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ATHLE´TAE (ἀθληται, ἀθλητῆρες). The term is in strictness applied to those who contended for prizes (ἆθλα) in the games which required strength, skill, and agility of body, in contradistinction to those who engaged in equestrian and musical contests; though in a general sense it is found extended even to these (Poll. 3.143-4) and to horses (Lysias, de bonis Aristoph. 63), and is metaphorically used for one who is master in any laborious pursuit (e. g. Plat. Rep. 543 B). We never find αθλητική sc. τέχνη, though the Latins spoke of ars athetica (Gel. 15.16), but either γυμναστική or ἀγωνιστική (Plat. Legg. 6.764), or ἄθλησις (Dion Chrys. 1.540, Reiske), or ἀθλητικὴ ἄσκησις (Galen, 1.21, Kühn).

The contests of the athletae were in running, wrestling, boxing, the pentathlon, and the pancratium. Details of these will be found in the separate articles [STADIUM; LUCTA; PUGILATUS; PENTATHLON; PANCRATIUM]. Here we must confine ourselves to a general sketch of the class of athletes.

In the early times in Greece athletic games were held occasionally at festivals in honour of the gods and heroes, but especially at the funerals of distinguished men: thus in the Iliad (xxiii.) games are held at the funeral of Patroclus. But the warriors as a rule do not appear to have trained specially for the games: as part of their general education, they had been instructed in gymnastics. In this department Grecian legend told how Hercules, Peleus, and Theseus had been celebrated (Philostratus, Gymn. 1), as were also Castor and Pollux (Paus. 5.8, 4); but in the Homeric age there were few who made athletics as such their special business, though we must not forget the passage (Od. 8.164) where Euryalus reproaches Ulysses as not being “like an athlete,” nor that even in the Iliad (23.670). Epeius the boxer says, “Is it not enough that I am not skilled in battle? A man, I ween, cannot be skilled in all pursuits.” Games were becoming fairly frequent, and the special skill required in the contests was gradually demanding increased application to the different branches of athletics.

But in the next age athletics became the national Hellenic sport, and never ceased to be so till the latest times of the ancient world: for, in the first instance, they satisfied the artistic instinct of the Greeks, as they developed the human frame in strength and beauty. But as it was the national sport, just as horse-racing with us, every department tended to become more and more professionalised. The great festivals collected together the greatest concourses of the members of the Hellenic race; and the emulation to succeed before the immense gatherings of their countrymen, and the extravagant honours and rewards bestowed by the cities on their citizens when victorious, rendered victory in the games the most coveted distinction a Greek could acquire, and so every means was resorted to in order to attain the strength and skill necessary for success. But still those who contended, though often of low extraction (Aristot. Rh. 1.7, 9; Ath. 9.382 b), were also often cultured men, members of the noblest families, and men famous at home in war and politics, like Phayllus of Croton (Hdt. 8.47) and Dorieus of Rhodes (Paus. 6.7, 4). A professional class of athletes, however, who devoted their entire exertions in that direction and who made their art a trade, had already arisen. These, by increased training, greater development of the technical side of gymnastics, and special application to details, acquired such proficiency that it became all but hopeless for any but such a specially trained athlete to contend in the games with any chance of success. The cultivated and upper classes began to stand aloof, and to take part in the games chiefly by running their chariots; while the professional athletes came to form a class of low-born, uneducated, and vulgar men (Isocr. de Big. 33, 34). Now, it is to these professional athletes that the term ἀθληταὶ was most strictly applied in the historical times; for they were those who contended for the prizes in the games then: those who practised athletics in the old liberal but unprofessional manner are said to have retained the generic term ἀγωνισταί. (Pauly, i. p. 1992; yet cf. Lucian, Anach. 10.)

Euripides (Autol. Frag. 1) speaks with bitter contempt of the athletes, who, he says, are the greatest evil of the countless evils of Hellas, who are slaves to their belly, a degenerating lot, useless in war, unable to bear old age or misfortune--for their training is not an ennobling training (ἔθη γὰρ οὐκ ἐθισθέντες καλά). On similar grounds Xenophanes (Frag. 2: Bergk, ii.p. 112), who flourished about 540 B.C., had before strongly censured as reckless and unreasonable the extravagant value the Greeks set on mere strength for the games (strength which is otherwise perfectly useless) as compared with intellectual cultivation. And he was quite right. That pursuit which lacks the exercise of a cultivated mind, no matter how much the majority passionately follows it, must become more and more mechanical and vulgar, and so sink more and more in the estimation of the cultivated classes. We see it ourselves in the case of those professionally connected with the turf, who in many ways afford a good parallel to the Greek professional athletes. In the excessive training the latter had to submit to, the body was developed at the cost of the mind; and this was one of the few cases in which the Greeks forgot their wonted moderation.

The athletic contests, just as were the “weights” in the Ring in England, were divided into “light” (κοῦφα) and “heavy” (βαρέα) or “violent” (βιαια): see Aristot. Pol. 5.4, 7 fol.; Galen, 6.487, K.; Philostr. Gymn. 3. Saglio [p. 1.238]Dict. des Antiq. 1.519) remarks that the statues of the competitors in these two classes of contests correspond to the types of Hercules and of Mercury, the two gods who presided over athletics. Mercury exhibits the slight but muscular and wiry figure of the “light” athletes, and Hercules the massive body of the “heavy” ones. Philostratus (Gymn. 37 foil.) mentions other strange names of different classes of athletes: the “lion-like,” “eagle-like,” the “lathy” (σχιζίαι), the “bears,” &c. The training in each of the two main classes became severer and severer as time went on; for more and more striking performances were expected. We hear of a rule that the competitors at Olympia had to swear that they had diligently devoted ten months to the recognised special training in athletics (Paus. 5.24, 9). This was to maintain that common system of athletic training which prevailed in all Hellenic wrestling-schools (see Curtius, Hist. of Greece, 2.33, Eng. trans.). The ordinary gymnastic master who taught the youths bodily exercises as a branch of general education was called παιδοτρίβης, and he who trained those who were intending to compete in the games was the γυμναστής: but this distinction disappeared in later times (Hermann-Blümner, Privatalt. 335). The γυμναστὴς was in constant supervision of his pupils, followed them to the games (Paus. 5.6, 8), where he made all necessary preparations for their contest, and during the struggle stood by with words of encouragement or reproach (Philostr. Gymn. 20). Just as a physician, a trainer required implicit obedience in those for whom he prescribed (Epictet. Enchir. 29). Subordinate to him was the ἀλείπτης, who originally, as his name indicates, looked to the anointing of the body, but often, especially in later times, took much more upon himself, became confused with the παιδορπίβης (Schol. on Ar. Eq. 492), and used to prescribe the course of diet to be eaten (Aristot. Eth. Nic. 2.6, 7), and even how it was to be eaten: thus he disapproved of too intellectual conversation (φιλολογεῖν) during meals! (Plut. de san. tuend. 133,19.) The diet of athletes is said to have been (D. L. 8.1, 13) fresh cheese, dried figs, and wheat ; but Dromeus of Stymphalus (Paus. 6.7, 10), or according to others a trainer called Pythagoras (Plin. Nat. 23.63; cf. Diog. Laert. l.c.), introduced a meat diet. However, it is very unlikely that the athletes were ever trained on anything but meat (see Philostr. Gymn. 43). Pork was the principal meat used (Galen, 6.661), though we find also beef (Plat. Rep. 1.338 C) and goat's flesh (Ath. 9.402 a). Fish was considered bad (Philostr. Gymn. 44). They probably drank water and not wine after their exercises, as the latter was dangerous (Galen, 15.194); they had to abstain from all cakes (Epictet. l.c.). The bread they ate was of a special kind (Galen, 6.180, K.), slightly leavened and hardly baked at all (Philostr. Gymn. 43): this was perhaps the coliphia mentioned by Plautus (Pers. 1.3, 12) and Juvenal (2.53). The usual course was to eat bread for the morning meal and meat for the evening. After the morning meal their exercises continued till the evening, interrupted only by a few intervals (Galen, 6.168-9). Those who submitted to the severest training (βίαιος τροφή, ἀναγκαιοφαγία, ἀδηφαγία) had to eat enormous masses of meat after the day's exercise: two minae (= 2 2/3 Ibs.) was a very small amount for an athlete (Galen, 8.843, K.), who generally slept it off late into the next day (Galen, 1.28, K.), though we sometimes hear of athletes promoting digestion by walking (Plin. Nat. 11.283). The quantum of food was gradually increased (Arist. Eth. Nic. 2.6, 7); and the most ridiculous stories of the amount some of the athletes--such as Milo, Theagenes, and others--used to eat, obtained currency (Ath. 10.412; cf. Theocr. 4.34). But many athletes did really eat vast quantities of food; so much that their appetite became proverbial (Aristoph. Peace 34), and, says Pliny (Plin. Nat. 18.63), was like a horse's; and further they got to be unable, to do without the abnormal amount even for a day (Cic. Tusc. 2.17, 40). The aim of this excessive eating appears to have been to acquire not so much that plump yet muscular frame which is expressed by the verb σφριγᾶν, and that harmonious inner development of the whole constitution which Philostratus calls κρᾶσις, and which he emphasises as the distinctive difference between the former gymnastic training and the more scientific one of his own day (42, 43, cf. 28); but to get mere mass and weight (ὄγκος καὶ βάρος) of body, which was such an important element in “heavy” contests like boxing and the pancratium. Different trainers had, however, different regimens: thus Theon ordered warm baths and diminution of food after completed exercises (Galen, 6.208); and of course the training for runners was directed towards diminishing the flesh (Galen, 5.905). Besides the ordinary training (κατασκευή), there were also other treatments, consisting of long-continued and violent movements, accompanied with shampooings by many hands and with much oil (Galen, 6.117, 123, 222). For the obscure tetras see Philostr. Gymn. 47; Galen, 5.898; and Saglio, p. 518. It was a fourfold course of treatment, lasting four days, which is not clearly enough defined, but which Philostratus strongly disapproves of. The strictest continence was enjoined in all athletic discipline (cf. Hor. A. P. 414), and by some rigorously practised during the whole period of their training (Plat. Legg. 8.840).

The exercises which athletes went through were the ordinary ones of the palaestra and those required for the games; though we sometimes find athletes going through exercises which were not departments of competition, merely in order to increase their strength, such as putting heavy weights, bending bars of iron, wrenching back the necks of bulls, knocking suspended bags of sand backwards and forwards by blows of their fists (κωρυκοβολία, &c.: cf. Lucian, Lexiph. 5; Philostr. Gymn. 43), also working with a mattock (Theocr. 4.10), The athletes practised as a rule each for a separate event (Philostr. Gymn. 43). Hence the one-sidedness even of their physical training; and the fact that those who trained for that event, which comprised the most varied exertions (such as the pentathlon), were justly considered to have the best-proportioned frames (Aristot. Rh. 1.5). But sometimes the athletes attempted more than one: for it was considered a great honour to be victorious at Olympia in both wrestling and in the pancratium on the [p. 1.239]same day. There were only seven such victors besides their mythic predecessor, Hercules (Paus. 5.21, 10; 8, 4). A certain Polites conquered on the same day in the three different kinds of races,--the stadion, the diaulos, and the dolichos (Paus. 6.13, 3): and for other victories in more than a single event, see Pind. O. 13.30; Paus. 6.15, 8; 11, 5.

Victors in the principal games were called ἱερονῖκαι; those in the separate games, ὀλυμπιονῖκαι, &c.; and those who were successful in all four games were the περιοδονῖκαι. In Roman times, however, we find this latter term applied to celebrated athletes who had been victors in a great number of games, even though they were not the four great ones (cf. D. C. 63.8). Another strange title of distinguished athletes at Rome was παραδοξονίκης, which was strictly applied to those who conquered in both wrestling and the pancratium (Plut. Comp. Cim. et Lucull. 2).

In early times the athletes used to practise in the gymnasium, where the young men, who had made some progress in gymnastics and were advanced from the palaestra, went through their ordinary unprofessional exercises. In Roman times we find the athletes frequenting the palaestrae, the gymnasia, xysti (covered places for use in bad weather, Vitr. 5.11, 4: hence athletes were sometimes called xystici), and the stadia. There were exercising places in the great Roman thermae [BALNEAE]. Athletes who had won signal distinction in the sacred games were occasionally in Grecian cities honoured by having special porticoes built for them to exercise in (Paus. 7.23, 5).

Originally the athletes used to contend with a girdle round their loins (διάζωμα, περίζωμα, or simple ζῶμα), according to the custom of the Spartans (Thuc. 1.6, 4). But very soon it became the custom to contend naked,--a custom introduced by Orsippus (Paus. 1.44, 1). It was professional for Roman athletes to wear their hair tied up in a knot called cirrus (see figure of a Roman athlete below), which explains a story in Suet. Nero 45. The Greek as well as the Roman athletes used sometimes to shave off their hair, in that tonsure which Aristophanes would have called “the bowl crop” (σκαφίον, Thesm. 838). Further, they occasionally wore, according to Martial (14.50), a cap (galericulum); and as their wonderful style of boxing consisted in swinging round their arms and not striking out straight from the shoulder, they used to wear guards for the ears (ἀμφωτίδες or ἐπωτίδες, Poll. 2.83). For the battered ears of ancient boxers, see Plat. Protag. 342 B ; Mart. 7.32, 5.

He who took to the profession of an athlete seldom abandoned it before his thirty-fifth year, which was considered the age at which he was in the prime of manhood (Macrob. Somn. Scip. 1.4) ; but if he had never won a victory by that time, he generally gave up the business. A successful athlete continued to contend in the games till his strength failed (Plut. Cat. Ma. 4); and, as might be expected, in many cases, as he advanced in years, became a trainer of younger men: e. g. Iccus (Paus. 6.10, 5).

The same causes which produced the excessive and one-sided training of men produced a similar excessive training of boys. For there arose contests of boys at the great festivals. The only distinction originally was between men and boys (Dissen on Pind. O. 8.54); but later those below man's estate were divided into παῖδες from about 13 to 16, and ἀγένειοι from about 16 to 19 (Plat. Legg. 8.833 C). In Olympiad 37 (= 632 B.C.) there was the first contest of running and wrestling for boys (Paus. 5.8, 9); in Ol. 38 (= 628 B.C.), the first and only pentathlon (Paus. 5.9, 1); in Ol. 41 (= 616 B.C.), the first boxing match (Philostr. Gymn. 13): but happily not till the 145th Olympiad (= 200 B.C.) the horrid pancratium (Paus. 5.8, 11), though we find this latter in the 61st Pythian celebration (Paus. 10.7, 8); and in the Pythian games we find what we do not find at Olympia, long races for boys (Paus. 10.7, 5). The training for these events was too severe for the growing frame, and Aristotle (Aristot. Pol. 5.4, 8) raised his voice earnestly against it, as detrimental to the development of the man, pointing out how there were only two or three victors at the Olympic games both as boys and as men.

But what can sober science avail against a national passion and the extravagant praise and rewards which are bestowed on those who excel in what the people delight to honour? To be an Olympic victor, said Cicero (Flacc. 13, 31), was esteemed by the Greeks as a greater glory than a triumph at Rome. And indeed the victorious Greek athlete used to have a kind of triumphal entry into the town his victory had ennobled (Vitruv. ix. Pref.). Surrounded by a large crowd, sometimes with a grand procession of chariots (Diod. 13.82), clad in a purple mantle like a king (Schol. on Ar. Nub. 70), he drove into the city through a breach made in the wall for his chariot to pass through--a symbol that cities which possessed such citizens had no need of walls (Plut. Symp. 2.5). Then followed the banquet, during which the victor heard his praises sung by a lyrical chorus and in verse of the greatest poets of the day. Contests which involved the honour of such a triumphal entry were technically called ἀγῶνες εἰσελαστικοι, which in early times were the four great festivals only; but in Imperial Rome this privilege was extended to other games (Plin. Ep. 10.119, 120). Solid material rewards, too, were given. Even as reduced by Solon, the money reward the Athenians gave the victor in the Olympic games was 500 drachmae, and 100 to the victor in any of the other games (D. L. 1.2, 55; Plut. Sol. 23): sometimes he got maintenance in the Prytaneum and the honour of first seat in the assemblies and theatre (προεδρία, Xenophan. Frag. 2, 7, ed. Bergk). Statues were often erected to him in his native city and at Olympia (Paus. 6.13, 1). In fact, Plato goes so far as to say (Rep. 5.465 D) that the victor at the Olympic games enjoyed a blessed life (βίος μακαριστός). Lucian (Anach. 10: cf. Pind. P. 10.27 ; Cic. Tusc. 1.46, 111) declared the honours of such a victor were as those of the gods, and we do actually hear of a boxer being deified while alive (Plin. Nat. 7.152). As a contrast, the picture of the defeated competitor shows “a hateful return and contemptuous greeting and a skulking path” (Pind. O. 8.69). Can we wonder, then, when such honourable rewards followed success and such humiliation followed defeat, that there was occasionally [p. 1.240]casionally unfair dealing and trafficking amongst the combatants, a rich competitor buying the victory from a stronger but poorer one? An oath was required of the combatants that they would not act in violation of the rules of the contest (Paus. 5.24, 9); and so bribery was comparatively rare in early times, though it became frequent later (Philostr. Gymn. 45). It was punished by severe fines, according to the rules of the Olympic games (Paus. l.c.). We regard with wonder that species of bribery which is recorded whereby a strange city paid a victorious athlete to declare that he was their citizen, so that the city might be proclaimed as victor; and we are not surprised that, after such falsehood, the native city of the victor inflicted on him exile or some other mark of their indignation (Paus. 6.18, 6; 13, 5).

Yet amongst the many judgments passed by. the ancients on the athletes, we can hardly find any that are favourable. Allusion has been made to the strictures of Xenophanes and Euripides, who attack them for their uselessness to the state and want of cultivation. And even from the physical point of view their training appeared to thoughtful men of science utterly bad. Plato sees in the athletes a habit of body which is sleepy and very subject to disease (Rep. 3.404 A), which is too highly and extravagantly trained, and unfits them for social or political duties (ib. 407 B). They are without information, cultivation, or grace of manner; hard and brutal, all violence and fierceness (ib. 410, 411). Aristotle declares that the habit of body of athletes is not suitable for that vigorous physical condition a citizen should have, nor for health and the procreation of children. It is too one-sided, and the discipline which developed it is too severe (Pol. 4.16, 3). Plutarch (de sanit. tuenda, 16, 20) disapproves of the ἰσχὺς παλαιστικὴ and athletic training generally. Galen devotes six long chapters (9-14) of his Προτρεπτικὸς Λόγος to solemnly warning the young men against devoting themselves to athletics, by showing what athletes are in his opinion (1.20-39, Kühn). Man has a link, he says, with God, and a link with the lower animals; athletics develops the latter only. Athletes are like swine. Their flesh-sunk soul is without intellect, and no better than the brutes (ἄλογα ζῶα). His strictures on the physical side are, however, the most interesting. Owing to their immoderate eating, sleeping, and exertion, athletes are, he says, unhealthy. Their training is a training in disease. No class of men are more liable to break down in health, or to sudden death (17.2, 363, Kühn). Beauty is quite wanting in their lumpish, battered bodies. Nor is their knock-down strength (ἰσχὺς καταβλητική), though serviceable in just a few special events in the games, of any use in agriculture or in war nor does it bring with it a capability of enduring heat, cold, or fatigue. Nor are they ever rich: they are wretched (ἄθλιοι) in their lives, and are so rightly called “athletes.” In fact, their whole existence is one round of “eating, or drinking, or sleeping, or evacuating, or rolling about in the mud and dust” (5.879, K.). With such strictures, if we compare the view of Dio Chrysostom, who sees in athletes generally, and Melancomas in particular, large beautiful bodies, and the practice of athletes as generating courage and nobleness, strength and temperance (Or. 29.538, 540, ed. Reiske), we must suppose that the description, though perhaps true of Melancomas, yet was at best only an affectionate tribute to the glory that was thought to have belonged to the great Hellenic past, and in reality was a thoroughly ideal and false view of the athletes of the Graeco-Roman civilization, and one which is certainly not borne out by the repulsive portraits on the mosaic of the Thermae of Caracalla; of which is subjoined as a specimen a single example. The reader is referred for more hideous ones to Baumeister's Denkmäler, p. 223.

Roman Athlete. (From Baumeister.)

With Plutarch and Galen, however, we are in Roman times; and we must now hastily review the rise of athletic games at Rome. Exhibitions of gladiators, not of athletes, were the national sport. Cicero says to M. Marius (Fam. 7.1, 3) of the athletic contests exhibited by Pompeius in 55 B.C., “Why should I think you regretted not having seen the athletes when you have despised the gladiators?” A certain kind of athletics had indeed been indigenous in Italy from the earliest times (Liv. 1.35), and we hear of contests in wrestling and boxing at the Roman games (Ter. Hecyra, Prol. 25; Cic. Legg. 2.1. 5, 38); but the whole practice was utterly unsystematic (cf. Suet. Aug. 45), and so quite unlike the elaborate manner in which it was cultivated in Greece (cf. Hor. Ep. 1.1, 49). It was from Greece that the scientific practice of athletics came. In 186 B.C. M. Fulvius Nobilior gave the first exhibition of professional Greek athletes at Rome (Liv. 39.22). We do not, however, hear of a similar exhibition again till Sulla's time (App. BC 1.99), but there were a few others during the last century of the republic (V. Max. 2.4, 7; D. C. 39.38, 1; Suet. Jul. 39). Varro complains indeed of there being a gymnasium at every villa (R. R. 2.1, 1), but this was probably for [p. 1.241]medicinally-prescribed exercises (iatraliptice), not regular athletics. But it was not till the Actian games were established by Augustus and other periodic games (D. C. 51.1), which comprised gymnastic contests in their programme, that athletics got a steady footing among the Romans. From that time these certamina graeca, as they were called (Tac. Ann. 14.21), became more and more popular. Nero in 60 A.D. built a gymnasium (Suet. Nero 12), and instituted a new set of games called Neronia, of which athletics formed a part, as they did also of the important Agon Capitolinus established by Domitian in 86 A.D., who further built a magnificent stadium for athletics in the Campus Martius, large enough to hold 30,000 spectators (Suet. Dom. 4, 5; Friedländer, p. 466). After this athletics gradually attained increased prominence in the Roman games (cf. Vopisc. Carin. 19, 3), till finally in the fifth century they supplanted the gladiatorial shows. Thus at the consular games of Flavius Mallius Theodorus there were athletes, but no gladiators (Claudian, de cons. Fl. M. Th. 288). For a full account of the Roman athletic games, see Friedländer, op. cit. 460-468.

It is highly noticeable, however, that the names of the athletes which are preserved in inscriptions are almost all Greek ; not more than four or five are Roman (Friedländer, p. 472). Everything connected with athletics, technical terms and all, are Greek (cf. Juv. 3.68). The reason is that for a long time it was considered quite unbecoming of Roman dignity to be an athlete. The nakedness of the Greeks offended the Roman sense of propriety (Cic. Tusc. 4.33, 70). The Romans saw the uselessness for war of the athletic training, for they themselves had been, as Polybius says (1.6, 6), “the true athletes in the feats of war, trained in contests with the Samnites and Gauls.” They saw further that it was a training too in laziness and vice, one more example of the invasion of the pernicious practices of the Greeks (Plin. Nat. 35.163). (There is a large mass of evidence on Roman adverse opinion of gymnasia in Mayor on Juv. 3.68.) But, like all things Greek, athletics continued to grow in popularity, especially from the time of Nero. Professional athletes used to give lessons for high pay (Mart. 7.32, 5, 6), even to women (Juv. 6.246, 355); were often found among the attendants of great houses (Mart. 3.58, 25) ; statues were erected to them (Plin. Nat. 35.5), &c. M. Aurelius was a regular frequenter of the palaestrae (Galen, 6.406), and so was Alexander Severus (Lampr. Alex. Sev. 27). The athletes, as free men (ingenui, Dig. 9, 2, 7, 4), always stood higher in social estimation (Dig. 3, 2, 4) than did the gladiators and actors. Later indeed the stringency of this rule, which admitted only free men to the athletic competitions, seems to have been somewhat relaxed, as Alexander Severus had to reenact the law on the subject (Lampr. Alex. Sev. 42). And the position of an actor must have been far higher in the Grecian provinces than in Italy or the west (Friedländer, p. 480). The Olympic games continued to maintain their glory: even Epictetus (Enchir. 29) would not disdain to be a victor thereat, “for it was a fine thing” (κομψόν). We hear of Olympic victors being hired by the givers of spectacles for immense sums, even as much as five talents (Dio Chrys. Or. lxvi. = 2.351, ed. Reiske).

Like all the classes in the community under the Roman empire, the athletes crystallized into societies or guilds (σύνοδοι). They were well organized, had presidents called Xystarchi (Am. Marc. 21.1, 4), and used to make provincial tours and give exhibitions (Friedländer, p. 475). The chief of these societies in the second century was that of the Herculanei (cf. C. I. G. 5906 foll.), who had their own special gymnasium, with its council-chamber (curia, Orelli, 2588), its records, its temple, and its president, who bore the title of ἀρχιερεύς, and who was also overseer of the imperial baths. To this company a Christian called Johannes appears to have belonged at the end of the fourth century (Friedländer, pp. 475-6).

Augustus increased whatever privileges athletes already had in his day (Suet. Aug. 45). Trajan fixed the remuneration (called opsonia) to be given to victors at the iselastic games (Plin. Ep. 10.119, 120); and a rescript of the emperors Diocletian and Maximian (Cod. Just. 10.54 (53)) gave professional athletes who without bribery had been victorious in the sacred games freedom from all taxes. We are told that there was not by any means the same strictness of training among the athletes of the Roman empire as there was in earlier times among the Greeks (cf. Philostr. Gymn. 44). They are especially accused of being addicted to wine (Sen. Ep. 15.1; Quint. Inst. 1.11, 15). But we must not lay too much stress on such charges: for St. Paul tells us (1 Cor. 9.25) that “every man who striveth in the games is temperate in all things.” (Cf. Epictet. Enchir. 29.) But undoubtedly by the time of Philostratus (240 A.D.) there was a marked decline (Gymn. 1, 2; cf. 43), which he attributes to unhealthy rules of training, and to the fact that the medical art unduly intermeddled by prescribing too mild a course of diet and discipline for professional athletes.

On athletics generally, the chief ancient work is Philostratus's Γυμναστικός (see Kayser's Teubner text, 2.261-293). Modern writers are Krause, Gymnastik und Agonistik der Hellenen, passim; Hermann-Blümner, Privatalterthümer der Griechen, § § 36, 50; Becker-Göll, Charikles, 2.213 foll.; Grasberger, Erziehung und Unterricht im klassischen Alterthum, vols. i. iii. passim; Guhl and Koner, Das Leben der Griechen und Römer, § 52; and especially Friedländer, Darstellungen aus der Sittengeschichte Roms, ii.3 459-491; M. Planck, in Pauly's Real-Encyclopädie; Bussemaker and Saglio, in Dict. des Antiquités; and Blümner, in Baumeister's Denkmäler der klassischen Alterthümer, s. v. Athletae.


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  • Cross-references from this page (75):
    • Aristophanes, Peace, 34
    • Aristotle, Politics, 8.1339a
    • Aristotle, Rhetoric, 1.5
    • Aristotle, Rhetoric, 1.7
    • Aristotle, Rhetoric, 1.9
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 13.82
    • Herodotus, Histories, 8.47
    • Homer, Odyssey, 8.164
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5.1
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5.4
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 6.10
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 6.11
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 6.4
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 6.7
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 6.8
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 7.5
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 10.5
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 10.7
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 10.8
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.1
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.44
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5.10
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5.11
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5.21
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5.24
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5.6
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5.8
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5.9
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 6.1
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 6.13
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 6.15
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 6.18
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 6.3
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 6.5
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 6.6
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 7.23
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.4
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.6
    • Homer, Iliad, 23.670
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 1.11.99
    • Diogenes Laertius, Vitae philosophorum, 1.2
    • Diogenes Laertius, Vitae philosophorum, 8.1
    • Suetonius, Domitianus, 4
    • Suetonius, Nero, 12
    • Vitruvius, On Architecture, 5.11
    • Vitruvius, On Architecture, 5.4
    • Tacitus, Annales, 14.21
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 45
    • Suetonius, Domitianus, 5
    • Suetonius, Divus Julius, 39
    • Suetonius, Nero, 45
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 18.63
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 23.63
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 35.5
    • Pliny the Younger, Epistulae, 10.119
    • Pliny the Younger, Epistulae, 10.120
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 39, 22
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 35
    • Cicero, De Legibus, 2.1
    • Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes, 1.46
    • Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes, 2.17
    • Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes, 4.33
    • Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, Book 1, 11
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 15.16
    • Plutarch, Marcus Cato, 4
    • Plutarch, Solon, 23
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 14.50
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 3.25
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 3.58
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 7.32
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 7.5
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 7.6
    • Horace, Epistulae, 1.1
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 2.4
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 2.7
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