‘Why, Solon, are these youths of yours doing these things? Some of them, limbs tangled up, trip each others’ heels up, and others are squeezing and twisting and wallowing and rolling in the mud like pigs. Yet, right at the start when they took their clothes off—for I saw it—they oiled themselves and very peacefully rubbed each other down in turns…So I want to know what good things are to come from doing all these things? To me the matter seems more like madness, and it would not be easy for someone to persuade me that men doing such things are insane.’
To Anacharsis—a Scythian and outsider to Greece—the events of the Greekwere completely foreign, but to Solon and the Greeks, they would have been a familiar sight. Many of the questions that Anacharsis asks are similar to the ones we ask today of the Ancient Greeks: Why were they so fond of physical training and contests? How similar were the ideas of winning an athletic victory to winning a military victory? What was gained from winning? This online tour takes you through the gymnasium, into the stadium, and on a quest for victory to discover how and why the Greeks viewed competition and commemoration as definitive aspects of their physical and visual culture.
detail of a black-figuredepicting boxers, ca. 530 BC
Fitzwilliam Museum GR.3.1962