Wednesday, July 04, 2018


Not All Perfect Athletes

H.W. Parke, Festivals of the Athenians (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977), p. 46, with note on p. 193:
In Aristophanes we have a sarcastic caricature of what could happen in this 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 the Kerameikos [the workmens' 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.30

30 Ar. Ra. 1089 ff.
The Greek:
μὰ Δί᾿ οὐ δῆθ᾿, ὥστ᾿ ἐπαφηυάνθην
Παναθηναίοισι γελῶν, ὅτε δὴ        1090
βραδὺς ἄνθρωπός τις ἔθει κύψας
λευκός, πίων, ὑπολειπόμενος
καὶ δεινὰ ποιῶν· κᾆθ᾿ οἱ Κεραμῆς
ἐν ταῖσι πύλαις παίουσ᾿ αὐτοῦ
γαστέρα, πλευράς, λαγόνας, πυγήν,        1095
ὁ δὲ τυπτόμενος ταῖσι πλατείαις
φυσῶν τὴν λαμπάδ᾿ ἔφευγεν.

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