[click the picture for the linky list of A to Z participants]
I have chosen to do the Olympics today because I’m pushed for time and I think I might be able to fob you off with pretty pictures instead of prose.
The original Olympics emerged from the type of games young men played to ready themselves for battle. The Greeks, being a very organised bunch, made proper sports from these training sessions and since they had an absolute passion for the beauty of the young male in peak physical condition, some of the most sublime art in the history of the world has been inspired by Olympic athletes.
Here is quite an early depiction of the pankration. This was a type of wrestling/boxing contest where pretty much anything went other than biting and eye-gouging. Injuries and even deaths were very common, but an Olympic pankratiast was assured of a good career so it was worth doing. the dedication and discipline of practitioners was enormous.
The discus was a very popular sport and, as can be seen here, there wasn’t much difference between the way it was thrown then and how it is thrown now.
Another archaic statue, this time in bronze. The charioteer of Delphi is all that remains of a huge statue with a chariot and larger than life horses. The youthful driver has inlaid eyes and individually placed eyelashes made from gold wire.
Another bronze, this one ascribed to Polykleitos. From the lighter build I assume this young man is a runner.
This beautiful youth has his arm raised to hold his trophy. Again the light build suggests his sport was running.
And finally another winner showing his trophy – a ribbon to wind around his head.
The sculptors of the 5th and 4th centuries BC weren’t making up these beautiful bodies. They used to haunt the gymnasia to find the perfect bodies then would pay the athletes to pose for them. There may have been some flattering of facial features but the bodies were carefully measured so that the proportions of the statue would be exact.
Isn’t it strange to think that a modern photographer would put almost all of these young men on a strict diet and regime of fat burning exercise to reduce them to the defined skinniness required for the modern eye?