Meals At the Public Expense

Isocrates, Panegyricus 1

“I am often amazed that when men first summoned the great gatherings and established athletic contests they believed the accomplishments of the body to be worth great gifts, but for those who have toiled in private for the public good and who have prepared their minds so they may help others, they have apportioned no honor even though it is right to plan for this. If athletes were to double their strength, it would be nothing more to the rest of us; but when one man advises well, all men who are willing to share his insight can benefit.”

Πολλάκις ἐθαύμασα τῶν τὰς πανηγύρεις συναγαγόντων καὶ τοὺς γυμνικοὺς ἀγῶνας καταστησάντων, ὅτι τὰς μὲν τῶν σωμάτων εὐτυχίας οὕτω μεγάλων δωρεῶν ἠξίωσαν, τοῖς δ’ ὑπὲρ τῶν κοινῶν ἰδίᾳ πονήσασι καὶ τὰς αὑτῶν ψυχὰς οὕτω παρασκευάσασιν ὥστε καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους ὠφελεῖν δύνασθαι, τούτοις δ’ οὐδεμίαν τιμὴν ἀπένειμαν, ὧν εἰκὸς ἦν αὐτοὺς μᾶλλον ποιήσασθαι πρόνοιαν· τῶν μὲν γὰρ ἀθλητῶν δὶς τοσαύτην ῥώμην λαβόντων οὐδὲν ἂν πλέον γένοιτο τοῖς ἄλλοις, ἑνὸς δ’ ἀνδρὸς εὖ φρονήσαντος ἅπαντες ἂν ἀπολαύσειαν οἱ βουλόμενοι κοινωνεῖν τῆς ἐκείνου διανοίας.

The contrast between the effect of a wise-advisor and an Olympic champion is also invoked by Socrates:

Plato, Apology 36   

“What is right to give to a poor man who has done good work and needs the time to advise you? Athenian men, there is nothing more appropriate than feeding this sort of man at the public expense, more rightly than if one of you has achieved a victory on horseback or chariot races in the Olympian games. The first makes you seem to be fortunate, while I do it for real. He lacks no resources, but I do. If I must be honored justly for my worth, I merit this, meals at the public expense.”

τί οὖν πρέπει ἀνδρὶ πένητι εὐεργέτῃ δεομένῳ ἄγειν σχολὴν ἐπὶ τῇ ὑμετέρᾳ παρακελεύσει; οὐκ ἔσθ’ ὅτι μᾶλλον, ὦ ἄνδρες ᾿Αθηναῖοι, πρέπει οὕτως ὡς τὸν τοιοῦτον ἄνδρα ἐν πρυτανείῳ σιτεῖσθαι, πολύ γε μᾶλλον ἢ εἴ τις ὑμῶν ἵππῳ ἢ συνωρίδι ἢ ζεύγει νενίκηκεν ᾿Ολυμπίασιν· ὁ μὲν γὰρ ὑμᾶς ποιεῖ εὐδαίμονας δοκεῖν εἶναι, ἐγὼ δὲ εἶναι, καὶ ὁ μὲν τροφῆς οὐδὲν δεῖται, ἐγὼ δὲ δέομαι. εἰ οὖν δεῖ με κατὰ τὸ δίκαιον τῆς ἀξίας τιμᾶσθαι, τούτου τιμῶμαι, ἐν πρυτανείῳ σιτήσεως.

Image result for Ancient Greek Athletics

Euripides, fr. 282 (Autolycos)

“Of the endless evils plaguing Greece
None is worse than the race of athletes.”

κακῶν γὰρ ὄντων μυρίων καθ’ ῾Ελλάδα
οὐδὲν κάκιόν ἐστιν ἀθλητῶν γένους·

Anarchasis the Scythian, Diogenes Laertius 1.8 103-105

Οὗτος τὴν ἄμπελον εἶπε τρεῖς φέρειν βότρυς: τὸν πρῶτον ἡδονῆς: τὸν δεύτερον μέθης: τὸν τρίτον ἀνδίας. θαυμάζειν δὲ ἔφη πῶς παρὰ τοῖς Ἕλλησιν ἀγωνίζονται μὲν οἱ τεχνῖται, κρίνουσι δὲ οἱ μὴ τεχνῖται. ἐρωτηθεὶς πῶς οὐκ ἂν γένοιτό τις φιλοπότης, “εἰ πρὸ ὀφθαλμῶν,” εἶπεν, “ἔχοι τὰς τῶν μεθυόντων ἀσχημοσύνας.” θαυμάζειν τε ἔλεγε πῶς οἱ Ἕλληνες νομοθετοῦντες κατὰ τῶν ὑβριζόντων, τοὺς ἀθλητὰς τιμῶσιν ἐπὶ τῷ τύπτεινἀλλήλους. μαθὼν τέτταρας δακτύλους εἶναι τὸ πάχος τῆς νεώς, τοσοῦτον ἔφη τοῦ θανάτου τοὺς πλέοντας ἀπέχειν.

“He said that the vine bears three grapes: pleasure, inebriation, and disgust. He said that he was surprised how among the Greeks experts competed and amateurs judged them. When he asked how someone could avoid being a drunk, he said “if you keep the shame of drunks before you.” He also used to say that he was surprised how the Greeks make laws against arrogance when they honor athletes for hitting each other. When he learned that a ship’s side was four-fingers thick, he said that the sailors were only that far from death.

Xenophon Memorabilia, 3.5.14

“I think that just as certain Athletes lose ground to their opponents after they have won with too much ease, so too the Athenians have become worse because they stopped caring for themselves.”

᾿Εγὼ μέν, ἔφη, οἶμαι, ὁ Σωκράτης, ὥσπερ καὶ ἀθληταί τινες διὰ τὸ πολὺ ὑπερενεγκεῖν καὶ κρατιστεῦσαι καταρρᾳθυμήσαντες ὑστερίζουσι τῶν ἀντιπάλων, οὕτω καὶ ᾿Αθηναίους πολὺ διενεγκόντας ἀμελῆσαι ἑαυτῶν καὶ διὰτοῦτο χείρους γεγονέναι.

Still Working on a Resolution? Some Exercise and Diet Suggestions from Ancient Greece

Philostratus, Gymnasticus 43-44

“Let that be enough said concerning the topic of the mixture of humors in contemporary exercise, since the ancient practice had no concept of the mixture but worked on strength alone. Ancient authors mean any type of exercise at all when they use the term ‘gymnastic’. Some people used to exercise by carrying weights which were not easy to carry; others attempted to match the speed of horses and hares; others still used to straighten and bend thick pieces of worked iron. Others  yoked themselves alongside strong, wagon-pulling oxen and others used to try to strangle bulls or even lions.

These things were the training regimen of the Polymêstors, the Glaukoi, the Alesiai, and Poulydamas of Skotussa. The hands of the boxer Tisander used to obtain their exercise by carrying him as he swam around the head of the island and deep into the sea. Rivers and springs cleansed the men of old and they were in the practice of sleeping on the ground, some making their beds from skins and others fashioning them from the meadows. Their food were barley cakes or bread which was unsifted and unleavened. They ate the meat of cows, bulls, and goats, and they oiled themselves from wild olives.

This is how they avoided sickness and grew old only late in life. Some of them even competed for eight or nine Olympiads and they were also good warriors. They fought defending their city walls and did not fall there, but were considered worthy of recognition and trophies, since they used warfare as training for sports and sports to train for war.

When the state of affairs changed and they become inexperienced of fighting, lazy rather than vigorous, and soft instead of hard, then Sicilian delicacy overpowered their diet. This is when the athletic fields were weakened and, then even more, when flattery was made part of exercise.”

Ταῦτα εἰρήσθω μοι περὶ κράσεως ἐκ τῆς νῦν γυμναστικῆς, ὡς ἡ ἀρχαία γε οὐδὲ ἐγίνωσκε κρᾶσιν, ἀλλὰ μόνην τὴν ἰσχὺν ἐγύμναζεν. γυμναστικὴν δὲ οἱ παλαιοὶ καὶ αὐτὸ τὸ ὁτιοῦν γυμνάζεσθαι· ἐγυμνάζοντο δὲ οἱ μὲν ἄχθη φέροντες οὐκ εὔφορα, οἱ δ’ ὑπὲρ τάχους ἁμιλλώμενοι πρὸς ἵππους καὶ πτῶκας, οἱ δ’ ὀρθοῦντές τε καὶ κάμπτοντες σίδηρον ἐληλαμένον εἰς παχύ, οἱ δὲ βουσὶ συνεζευγμένοι καρτεροῖς τε καὶ ἁμαξεῦουσιν, οἱ δὲ ταύρους ἀπαυχενίζοντες, οἱ δ’ αὐτοὺς λέοντας. ταῦτα δὲ δὴ Πολυμήστορες καὶ Γλαῦκοι καὶ Ἀλησίαι καὶ Πουλυδάμας ὁ Σκοτουσσαῖος. Τίσανδρον δὲ τὸν ἐκ τῆς Νάξου πύκτην περὶ τὰ ἀκρωτήρια τῆς νήσου νέοντα παρέπεμπον αἱ χεῖρες ἐπὶ πολὺ τῆς θαλάσσης [παραπεμπόμεναι] γυμναζόμεναί τε καὶ γυμνάζουσαι. ποταμοί τε αὐτοὺς ἔλουον καὶ πηγαὶ καὶ χαμευνίαν ἐπήσκουν, οἱ μὲν ἐπὶ βυρσῶν ἐκταθέντες, οἱ δ’ εὐνὰς ἀμήσαντες ἐκ λειμώνων.

σιτία δὲ αὐτοῖς αἵ τε μᾶζαι καὶ τῶν ἄρτων οἱ ἄπτιστοι καὶ μὴ ζυμῆται καὶ τῶν κρεῶν τὰ βόειά τε καὶ ταύρεια καὶ τράγεια τούτους ἔβοσκε καὶ δόρκοι κότινου τε <καὶ> φυλίας ἔχριον αὑτοὺς λίπα· ὅθεν ἄνοσοί τε ἤσκουν καὶ ὀψὲ ἐγήρασκον. ἠγωνίζοντό τε οἱ μὲν ὀκτὼ Ὀλυμπιάδας, οἱ δὲ ἐννέα, καὶ ὁπλιτεύειν ἀγαθοὶ ἦσαν, ἐμάχοντό τε ὑπὲρ τειχῶν οὐδὲ ἐκεῖ πίπτοντες, ἀλλὰ ἀριστείων τε ἀξιούμενοι καὶ τροπαίων, καὶ μελέτην ποιούμενοι πολεμικὰ μὲν γυμναστικῶν, γυμναστικὰ δὲ πολεμικῶν ἔργα.

Ἐπεὶ δὲ μετέβαλε ταῦτα καὶ ἀστράτευτοι μὲν ἐκ μαχομένων, ἀργοὶ δὲ ἐξ ἐνεργῶν, ἀνειμένοι δὲ ἐκ κατεσκληκότων ἐγένοντο Σικελική τε ὀψοφαγία ἴσχυσεν, ἐξενευρίσθη τὰ στάδια, καὶ πολλῷ μᾶλλον, ἐπειδὴ κολακευτική γε ἐγκατελέχθη τῇ γυμναστικῇ.

Image result for ancient greek athlete

Meals At the Public Expense

Isocrates, Panegyricus 1

“I am often amazed that when men first summoned the great gatherings and established athletic contests they believed the accomplishments of the body to be worth great gifts, but for those who have toiled in private for the public good and who have prepared their minds so they may help others, they have apportioned no honor even though it is right to plan for this. If athletes were to double their strength, it would be nothing more to the rest of us; but when one man advises well, all men who are willing to share his insight can benefit.”

Πολλάκις ἐθαύμασα τῶν τὰς πανηγύρεις συναγαγόντων καὶ τοὺς γυμνικοὺς ἀγῶνας καταστησάντων, ὅτι τὰς μὲν τῶν σωμάτων εὐτυχίας οὕτω μεγάλων δωρεῶν ἠξίωσαν, τοῖς δ’ ὑπὲρ τῶν κοινῶν ἰδίᾳ πονήσασι καὶ τὰς αὑτῶν ψυχὰς οὕτω παρασκευάσασιν ὥστε καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους ὠφελεῖν δύνασθαι, τούτοις δ’ οὐδεμίαν τιμὴν ἀπένειμαν, ὧν εἰκὸς ἦν αὐτοὺς μᾶλλον ποιήσασθαι πρόνοιαν· τῶν μὲν γὰρ ἀθλητῶν δὶς τοσαύτην ῥώμην λαβόντων οὐδὲν ἂν πλέον γένοιτο τοῖς ἄλλοις, ἑνὸς δ’ ἀνδρὸς εὖ φρονήσαντος ἅπαντες ἂν ἀπολαύσειαν οἱ βουλόμενοι κοινωνεῖν τῆς ἐκείνου διανοίας.

The contrast between the effect of a wise-advisor and an Olympic champion is also invoked by Socrates:

Plato, Apology 36   

“What is right to give to a poor man who has done good work and needs the time to advise you? Athenian men, there is nothing more appropriate than feeding this sort of man at the public expense, more rightly than if one of you has achieved a victory on horseback or chariot races in the Olympian games. The first makes you seem to be fortunate, while I do it for real. He lacks no resources, but I do. If I must be honored justly for my worth, I merit this, meals at the public expense.”

τί οὖν πρέπει ἀνδρὶ πένητι εὐεργέτῃ δεομένῳ ἄγειν σχολὴν ἐπὶ τῇ ὑμετέρᾳ παρακελεύσει; οὐκ ἔσθ’ ὅτι μᾶλλον, ὦ ἄνδρες ᾿Αθηναῖοι, πρέπει οὕτως ὡς τὸν τοιοῦτον ἄνδρα ἐν πρυτανείῳ σιτεῖσθαι, πολύ γε μᾶλλον ἢ εἴ τις ὑμῶν ἵππῳ ἢ συνωρίδι ἢ ζεύγει νενίκηκεν ᾿Ολυμπίασιν· ὁ μὲν γὰρ ὑμᾶς ποιεῖ εὐδαίμονας δοκεῖν εἶναι, ἐγὼ δὲ εἶναι, καὶ ὁ μὲν τροφῆς οὐδὲν δεῖται, ἐγὼ δὲ δέομαι. εἰ οὖν δεῖ με κατὰ τὸ δίκαιον τῆς ἀξίας τιμᾶσθαι, τούτου τιμῶμαι, ἐν πρυτανείῳ σιτήσεως.

Image result for Ancient Greek Athletics

Euripides, fr. 282 (Autolycos)

“Of the endless evils plaguing Greece
None is worse than the race of athletes.”

κακῶν γὰρ ὄντων μυρίων καθ’ ῾Ελλάδα
οὐδὲν κάκιόν ἐστιν ἀθλητῶν γένους·

Anarchasis the Scythian, Diogenes Laertius 1.8 103-105

Οὗτος τὴν ἄμπελον εἶπε τρεῖς φέρειν βότρυς: τὸν πρῶτον ἡδονῆς: τὸν δεύτερον μέθης: τὸν τρίτον ἀνδίας. θαυμάζειν δὲ ἔφη πῶς παρὰ τοῖς Ἕλλησιν ἀγωνίζονται μὲν οἱ τεχνῖται, κρίνουσι δὲ οἱ μὴ τεχνῖται. ἐρωτηθεὶς πῶς οὐκ ἂν γένοιτό τις φιλοπότης, “εἰ πρὸ ὀφθαλμῶν,” εἶπεν, “ἔχοι τὰς τῶν μεθυόντων ἀσχημοσύνας.” θαυμάζειν τε ἔλεγε πῶς οἱ Ἕλληνες νομοθετοῦντες κατὰ τῶν ὑβριζόντων, τοὺς ἀθλητὰς τιμῶσιν ἐπὶ τῷ τύπτεινἀλλήλους. μαθὼν τέτταρας δακτύλους εἶναι τὸ πάχος τῆς νεώς, τοσοῦτον ἔφη τοῦ θανάτου τοὺς πλέοντας ἀπέχειν.

“He said that the vine bears three grapes: pleasure, inebriation, and disgust. He said that he was surprised how among the Greeks experts competed and amateurs judged them. When he asked how someone could avoid being a drunk, he said “if you keep the shame of drunks before you.” He also used to say that he was surprised how the Greeks make laws against arrogance when they honor athletes for hitting each other. When he learned that a ship’s side was four-fingers thick, he said that the sailors were only that far from death.

Xenophon Memorabilia, 3.5.14

“I think that just as certain Athletes lose ground to their opponents after they have won with too much ease, so too the Athenians have become worse because they stopped caring for themselves.”

᾿Εγὼ μέν, ἔφη, οἶμαι, ὁ Σωκράτης, ὥσπερ καὶ ἀθληταί τινες διὰ τὸ πολὺ ὑπερενεγκεῖν καὶ κρατιστεῦσαι καταρρᾳθυμήσαντες ὑστερίζουσι τῶν ἀντιπάλων, οὕτω καὶ ᾿Αθηναίους πολὺ διενεγκόντας ἀμελῆσαι ἑαυτῶν καὶ διὰτοῦτο χείρους γεγονέναι.

Euripides on Athletes: Ready for Football?

Euripides, fr. 282 (Autolycos)

 

“Of the endless evils plaguing Greece
None is worse than the race of athletes.”

 

κακῶν γὰρ ὄντων μυρίων καθ’ ῾Ελλάδα
οὐδὲν κάκιόν ἐστιν ἀθλητῶν γένους·

 

With football season fast upon us, it is useful to remind ourselves that Western culture has had a fixation with sport for quite some time. But one big difference in Ancient Greece is that sport was a leisure activity, not big business like the NFL. (Or, to be realist, like NCAA division 1). In the Odyssey, Odysseus finds the Phaeacians delighting themselves in competitions after banquets, where they, the prototypical ‘loungers’, claim that nothing is greater.

 

Homer, Odyssey 8.147-8

“For as long as he lives, a man has no greater glory
than that which he wins with his own hands and feet”

 

οὐ μὲν γὰρ μεῖζον κλέος ἀνέρος, ὄφρα κεν ᾖσιν,
ἢ ὅ τι ποσσίν τε ῥέξῃ καὶ χερσὶν ἑῇσιν.

 

Or so a Prince Dandy says to the long-suffering war veteran Odysseus. Sports and games are ritual substitutes for war and distractions from the fact that the soldier faces far higher stakes than the sportsman. It is no accident that this scene happens among the Phaeacians who live a charmed life far from all other men…until Poseidon drops a mountain on them. And it is also no accident that the other characters who spend time playing sports in the Odyssey are the suitors back in Ithaca…

That we have an entire genre of ancient poetry dedicated to Athletic victories is telling (Epinician poetry). Also telling is that in this poetry the victory of an athlete is reflection of the virtue of his family and city. Not too far off from our civic pride in our own sports teams (often ironically manned by players from far off).

 

Pindar, Pythian 5.12-13

 

“The wise carry even their god-given strength better.”

 

σοφοὶ δέ τοι κάλλιον
φέροντι καὶ τὰν θεόσδοτον δύναμιν.

 

And, yet, we do find some anxiety in the ancient world about the worship of sports and their heroes. Xenophanes complains about this in a way that may help us to understand Euripides’ lines above. His concern is that what men value on the contest ground is mistaken for a virtue that will help order their city well. (And there may be a dig at Achilles here.)

 

Xenophanes, Fragment 2. 16-19

“Swiftness of feet—the thing honored most in all of man’s acts of strength in the contest—could never make a city governed well.”

οὐδὲ μὲν εἰ ταχυτῆτι ποδῶν, τόπερ ἐστὶ πρότιμον,
ῥώμης ὅσσ’ ἀνδρῶν ἔργ’ ἐν ἀγῶνι πέλει,
τούνεκεν ἂν δὴ μᾶλλον ἐν εὐνομίηι πόλις εἴη·

 

The fact is that sports developed in ancient Greece as an aristocratic ritual that eventually took the place of actual bloodletting. They allowed the nobles to compete for honor without killing each other. Our modern blood-sports, however, aren’t the province of our moneyed classes (well, they own the teams). Instead, mostly lower-class youths compete for a rare opportunity for glory. And the deck is stacked against them in many ways.

 

Horace, Epistles 1.19.48-9

 

“Sport tends to give rise to heated strife and anger, anger in turns brings savage feuds and war to the death”.

ludus enim genuit trepidum certamen et iram, ira truces inimicitias et funebre bellum.

Quintus Horatius Flaccus

Xenophon, Memorabilia 3.5.14

 

“I think that just as certain Athletes lose ground to their opponents after they have won with too much ease, so too the Athenians have become worse because they stopped caring for themselves.”

 

᾿Εγὼ μέν, ἔφη, οἶμαι, ὁ Σωκράτης, ὥσπερ καὶ ἀθληταί τινες διὰ τὸ πολὺ ὑπερενεγκεῖν καὶ κρατιστεῦσαι καταρρᾳθυμήσαντες ὑστερίζουσι τῶν ἀντιπάλων, οὕτω καὶ ᾿Αθηναίους πολὺ διενεγκόντας ἀμελῆσαι ἑαυτῶν καὶ διὰτοῦτο χείρους γεγονέναι.