction to the ancient athletics and an authoritative resource for the scholar. Miller draws on new information, some of which he himself discovered while excavating at Nemea, to show us in detail how athletes trained and how the various competitions were managed. The book introduces us to a world different from our own in which athleticism was a means of honoring the gods, while reminding mortals of their limitations, where there was one winner and many losers, and where the modern categories of professional and amateur did not apply."—Mary Lefkowitz, Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities, Wellesley College, author of Greek Gods, Human Lives

"Ancient Greek Athletics is terrific. A winning combination—erudite and exciting. Miller takes the crown. This authoritative and accessible handbook shows what we can—and cannot—know about Greek athletics."—Donald G. Kyle, University of Texas at Arlington