Skip to main content

Seminar 4


Looking at Winners

This seminar invites you to examine the way in which athletic winners were portrayed in the ancient Greek world in free-standing statuary, and also, crucially, to evaluate the settings in which these sculptures were placed and how those setting impacted on the way in which these representations were interpreted.

General Questions:

• What did a winner look like?
• How much scope was there for individualization?
• What were the important things to emphasize?
• Where were statues of winners erected?

Section 1:

Look at the images of winners in the (PDF Document) Images Pack:

1. The Doryphoros (‘Spear Carrier’)
2. The Charioteer
3. The Boxer
4. The Westmacott boy

Consult some of the following:

On the specific statues:

• Doryphoros: Woodford, S. (1986) Introduction to Greek Art pp. 130–4
• Charioteer: Adornato, G. (2008) 'Delphic enigmas? The gelas anasson, Polyzalos and the charioteer statue', American Journal of Archaeology 112: 29–56
• Boxer: Smith, R. R. R. (1991) Hellenistic Sculpture pp.51–62
• Westmacott Boy: Newby, Z. (2005) Greek athletics in the Roman world: victory and virtue pp.93–5; 99–102

On victory sculpture:

• Spivey, N. (2012) The Ancient Olympics pp. 151–73
• Faulkner, N. (2012) A Visitor’s Guide to the Ancient Olympics pp. 158–94
• Mattusch, C. (1997) The Victorious Youth
• Crowther, N. B. (2004) 'Euexia, Eutaxia, Philoponia: Three contests of the Greek gymnasium', in Crowther, N. B., ed. Athletika: Studies on the Olympic Games and Greek Athletics 342–4
• Miller, S. G. (2004) Ancient Greek Athletics
• Miller, S. G. (1979) Arete: ancient writers, papyri and inscriptions on the history and ideals of Greek athletics and games
• Scanlon, T. F. (2002) Eros and Greek Athletics

Base your research on the following questions:

• Which sports do each of these sculptures represent?
• Do they all represent victors?
• Where were each of these sculptures set up?
• What periods do they date to?
• How realistic are these sculptures?
• What messages do these sculptures seek to convey?
• To what extent and why are there differences between them?
• How do the messages these sculptures offer about victory differ from those offered in literary texts composed about and for victory?

Section 2:

Look at the map and image of the sanctuary and sporting facilities at Olympia in the Images Pack.

Consult some of the following:

• Newby, Z. (2006) Athletics in the ancient world
• Barringer, J. (2005) 'The temple of Zeus at Olympia: heroes and athletes', Hesperia 74: 211–41
• Sinn, U. (2000) Olympia: Cult, Sport and Ancient Festival 
• Drees, L. (1968) Olympia: Gods, Artists and Athletes
• Kyrieleis, H. (2003) 'The German excavations at Olympia: an introduction', in Philips, D. and Pritchard, D. eds. Sport and Festival in the Ancient Greek World 41–60
• Hyde, W. H. (1921) Olympic Victor Monuments and Greek Athletic Art
• Matthews, V. (2007) 'Olympic Losers: Why Athletes who did not win at Olympia are remembered', in Schaus, G. P. and Wenn, S. R. eds. Onwards to the Olympics: Historical Perspectives on the Olympics Games 81–94
• Kyle, D. (2007) Sport and Spectacle in the ancient world
• Scott, M. C. (2010) Delphi and Olympia: The Spatial Politics of Panhellenism in the Archaic and Classical Periods (chapters on Olympia)
• Valavanis P. (2004) Games and Sanctuaries in Ancient Greece: Olympia, Delphi, Isthmia, Nemea, Athens

Base your research on the following questions:

• How were statues of victors placed in and around the sanctuary?
• What kinds of statues were options for winners?
• How did the sanctuary change over time (through Classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods)?
• In what ways do you think the spatial context for victory statues made a difference to their interpretation?
• In what ways do you think the changing nature of the sanctuary over time affected the purpose of a victory statue and its interpretation?
• To what extent do you think the ways we have thought about victory statues at Olympia can be applied to other places of athletic festivals?