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Ancient Sport: Olympic Origins

by: Taylor Gipson

Ancient Sport: Olympic Origins 3380

Marketplace > University of Texas at Arlington > History > 3380 > Ancient Sport Olympic Origins
Taylor Gipson

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Week 5, September 20 notes
History of Ancient Sport
Kristan Ewin Foust
Class Notes
ancient, Sport, olympics
25 ?




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This 2 page Class Notes was uploaded by Taylor Gipson on Friday September 23, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to 3380 at University of Texas at Arlington taught by Kristan Ewin Foust in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 2 views. For similar materials see History of Ancient Sport in History at University of Texas at Arlington.


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Date Created: 09/23/16
Olympic Roles of Men and Women Women, up until recently, have been rendered throughout history as the inferior gender,  unequal to the male counterpart. Some even believe that women were made from the ribs of men  so that they would not be alone to face the unknown. One thing that has remained constant  among the years is the roles men and women are categorized into. While men are portrayed as  strong, fit for leadership and kingship, capable of battle and war, and in charge of the household  women remain inferior as domestic servants, caretakers, and nurturers.  This dynamic stands  prominent in Grecian culture and through the Olympic Games. This paper will expose the gender roles during the majestic event and the contradiction of women being ineligible yet still given a  minor role during the event.    During the readings of Kyle, women throughout history have been portrayed as inferior  to men and were restricted in certain aspects of daily life. In Greek society specifically, women  were not allowed to be apart of sport. According to Donald Kyle, eligibility in the Olympic  Games were strictly for Greek men and boys. In chapter 6, Kyle even provides a graph of the  development of events during the Olympics between 776­200, and the events are male focused.  From the start of footraces to adding pankration, or a mixture of boxing and wrestling, women  had no part in the Olympic Games. Women, citizens of other civilizations, and slaves were not  allowed to participate under any circumstance. Olympia’s centrality came from the patriotism of  Greece and being a free male. Slaves more often than not deemed being sent to the Olympic  Games with their masters as punishment because how hard the weather and climate were. For  many centuries, males were seen as the head of household and strong leaders within the  community. Their ability to show strength, longevity and control, especially through sport, were  qualities to look up to, to aspire to. Men were and are superior. Throughout the readings of  Miller, the competitors of the Games were men or young boys. The contractors were male. Even  the crew behind the organization of the Olympic Games were male, and increased every 4 years.  Men were glorified in every aspect of the word.  In contrast to the focal point of the Olympic Games being predominately male, women  shared a role in the majestic event. Cambridge scholars believed that the games, “with their life­ giving vegetation wreaths as seasonal rituals including a sacred marriage of the goddess and the  athletic victor (Kyle, 100).” Another scholar proposed that “mother­goddess cults at Olympia  inspired games as initiatory ritual dances of girls to dispel evil spirits (Kyle, 100)” that would  then spread to the men’s events. Superstition was high in Grecian society but what is interesting  is the notion of women de­spelling the games, or at times, cursing tablets for paying customers  because females were not supposed to be apart of the games. Women were seen to be inferior to  men, delicate creatures. For the most part, women were left to acrobatics and dancing rituals.  Miller did, however, mention virgin females being apart of a separate set of games, also held at  Olympia, but before the men’s event. It was known as the Heraria and said to honor Hera and her marriage to Pelops with a footrace said to be 1/6  shorter than the men’s circuit. Even with their  own set of games, the women competed before the men. Also, the women selected were virgins,  as if to purify the race and event itself because the act went against societal beliefs and in high  contrast to the men’s race. Even within their own space of sport, women were disregarded, cast  aside, and portrayed inferior.  Gender roles in society have shifted very little in history. Since the beginning of history  as we know it, men are described as strong providers, fit for leadership in the community, strong  enough to battle and conquer. On the other hand, the female counterpart remains delicate.  Women are seen as nurturers, caretakers, and domesticated. They have no power among a sea of  men, which is prominently displayed in the Ancient Olympic Games and sources from Kyle and  Miller. Eligibility for women to participate in a men’s event was prohibited yet goddess’ were  worshipped and fertility rituals remained as tradition in the Games. This contradiction deems a  more in depth exploration of women roles in sport. 


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