Saturday, February 06, 2016
Not All Perfect Athletes
In Aristophanes we have a sarcastic caricature of what could happen in the torch-race. In the Frogs Aeschylus is represented in the Other World as accusing Euripides of being responsible for producing a generation of Athenians of whom 'no one is able to carry a torch any longer through lack of athletic training.' Dionysus supports this charge with a reminiscence: 'No indeed, by Jove, and at the Panathenaia I split myself laughing when a slow fellow was running, doubled up, white and flabby, left behind and in a terrible state. Then the men from Kerameikos [the workmen's quarter through which the course went] in the gates were butting him on the belly and ribs and flanks and buttocks. When he was beaten on the road he gave a fart, blew out his torch and fled.' The episode is perhaps not all mischievous fantasy and is certainly a corrective to any romantic and sentimental notion of classical Greeks who were all perfect athletes.30Cf. id., p. 12:
30 Ar. Ra. 1089 ff.
Not only was feasting an appropriate act of worship, but even athletics and play-acting were proper institutions for holy days. The pious psalmist, sure in his knowledge of the nature of Jehovah, might assert: 'He hath no pleasure in the strength of an horse; neither delighteth he in any man's legs.' But the Athenian when he took part in chariot-racing or running at the Panathenaic games believed that Athena was honoured by these exertions.
(Harvard University), object no. 1960.344
Related post: Torch Relays and Races.