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CURSUS (δρόμος, τρόχος). Foot-racing, being one of the most natural, was also one of the most primitive of athletic sports. We often read of it in the Homeric poems (e.g. Il. 23.759 ff.). In historic times, at the national festivals of Greece, several species of it had come into vogue. We may distinguish four sorts: (a) the στάδιον (or simply δρόμος), (b) the δίαυλος, (c) the ἐφίππιος or ἵππιος δρόμος, (d) the δολιχὸς δρόμος (or δόλιχος, proparox). A strange feature in these races was that they were (according to Lucian, Anachars. 27) run not on hard and firm ground, but over a deeply-sanded surface.

a.) The στάδιον (see fig. 1) was a race in which the runners (σταδιοδρόμοι) traversed the arena in a direct line (whence it was called εὐφύς, ἄκαμπτος from one extremity to the other. This distance, as measured by the Olympic stade, which became the general standard, was about 600 feet. The στάδιον corresponds to our “sprint,” in which the runner does the whole race at his highest speed. Describing its origin, Philostratus (who lived in the 3rd century A.D.) says: “When the Eleans had slain the customary victims, and the pieces of flesh were laid upon the altar on which as yet no fire had been kindled, the runners (οἱ δρομεῖς) were posted at the space of a stade from the altar, just in front of which stood the priest, torch in hand, and acting as umpire. Towards him they ran, and the runner who came in first received the torch, lit the sacred fire, and was hailed as Olympionikês.” (Philostr. Gymn. 5.) From the same writer we learn that the Olympic games up to the date of their thirteenth celebration consisted only of this contest.

1. The Stadion. (Krause.)

b.) The δίαυλος, or double course (properly= double pipe), required that the runners (διαυλοδρόμοι should, after traversing the arena as in the στάδιον, turn round a post (καμπτήρ) and run back to their starting-point. Hence it was called δρόμος κάμπειος (from καμπή=flexus). Explaining the origin of this race, Philostratus says: “When the Eleans had sacrificed, and it became the duty of the deputies from the rest of Greece to perform this ceremony, that the latter might lose no time in approaching, the runners ran a stade from the altar in their direction as if to summon the Hellenic nation, and then, without stopping, ran back to the place they had started from as if to announce that Hellas was about to come with joy to discharge the holy rite.” He tells us also that the δίαυλος did not form part of the games until the 14th Olympiad.

c.) The ἐφίππιος or ἵππιος (as it is termed Eurip. Elect. 825) did not, as might seem from its name, signify a horse-race, but a race of sufficient length to try the power of a horse (see Hermann-Blümner, Privatalt. p. 346). It was a test therefore of endurance as well as speed, being four stades in length; that is, twice as long as the δίαυλος.

d.) The true test of staying power, however, was the δόλιχος or long race (vid. fig. 2), added

2. The Dolichos. (Krause.)

to the Olympic games (according to Philostratus, Gymn. 12) in Olymp. 15. The length of this race has been variously described as 7, 12, 20, or 24 stades. We may suppose that it [p. 1.582]differed on different occasions. Boeckh conjectured that 7 stades was the normal length, and that, when we read of its being 24, we must suppose the δόλιχος ἵππιος to be intended. To a modern 24 stades does not appear excessively long for a race of this kind, and Plato (Legg. viii. p. 833apassage in which the proposer of regulations for an ideal state seems to keep close to the limits of the actual: notice, for example, the words καφάπερ νῦν) would have his δολιχοδρόμοι, though wearing heavy armour, run 60 to 100 stades over most difficult ground. Being ignorant of important details, such as the time in which the race was run, we cannot form a decided opinion on questions as to its length.

In the more ancient times runners, like other athletes, contended at the games wearing a girdle (διάζωμα, subligaculum) around the waist (see Thuc. 1.6; Plat. Rep. p. 452 D). In historic times, however, they competed either quite naked, or more or less fully armed. As to the origin of the armed-race (ὁπλίτης δρόμος), Philostratus mentions several traditions, the most probable being that which he himself adopts as true ; viz. that, since with the termination of the games the truce also terminated, prudence suggested that the competitors should wear armour in the final race. The fact of the armed-race having been generally, though not always, the last event in the games, in some measure confirms this theory of Philostratus, whose words are: παριέναι [τὸν ὁπλίτην δρόμον] ἐς τοὺς ἀγῶνας πολέμου ἀρχῆς ἕνεκα, δηλούσης τῆς ἀσπίδος ὅτι πέπαυται ἐκεχειρία, δεῖ δὲ ὅπλων. The institution of this race goes back into the mythical times, being attributed to Tydeus, and the rest of the famous seven. It was practised first at the Nemean games, and long afterwards introduced at Olympia. In it the runners bore either helmet, shield, and greaves, or helmet and shield only (as in fig. 3).

3. The Armed-race. (Krause.)

About the length of the ὁπλίτης δρόμος have not much information. We gather from Aristoph. Birds 292, with the Scholiast's note, that the δίαυλος was occasionally run in armour, and from the words of Philostratus (Gymn. 7), ἐνόπλους τε καὶ ἱππίους, that the armed-race was sometimes 4 stades long. Nor need the absence of positive testimony on the point prevent us from assuming that the latter varied in length, just as did the other races above described. Plato, as we saw, would have his ὁπλιτοδρόμοι run 60 to 100 stades--an extravagant proposal, if it were not customary in his time to run the δόλιχος in armour.

Competition in foot-racing was open to runners of all ages, whether boys (παῖδες), striplings (ἀγένειοι), or grown men (ἄνδρες). See, for this division of ages, the passage in the de Legg. already referred to. Only those who belonged to the same class, as regards age (ἡλικιῶται were permitted to compete with one another; seniors, of course, not being allowed to enter against their juniors. In Sparta even maidens competed. That boys contended even in the armed-race appears from an extant vase, representing two boys running with shields, which bear the letters ΑΘΕ, indicating in all probability the occasion of the Panathenaic festival (Grasberger, Die leibl. Erzieh. bei den Griechen und Römern, p. 318).

The competitors being too numerous to contend all together, were entered in successive groups (τάξεις); those who should form each group, as well as the order in which the groups should run, being determined by lot (συνταχφῆναι ὑπὸ τοῦ κλήρου). When all the τάξεις in turn had run, the victors in each were formed into one group, which ran a final heat for the prize.

If we compare figs. 1 and 2, representing men competing in the στάδιον and δόλιχος respectively, we notice that in the former case the runners wave their hands violently backwards and forwards, whereas, in the latter, they have their elbows closely pressed against their sides. This is in keeping with modern practice; but yet there are grounds for doubting whether the Greeks entertained the views inculcated by modern trainers as to the proper method of managing the hands while running. Photius has the note: παρατεῖναι τὰς χεῖρας τὸ ἐν τῷ τρέχειν γιγνόμενον: and it is significant that in Homer (Hom. Il. 23.772) Athenê, in answer to the prayer of Odysseus, rendered his hands as well as his lower limbs nimble (γυῖα δ᾽ἔφηκεν ἐλαφρά, πόδας, καὶ χεῖρας ὕπερφεν). But perhaps the words of Photius, as well as those of Homer, refer only to sprint racing. Another variation from the practice of modern runners is referred to by Cicero (Tusc. 2.23.56), where he speaks of them as shouting: “Nisi forte ut se intendat ad firmitatem, ut in stadio cursores exclamant quam maxime possunt.” But this too was, perhaps, confined to the stadium.

It is doubtless owing to their want of instruments for accurately measuring small portions of time that the Greeks have left us scarcely any means of computing the speed which footracers attained in the various kinds of running.

For some special forms of the foot-race, see LAMPADEDROMIA and STAPHYLODROMIA.

We have very meagre information regarding foot-racing as practised by the Romans. According to Dionysius of Halicarnassus (7.71, 73), it formed part of the Ludi Magni from the time of their institution. He, too, tells us that the runners wore the subligaculum round their loins. In the Capitoline games (according to Dio Cassius, 67.8) young women, after the Spartan fashion, took part in the competition. Beyond these scanty notices and vague references to running for healthful exercise in the Campus Martius, very little has been handed down to us. This running in the Campus was not always competitive: that it was sometimes so, however, is plain from Martial, 4.19 ( “sive levem cursu vincere quaeris Athan” ).

For chariot-racing, see under CIRCUS and [p. 1.583]HIPPODROMUS (Cf. Krause, Gymnastik u. Agonistik der Hellenen.


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