Michael Bray

Author of A Time To Kill

The Palestra

The ancient word for what we now call a gymnasium or a stadium where public sporting events took place in ancient Greece.  Nice. 

The oldest of these panhellenic games organized as a quadrennial event was put together in 776 B.C.   It consisted of five contests, a “pentathlon,” all in which all athletes participated.  “To promote all-around development in the athlete,” Durant tells us “each entry in any of these events was required to compete in all of them; to secure the victory it was necessary to win three contests out of the five.”  He gives us the particulars as follows:

The first was the broad jump; the athlete held weights like dumbbells in his hands and leaped from a standing start.  Ancient writers assure us that some jumpers spanned 50 feet; but it is not necessary to believe everything we read.  The second event was throwing the discus, a circular plate or metal or stone weighing about twelve pounds; the best throws are said to have covered a hundred feet.  The third contest was in hurling the javelin or spear, with the aid of a leather throng attached to the center of the shaft.  The fourth and principal event of the group was the stadium print . . .  the length of the stadium, usually some two hundred yards.  The fifth contest was wrestling.  It was a highly popular form of competition in Greece, for the very name palaistra was taken from it, and many a story was told of its champions.  (Will Durant, “The Life of Greece,” The Story of Civilization, vol. 2, p. 214)

Ah yes, “the fifth contest was wrestling.”  Not basketball. WRESTLING.  Deal with it.  Love it.  Honor it. Enjoy it. 

Pax (12 May, 2020 anno Domini)

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