« PreviousContinue »
copies of the famous Diskobolos of Myron, one of which is to be seen in the Graeco-Roman gallery (the head, however, is incorrectly restored).
The other contests of the pentathlon are also found depicted on Greek vases, viz., the foot-race, the hurling of the spear, and wrestling, particularly on the series of Panathenaic amphorae, of which two examples are here exhibited. They were given as prizes in the Panathenaic games at Athens, and always bear on one side a figure of the patron goddess Athena, on the other a representation of the contest in which they were won. They are alluded to by Pindar, who in one of his odes says: “And in earthenware baked in the fire, within the closure of figured urns, there came among the goodly folk of Hera the prize of the olivefruit."1 The games seem to have been of a very varied character, and we find such contests as tilting from horseback at a suspended shield, the torch-race, and races in full armour depicted; an instance of the latter is shown here on B 143 (No. 132). Another specimen (B 134 in the Second Vase Room) shows four athletes engaged in four out of the five contests of the pentathlon (cf. also B 361 (No. 133) in this case).
Boxing, one of the most ancient contests, was long practised at the games with gloves of ox-hide, which was torn into long strips and bound round the hand. Such wrappings, like modern boxing-gloves, were intended rather to protect the wearer than to injure his opponent. At a later date, probably in the fourth century B.C., a more dangerous glove was introduced, in the form of a pad of thick leather bound over the fingers. This new form may be seen on the statue of the boxer already mentioned, and must have inflicted severe wounds; it is apparently used by the two African boxers in terracotta seen in this Case (No. 134). But in the decline of the Roman Empire, when the brutality of the spectators had to be satisfied at all costs, a still more cruel glove was invented, which had a heavy addition in metal, and must have been an appalling weapon.
The other objects in this case are less directly connected with athletics; the most noteworthy is a large bronze caldron (No. 135), of about the sixth century B.C., which was found at Kyme, in South Italy, and was given as a prize at games held in that district. It is inscribed : “I was a prize at the games of Onomastos.” He was doubtless a wealthy citizen at whose
Pind., Nem. x. 65 f.
expense the contests were arranged, a form of public service very common in Greek cities.
(125) Cf. Jüthner, Ant. Turngeräthe, p. 3 ff. ; (126) Furtwängler, Olympia, IV., p. 180; (128) Cat. of Vases, III., E 499; (129, 130) Cat. of Bronzes, 2691, 3207; (131) ibid., 248; (135) Cat. of Bronzes, 257 ; I.G., xiv. 862.
On Greek athletics generally, see a series of articles by E. N. Gardiner in Journ. Hell, Stud., Vols. XXIII. ff.
VII.-CHARIOT-RACING AND THE CIRCUS.
(Wall-Case 110.) CHARIOT-RACING was one of the oldest of Greek sports, and is described in the Iliad as one of the contests held at the funeral of Patroklos. At that time the two-horse war-chariot was used in the race, and the special type of racing-car does not seem to have existed. It was, however, introduced as early as the “ Dipylon” period (eighth century B.C.), when light two (?)horse cars appear on the vases, as, for instance, on a vase mentioned in the section on Chariots (p. 200).
The introduction of chariot-races in the great athletic contests was a concession to the wealthy inhabitants of prosperous cities. To enter a chariot with a team of four horses, which was now the usual number for the great race at Olympia, demanded almost as large a proportionate expenditure as to run a horse for the Derby to-day. Rich men in Greece Proper found rivals in the tyrants of Sicily and Cyrene, who ruled over cities with large revenues and districts providing good opportunities for successful horsebreeding.
At Olympia four-horse chariots raced for the first time in 680 B.C., chariots with two horses not until 408. Between those dates a race for horsemen was started, and won on the first occasion by a native of Thessaly, which, owing to its rich plains, was celebrated in antiquity for a magnificent breed of horses. A winner in the horse-race is depicted on the vase No. 136, exhibited in Case 107, about to receive a wreath and a tripod as his prizes, while a herald proclaims : “ The horse of Dysneiketos wins."
Other contests were added at various times, until in the third century B.C. six went to form what was called “the equestrian contest.” None of these six, however, was of such importance
as the race of four-horse chariots, perhaps the greatest event in the Olympian Games, and certainly the most exciting to the spectators, as accidents were frequent, especially at the turn. Consummate skill was necessary to double the post as close and as fast as possible. Readers of Sophokles' Electra will remember the account given by the messenger of the alleged death of Orestes in a collision of chariots turning the post.
The Romans probably derived their custom of chariot-racing
from the Greeks, as also the plan which, with some alterations in detail, they adopted for their circus. In the early days of Rome the marshy valley between the Palatine and Aventine Hills was the place chosen for the games, and remained so through the succeeding centuries, during which the course was gradually surrounded with an immense building; this in the fourth century after Christ held not far short of 180,000 people.
In the later Roman Empire the charioteers were hired by factions, which were distinguished by different colours, and excited violent enthusiasm among all classes of Roman society.
1 El. 680 ff.
The passion survived the introduction of Christianity, and was perhaps even more violent at Constantinople than at Rome; it was said that the inbabitants of the new capital of the Empire divided their interests between a passion for chariot-racing and
Fig. 44.-RELIEF REPRESENTING CHARIOT-RACE. L. 3 ft. Of in.
Fig. 45.--RELIEF PARODYING THE START OF A CHARIOT-RACE. L. 3ft. 10 in.
theological discussion. Successful charioteers were transferred from one faction to another like modern football - players. Records exist of the number of victories gained by famous whips, and of the proportion won under the different colours.
The costume of the charioteer was always distinct. In Greece
he wore a long robe girt at the waist, which is well seen on the bronze statue from Delphi.? At Rome his dress was peculiar, and is illustrated by the terracotta relief (No. 137; fig. 43) and other objects in this Case, notably the small ivory statuette (No. 138). It consisted of a close-fitting cap, and a shirt fastened round the
waist by the thongs of the reins, which were wound many times about the body. A knife was stuck in the belt so that the reins might be quickly cut in the event of an accident.
Among the monuments illustrative of the Roman circus,
E. A. Gardner, Handbook of Greek Sculpt. (enlarged edn.), p. 540,