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DISCUS (δὶσκος), a circular plate of stone (λιθίνοις δίσκοις, Pind. Isthm. 1.34), or metal ( “splendida pondera disci,” Mart. 14.164), made for throwing to a distance as an exercise of strength and dexterity. This gymnastic feat, like the αἰγανέα, formed later part of the Pentathlon, scenes from which were sometimes engraved on the discus.

The earliest form was a stone (λίθος, λᾶς), as employed among the mythic Phaeacians, and even down to the latest period (v. sup.); such a mass of granite is preserved in the Bibl. Nat. at Paris (Ménard, Vie Priv. des Anc. tom. iv. p. 26). In Homer, the heroes contend for a lump of iron (σόλος αὐτοχόωνος), perforated in the centre for the passage of a thong which served as a handle (Eratosth., ed. Bernhardy, p. 251), to be given to him who should throw it farthest. (II. 23.826-46, and 2.774; Od. 8.129, 186-8. 17.168.) In historical times the discus was of bronze and lenticular, 10 to 12 in. in diameter in the Lyceum was one like a small smooth shield, with neither handle nor strap (Lucian, Anach. c. 27). The discus of Iphitos in the temple of Zeus at Olympia (Paus. 5.20) bore the truce (ἐκεχειρία) announced by the Eleians at the games spirally engraved upon it.

Of the game itself (δισκοβολία), a complete idea may be formed from the notices of the ancients and the remains of ancient art. The player, standing upon a slight elevation (βαλβίς), raised the discus to the level of his right shoulder (κυτωμαδίοιο, Il. 23.431), and then with a swing of the arm and a following motion of the body hurled it with all his force. (Od. 8.186-200; and cf. Stat. Theb. 6.703, “Vasto contorquet turbine et ipse prosequitur;” τὰ δίσκουρα, as a measure of length, Il. 23.431, 523). An early example

Discobolus. (Osterley,
Denkm. der alt. Kunst,
vol. i. No. 139.)

of the δισκοβόλος in art was the figure of Eurybotus on the chest of Cypselus. But the most celebrated representation in [p. 1.645]antiquity is that by the sculptor Myron, whose powerful portrayal of the initial attitude of the thrower has been the theme of critics from Quintilian downwards (see Quint. Inst. Or. 2.13.10; also Lucian, Philops. 100.18; Philostr. Imag. 1.24; Welcker, ad loc.). Eight copies of this statue are extant, one of which is in the British Museum.

Discus came to mean any plate-shaped object, so perhaps that of silver in the Delphic temple (Philostr. Vit. Apoll. Tyan. 3.9, 57); a dish for serving food (Athen. 4.128 c; Krause, Angeiol. p. 418 ff.). (J. H. Krause, Gymn. u. Agon. d. Hell.; Ersch and Grüber, Gymn. p. 350 ff.; Baumeister, Denkm. s. v.; Blümner, Gesch. d. Kunstgew. s. v.)


hide References (9 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (9):
    • Homer, Iliad, 23.431
    • Homer, Iliad, 23.523
    • Homer, Odyssey, 8.129
    • Homer, Odyssey, 8.186
    • Homer, Odyssey, 8.200
    • Homer, Odyssey, 8.8
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5.20
    • Statius, Thebias, 6
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 14.164
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