What Games Are the Phaeacians Good At?

Homer Odyssey 8.97-103

“Hear me, leaders and chiefs of the Phaeacians.
We have already sated our desire for the righteous feast
And the lyre which is the companion to a bountiful meal.
Now, let us go out and test ourselves at every kind of competition
So that this stranger may tell his friends once he gets home
How much we are better than the rest at boxing
And wrestling, and jumping and running.”

“κέκλυτε, Φαιήκων ἡγήτορες ἠδὲ μέδοντες·
ἤδη μὲν δαιτὸς κεκορήμεθα θυμὸν ἐΐσης
φόρμιγγός θ’, ἣ δαιτὶ συνήορός ἐστι θαλείῃ·
νῦν δ’ ἐξέλθωμεν καὶ ἀέθλων πειρηθῶμεν
πάντων, ὥς χ’ ὁ ξεῖνος ἐνίσπῃ οἷσι φίλοισιν
οἴκαδε νοστήσας, ὅσσον περιγινόμεθ’ ἄλλων
πύξ τε παλαιμοσύνῃ τε καὶ ἅλμασιν ἠδὲ πόδεσσιν.”

Schol. EQ ad 8.100 ex 6 asks

[now, let us go out..]“Why were the Phaeacians after dinner competing in the field competition, the race and the double race, and not any other sport? For these are wholly the activities of leisurely people. Perhaps because it was necessary to make this suitable to their character, since the poetry is imitation [mimesis], [the poet] composed it thus. For they say “the feast and the cithara and dances are always dear to us”

νῦν δ’ ἐξέλθωμεν] διὰ τί οἱ Φαίακες εὐωχηθέντες ἠγωνίζοντο γυμνικὸν ἀγῶνα, δρόμον καὶ δίαυλον καὶ οὐ τὴν ἄλλην ἄθλησιν; παντελῶς γὰρ ἀπόνων ἀνθρώπων ταῦτα. ἴσως δὲ, ἁρμόττον τοῖς ἤθεσι δέον ποιεῖν, ἐπειδὴ μίμησις ἡ ποίησις, οὕτω πεποίηκεν. ὅτι δὲ τοιοῦ-τοι δῆλον. ἔφασαν γὰρ “ἀεὶ δ’ ἡμῖν δαίς τε φίλη κίθαρίς τε χοροί τε” (248.).

Schol. HQ ad Od. 8.102 ex

And how does he say later “For we are not preeminent at boxing or wrestling”? Certainly, in however much they are inexperienced with Odysseus, they believe they all surpass him  in these games when in the actual performance once he speaks of himself himself, Odysseus boasted about the rest of the competitions, begging out only in the race and responding to the praise of Alkinoos when he said “but we run swiftly with our feet and are best at ships…” (247)

καὶ πῶς φησιν “οὐ γὰρ πυγμάχοι εἰμὲν ἀμύμονες οὐδὲ παλαισταί” (246.); ἐν ὅσῳ τοίνυν ἄπειροί εἰσιν ᾿Οδυσσέως οἴονται νικᾶν ἅπαντας ἐν τούτοις, ὅτε δὲ τῇ πείρᾳ δείξας ἑαυτὸν ᾿Οδυσσεὺς ἐκαυχήσατο περὶ τῶν ἄλλων ἄθλων μόνον παραιτησάμενος τὸν δρόμον, ἀντιμεταλαβὼν τὰ ἐγκώμια ᾿Αλκίνους φησὶν “ἀλλὰ ποσὶ κραιπνῶς θέομεν καὶ νηυσὶν ἄριστοι, ἀεὶ δ’ ἡμῖν δαίς τε φίλη, εἵματά τ’ ἐξημοιβά” (247—249.).

 

Image result for Ancient Greek running vase

A vase from the Getty Museum

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