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Olympic Games (interesting, actually)
#1
OK. First an apology for bringing up the Olympic Games, with which you're probably as fed up as I am. Still, this link leads to a webpage that may actually be interesting.

It is, somewhat misleadingly, called Gilgamesh Games. The author of those pages suggests that the Olympic Games have roots in ancient Mesopotamia, and points at a key text from Babylonia: the Epic of Gilgamesh, which was known throughout the ancient Near East and has jumped to Greece as well (it is quoted by Homer and referred to by Aelian, who also knows the name of "Gilgamos"). The idea that the archaic Greeks, who also accepted oriental artistic motifs, were inspired by the Epic of Gilgamesh, is by no means far-fetched, especially since Gilgamesh and Herales closely resemble each other.

The author claims to have found eleven parallels. I was not convinced by all of them, but yes, athletic contests, in the summer, to honor the gods (instead of a dead hero as in the Iliad), awarding wreaths, ending with a victory banquet - well, five parallels is quite suggestive.
Jona Lendering
Relevance is the enemy of history
My website
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#2
Donal G. Kyle states in his book "Sport and Spectacle in the Ancient World" several Ancient cultures which sed to have some kind of sporting competitions, such as the Mesopotamian Sports, Egyptian pharaohs on the hunt, Minoan, Hittite and Mycenaean contests. Even the Greeks had other games before the Olympics such as funeral games.
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#3
Didn't the Etruscans also have funerary games? Did they borrow these from the Greeks during the orientalising phase?
David J. Cord
http://www.davidcord.com
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#4
Kyle says in the aforementioned work that the Etruscans had some kind of funeral games, but the wealthy Etruscans preferred to watch athletics than to compete in them themselves. They rather enjoyed banqueting and music, dancing, fishing and swiming for recreation.

There was a religious festival at Voltumna with some sort of performances, but these were carried out by slaves. These could have been athletic and equestrian contests.

From tomb paintings at Chiusi and Tarquinia scenes of boxing, wrestling, javelin-throwing, jumping and chariot-racing are known.
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#5
Homer preserve the tradition of Games from the Bronze Age.

Kind regards
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#6
Quote:The main thesis shall show that the Mesopotamian (modern day Iraqi) cultural influence that had for centuries percolated into ancient Greece through contact with the Hittites (modern day Turks) and other peoples appears to have suddenly swamped Greece during the middle of the 8th century BC. This was during the start of the Sargonid dynasty which saw the Assyrian (ancient Iraqi) empire reach its geographical zenith and incorporate colonies such as the Greek island of Crete.

Pretty tight chronology. The author seems to be unaware that the recording of winners started in Greece as early as 776 BC. And the games as such were probably much older.

[quote]The revelation that the Olympian “jewel in the crownâ€
Stefan (Literary references to the discussed topics are always appreciated.)
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#7
Quote:His agenda is rather obvious.
He's pretty honest about that:
Quote:We aim to show that civilisation evolved naturally at the confluence of three continenents rather than miraculously in the isolated mountainous terrain of Greece.
Impeccable, I'd say. And although I think he's wrong the way he states his case now, I think the idea deserves very serious consideration. The Archaic Age saw many cultural borrowings, and the Gilgamesh stories were told in Greece. If the alfabeth was accepted, if Hesiod used eastern models, if the Astarte cult can be found in Corinth, if the Flood myth was copied, if sculpture and vase painting had oriental influences - why not sport as well?
Jona Lendering
Relevance is the enemy of history
My website
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#8
Quote: I do not think that we have to revise our view that the Greeks and Romans had the world's first sports culture, in many ways remarkably similar to the Anglo-Saxon model of today.
What exactly do you mean by that? Greek sporting culture was different from that of other civilizations, but you can see people watching wrestling matches and stickfighting bouts in Bronze Age Egypt (for example).

I'll have to look at that site more closely. There is a fair amount to read there, and there might be something to it ...
Nullis in verba

I left this forum around the beginning of 2013, but I hope that these old posts have some value
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#9
Quote:We aim to show that civilisation evolved naturally at the confluence of three continenents rather than miraculously in the isolated mountainous terrain of Greece.

Well, it is a matter of perspective. If they say that Greece owns its early start - compared with the rest of Europe - to technological and cultural imports from the east (agriculture, cities, wheel, copper, bronze, iron, etc. etc.), who would disagree? In that very basic sense, the whole world culture actually derives from four to six civilization centres, so that is hardly news.

However, once you leave the ground of the basic inventions which had established agricultural and urban societies, Greek culture became pretty autochthonous and followed its own distinctive path. And Western culture is again a different thing (Greek PLUS Roman PLUS Christian PLUS Enlightment), so these scholars actually shoot very high if they really believe they can 'prove' the eastern origin of western culture.
Stefan (Literary references to the discussed topics are always appreciated.)
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#10
Quote:What exactly do you mean by that? Greek sporting culture was different from that of other civilizations, but you can see people watching wrestling matches and stickfighting bouts in Bronze Age Egypt (for example).

Sports is in my view more than physical exercise: Did the Egyptians host regular and supra-regional sports games? Did they associate special ideas like peace with them? Did their games have more or less established rules? Were their fighters (semi-)professionals? Did they award prizes at tournaments? Did they have a sports infrastucture (stadions, arenas with thousands of spectators)? Did they have something like the gymnasium? Did they have professional training and nutrition? Were ancient Egyptians about their sports just as enthusiasatic as were the Greeks and Romans? Were their sportsmen just as much hailed as heros and role models?

All these elements of modern sports were present in Greece and Rome, for over a millenium, so it is only fair to give them the credit for inventing 'sports', even though it needed a second start in modern times. Did you know, for example, that boxing was olympic as early as 688 BC? That IS a mighty tradition.
Stefan (Literary references to the discussed topics are always appreciated.)
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#11
Quote:
Quote:We aim to show that civilisation evolved naturally at the confluence of three continenents rather than miraculously in the isolated mountainous terrain of Greece.

Well, it is a matter of perspective. If they say that Greece owns its early start - compared with the rest of Europe - to technological and cultural imports from the east (agriculture, cities, wheel, copper, bronze, iron, etc. etc.), who would disagree? In that very basic sense, the whole world culture actually derives from four to six civilization centres, so that is hardly news.

However, once you leave the ground of the basic inventions which had established agricultural and urban societies, Greek culture became pretty autochthonous and followed its own distinctive path. And Western culture is again a different thing (Greek PLUS Roman PLUS Christian PLUS Enlightment), so these scholars actually shoot very high if they really believe they can 'prove' the eastern origin of western culture.

I personally find it rather distrubing that they are going at this with some revolutionary goal in mind. Not the lets gather the evidence and theorize from there but instead this sounds more like lets create a theory and then see what evidence we can dig up to support it.
Timothy Hanna
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#12
Quote:I personally find it rather distrubing that they are going at this with some revolutionary goal in mind. Not the lets gather the evidence and theorize from there but instead this sounds more like lets create a theory and then see what evidence we can dig up to support it.
Actually, the evidence was already gathered about a century ago, and the great Ed. Meyer tried to write a handbook for ancient history that started in Sumeria. The Cambridge Ancient History tried to do this for the English language, and there you see the problem: this series was made by a team. It was no longer possible for one man to sum up all ancient history. From the earliest writings to the economic crisis of the sixth century is about 4,000 years and it covers three continents.

A second point is that Winckelmann is still not dead. He's the guy who single-handedly created the idea that the origin of civilization was not the Garden of Eden but a group of noble savages called Greeks. Especially in Germany and Britain, this became a standard view on the past, because in France, Napoleon venerated the Romans.

Now the modern university is a German invention: it was sort of invented by Wilhelm von Humboldt (the university he founded in Berlin is now named after him). In order to give the Greeks a special place, the study of the ancient past was divided into subdisciplines: subfaculty of Indo-European languages (including Greek and Roman history) versus subfaculty of Semitic languages (Hebrew, Arab, and later also Babylonian). Ancient historians were educated at these language subfaculties. This model was copied elsewhere, although other names were used. Even today, people who research both cultures, have to move between separate buildings and libraries.

A third factor is that the "cult of Greece and Rome" has led to the idea that a civilized man had to be able to know some Greek and Latin, an idea that goes back to Winckelmann/Von Humboldt, and -before that- the Catholic Church. In many countries, people who have studied Greek and Latin, can easily find a job as a teacher, telling the youth how important Greece an Rome were. This makes the subfaculties of Greek and Latin more powerful -they have a solid base of people who can actually find a job- than those of Babylonian and Egyptian when it comes down to dividing the government money. Believe me, I have seen too many university politics. So we get another critical edition of the Iliad nearly every decade, while 100,000 cuneiform tablets are left abandoned in the British Museum alone (more about this in the next issue of Ancient Warfare).

Orientalists have also made silly mistakes. Iranologists have accepted money from the Iranian Shah, and allowed themselves to become instrumental to creating an image of ancient Iran that is still influential (read this month's issue of the National Geographic for some already refuted nonsense).

As a consequence of all this, Winckelmann's idea has never been challenged, and age-old prejudices, sometimes with a no longer seen anti-Semitic root, have survived.

I am currently studying the history of the Pythagorean Theorem, which was known in c.2000 BC. The Greeks could prove this (Euclid, Elements, c. 300 BC), and would much later (fourth century AD) ascribe it to Pythagoras. Now the funny thing is that nearly every classicist will admit that the Babylonians knew it, but they will add that the Greeks created real mathematics because they found proof. I have heard this very, very often, and it is quite simply untrue. There is indeed no cuneiform tablet with the proof, but the way the Babylonians construct their problems proves that they knew a proof (tablete Plimpton 322 is a case in point).

I could add more (the Museum in Alexandria is a copy of the scientific institute of Babylon, for example), but will leave it at this. What I am trying to say is that the real revolution was made by Winckelmann and became institutionalized by Wilhelm von Humboldt. What the authors of that Gilgamesh Games website are doing is essentially a counterrevolution that ought to have happened about a century ago.
Jona Lendering
Relevance is the enemy of history
My website
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#13
Interesting view. Obviously orientalists have a difficult stand against classicists, although the latter were actually under onslaught from medievalists in the 1950s and 60s (Lynn White's then widely influential thesis of the technological stagnation of antiquity)

Quote:A third factor is that the "cult of Greece and Rome" has led to the idea that a civilized man had to be able to know some Greek and Latin, an idea that goes back to Winckelmann/Von Humboldt, and -before that- the Catholic Church.

I think the idea has been directly transmitted from antiquity, because, as we all know, Latin remained the lingua franca until about the 16th-17th century. Even as late as the 18th century famous men of learning like Leibniz wrote partly in Latin. International publications from Poland at that time were also still written mostly in Latin. In Hungary, Latin remained the state language until 1844. Winckelmann was only one link, one generation more, which propagated the civilising effect of Latin. In retroperspective, he may stood out as an anachronism in a time already dominated by the vernacular languages, but actually he could call on an uninterrupted Latin tradition since the end of antiquity.
Stefan (Literary references to the discussed topics are always appreciated.)
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#14
If only the entire works of the historian Berosus of Babylon survived to our days, perhaps would had shared some light.
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#15
Quote:Sports is in my view more than physical exercise: Did the Egyptians host regular and supra-regional sports games? Did they associate special ideas like peace with them? Did their games have more or less established rules? Were their fighters (semi-)professionals? Did they award prizes at tournaments? Did they have a sports infrastucture (stadions, arenas with thousands of spectators)? Did they have something like the gymnasium? Did they have professional training and nutrition? Were ancient Egyptians about their sports just as enthusiasatic as were the Greeks and Romans? Were their sportsmen just as much hailed as heros and role models?

All these elements of modern sports were present in Greece and Rome, for over a millenium, so it is only fair to give them the credit for inventing 'sports', even though it needed a second start in modern times. Did you know, for example, that boxing was olympic as early as 688 BC? That IS a mighty tradition.
I don't know, Stefan. I'd have to do some research on sports in ancient cultures other than Greece and Rome. Also, sporting culture in your sense has nothing to do with civilization or literacy, so a Greek-style sporting culture could have been in one of the many early societies which we know very little about. We know that wrestling contests didn't start and stop with the Olympics ...

I can guess at answers to some of your questions. Did Egyptians see athletes as role models? Quite likely, humans are strange that way. Were there rules? There are in most folk wrestling systems. Did they build expensive facilities for sports? Probably not, but that is one of the ways that the Greeks were different ... their leaders sometimes spent money on places for the public to enjoy themselves. Temples or city walls or roads serve the public good too, but no more than they serve the government's. As for professional instructors, those are fairly common, and the wrestling style in the Beni Hassan frescos is sophisticated, but again I don't know if there is any evidence from Egypt.
Nullis in verba

I left this forum around the beginning of 2013, but I hope that these old posts have some value
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