Sport and war in democratic Athens

  • David M. Pritchard University of Queensland. Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Camila Diogo de Souza Universidade de São Paulo. Museu de Arqueologia e Etnologia
  • Lucia Sano Universidade Federal de São Paulo. Escola de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas
Keywords: Sport, War, Democracy, Olympics, Classical Athens


This article considers the neglected problem of elite sport in classical Athens. Athenian democracy may have opened up politics to every citizen but it had no impact on sporting participation. This ancient state’s sportsmen continued to be drawn from the elite. Therefore, it comes as a surprise that non-elite citizens judged sport to be a very good thing and created an unrivalled program of local sporting festivals on which they spent a staggering sum of money. They also shielded sportsmen from the public criticism that was otherwise normally directed towards the elite and its conspicuous activities. The work of social scientists suggests that the explanation of this paradox lies in the close relationship that non-elite Athenians perceived between sporting contests and their own waging of war. The disturbing conclusion of this talk is that it was Athenian democracy’s opening up of war to non-elite citizens that legitimized elite sport.


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Author Biographies

David M. Pritchard, University of Queensland. Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Professor Associado da School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Queensland, Australia

Camila Diogo de Souza, Universidade de São Paulo. Museu de Arqueologia e Etnologia

Pós doutorado pelo Museu de Arqueologia e Etnologia da  Universidade de São Paulo

Lucia Sano, Universidade Federal de São Paulo. Escola de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas

Obteve mestrado (2008) e doutorado (2013) pelo programa de Pós-Graduação em Letras Clássicas da Universidade de São Paulo. Desde 2009 é docente de Língua e Literatura Gregas na Universidade Federal de São Paulo (Unifesp). Tem interesse nos gêneros narrativos da literatura grega, tendo desenvolvido pesquisa principalmente sobre as narrativas em prosa produzidas no período imperial, no contexto conhecido como Segunda Sofística. Atualmente se dedica ao estudo da obra de Xenofonte de Atenas e sua recepção no Brasil. É membro dos grupos de pesquisa (CNPq) Gêneros de Prosa Greco-Latina, Tradução e Recepção da Literatura Clássica e Gêneros Poéticos na Grécia Antiga


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How to Cite
Pritchard, D., Souza, C., & Sano, L. (2017). Sport and war in democratic Athens. Revista Do Museu De Arqueologia E Etnologia, (29), 92-104.