The pursuit of Olympic ideals (UCL)

Uploaded by UCLTV on 06.07.2012

[ Silence ]
>> Good evening ladies and gentlemen.
Let me start by welcoming you all to University College
for this occasion, whether you're from the UCL community
or an esteemed guest, and this is the first of two dialogues,
Olympic Event related dialogues which I'll be taking part in.
The first one is tonight whereas an esteemed scholar
and professor of Greek and Latin at UCL, Chris Carey.
Now, the fact that today, after 2,500 years,
we are still inspired and read the works of Euripides
and Socrates who dissected the atavistic impulses of revenge
and lust and hate and greed, as well as the works of Plato
and Aristotle who hope that the problem of knowledge
of how we acquire it and how sure we are of what we know,
as well as love and desire and the linkage between love
and knowledge and wisdom.
The fact that we are still inspired by these texts implies
that human nature has not changed very much
in the past 2,500 years although much else has.
And so, it's within the context of concept that we're going
to be talking about the Olympic Games, the ancient Olympic Games
and their relevance today.
Now, Chris, I gather that the ancient Olympic Games were held
in Olympia, which is inland
and I gather it was a pretty inhospitable
and unpleasant place to be in.
Indeed, it is said that, I don't know where I read this,
but it said that if you had a disobedient slave,
you would threaten him with--
sending him to the Olympic games, which is not
of course what we associate Olympic games today.
So, there must have been some countervailing forces
which really attracted people to Olympics, would you like to--
>> Yeah. Perhaps we could start with the awful side of it.
The-- it is true that we read that the best things
to do with-- or the worst thing to do
with a disobedient slave is to send him to Olympia.
It clearly could be a very unpleasant place.
The games are played in the heights of summer.
The Greek sun is relentless at that time of year.
You then pour into a relatively small inland site a vast number
of people who are just coming there once every four years
for the festival.
It's a small site, the facilities are very limited.
The-- essentially, it seems, that things like--
for things like latrines,
you have nothing that-- nothing tailor-made.
We do have two rivers, there's the Alpheus and the Cladeus,
and obviously they're very useful both as latrines
and as drinking-- sources of drinking water.
So, it might not necessarily have been the most salubrious
of places.
We also then know that the festival started
with a very large sacrifice,
they sacrificed a hundred cattle,
what the Greek's called the "hecatomb".
These cattle must obviously have been assembled
from the neighboring country,
country side, for quite some time.
So, you got the cattle's pen-- cattle pen there.
You've got all of the problems when you pen cattle.
You've got all of the very useful dung
that they're producing, but obviously very smelly as well.
And then, of course, you kill them.
You kill them and you burn the entrails on the altar.
One of the things that the Greeks like to do is
to give the gods the unpleasant bits of the animal, and then,
of course, you feasted on the edible bits.
All of these dead animal, of course, attracts flies
and it is said by ancient scholars that the--
there was a cult of Zeus, the fly-averter at Olympia
because there were far fewer flies than you would expect
in a place with all of these awfulness.
So, yes, it could be grim, but.
>> But.
>> But. The "but", I think, is that you also have--
well, I think, first of all, you have a wonderful entertainment.
You have some of the best athletes from all
over the Greek world and people do travel hundreds of miles
for this, some of the best athletes from all
over the Greek world to watch.
And so, as a spectator event, it is enormously significant.
There are also cultural activities that go
on alongside the athletics, opportunity to meet people,
and certainly in the early period of Greek history,
the Greek elite from different states have far more in common
with each other than they did
with the peasantry of their own society.
So, an opportunity to meet people,
contract marriage alliances, all of that sort of social side,
and then of course, we can imagine
that there were all sorts of other things as well.
There must have been [inaudible] selling food,
flooding into Olympia.
There will have been temporary brothels,
and so there were all sorts of things to keep you entertained.
>> These were licensed temporary brothels?
>> Sorry?
>> They were licensed temporary brothels or illegal?
>> Generally, they did since tax prostitutes.
>> I see.
>> Yes.
>> I see.
>> It was a useful source of income.
>> I see. Okay, well-- so, to what extent was this is a sort
of reflecting as a current in Greek society aggression, war,
or as, I think, Orwell called it, "War minus the weapons."
>> There is-- that there is certainly that aspect to it.
We can plot the rise of the Greek games and it's interesting
to see the way that rise of the games maps onto the development
of the Greek political system more generally.
If I can just give you a brief bit of chronology,
Olympic Games are founded in 776 BC,
at least that's the traditional date for the Greeks,
nothing of significance for the whole of Greece
for another 200 years.
And then within 10 years, three more big major games leap
into being, the 582 and then the Isthmus and, I'm sorry, 584,
the Pythian Games at Delphi, and then 582
or thereabouts the Nimian and Isthmian games.
So, there's a big explosion in athletics.
And it coincides with the full development
of the Greek city-state as an autonomous entity.
Greece is made up of large numbers
of independent city-states.
There is a recognition, I think, at this stage,
both of collective Greekness and of separateness
and there's always this tension at Olympia
between coming together and pulling apart.
What it does do, I think, however,
is allows people to compete.
It allows people to compete on behalf of their city,
achieve eminence for themselves and for their city just
like nowadays, but to do it in a peaceful mean, a peaceful way.
It's worth bearing in mind, however,
that peaceful means different things to different people,
that you're competing not by going to war,
but you're competing very, very ruthlessly and probably nothing
in modern athletics rivals the ruthlessness of Greek sport
as an absolutely pursuit of [inaudible] position.
>> They were quite bloody as well, aren't they?
>> Oh, yes, some were.
The Greeks had a wrest-- two kinds of wrestling.
They had standing up wrestling
where basically you throw your opponent, throw them three times
and you've won, he has lost.
They also had something called the "Pankration" which is
as vicious as you can possibly get.
It's standing wrestling, its ground wrestling, it's gouging;
virtually, anything that you can do to cause pain
to another person, you can do in the Pankration.
It's recommended not to kill people, but obviously,
it's [laughter]-- but there is actually an--
there's an interesting case with someone in the 6th century BC
who actually dies during the course of Pankration
and he still gets the olive crown
because his opponents surrenders a minute before he dies.
But yes, it can be.
>> And nice were [inaudible], I think, weren't they?
>> In those [inaudible].
>> Well-- so, to what extent were these participants,
the men only, well, predominantly men at least
in Athens, to what extent were they also training for the army?
I mean, [inaudible] as opposed to being trained in the army
or are they also being trained in the army and--
>> I think there is always--
it's never sort of directed quite so precisely,
but certainly there is always a link
between athletics and the military.
You will see this actually acknowledged
as a very high level in some cases.
An Olympic victor in Sparta won the right to fight
in the front line next to the Spartan king,
so there is always a link between militarism
and athletics, but this is a world in which citizen's vote
for war, but you don't normally send out an army
to fight and die for you.
You vote then you put on your armor
and then you fight and die.
So, there's always a feeling
that the athletic body is the superlative physical training
for war and it's only
when athletics becomes too specialized that you get people
like Aristotle grumbling about the way
in which athletics interferes.
But if you look at the role of athletics in the Greek world,
everywhere the Greeks go, there is athletics.
They move west to Sicily up into Italy, they move east
when Alexander conquers Turkey and then as far
as the Hindu Kush, and everywhere the Greeks go,
they plant a city, and everywhere they plant a city,
they always have a gymnasium for general exercise
and they always have a wrestling area for the combat sports.
So, there is always a feeling that athletics is central
to Greek life and always a link, tacit or explicit with military.
>> Okay, well, let's talk about the preparation
for the Olympics taking place every four years.
During these four years-- the proceeding four years,
people will train for this.
This was done in the gymnasium?
>> Yes it would be.
>> Is it the-- tell us a bit about the culture
of the gymnasium because as I understand it,
the gymnasium was very central to Greek life,
at least the Greek life as the upper classes.
>> Yeah.
>> Gymnasium, I think, means undressed or ironclad
>> Yeah.
>> And perhaps you could tell us a bit more
about the preparation of the gymnasium.
>> Yeah, yeah.
We can perhaps come--
we can come to nudity, I hope, at the end.
We have a little here, but I have lots more naked men
on the [laughter] slideshow for those who want them.
The-- this is very much central to civic life.
It's also very central to the definition of a citizen.
The Athenians had a law, we learned entury BC source
that a slave could not strip and participate
in athletics at gymnasium.
So, it's an important marker of the difference
between the citizen's status and the slave and the citizen body
and the slave because these things, of course,
map on to the body as well as the civic status.
It does however play differently depending
on where you are in Greek society.
If you imagine yourself as a farmer who has to go out
and sow the fields, harvest, et cetera, for much of the year,
you're not actually going to be in a position
to participate in athletics.
If you imagine yourself as someone who has to sell,
people who work in the marketplace, cobblers,
these are people who don't have the time.
And in fact, one of the things that the Greeks note,
our early Greek sources note is the power of these people
because they work indoors whereas the elite male is
out in the palace, visible and therefore exposed to the sun.
But for the elite, it's a very important way
of passing your time.
And I guess it's also an important way
of marking the fact that you have time to pass,
that you're there visible and in public among your peers.
>> But the-- sorry.
>> Right now, the--
>> The gymnasium was not just for sports--
>> No.
>> -- [inaudible], the whole Ethos
of Greek society was antagonism, so the--
>> Yes, absolutely.
>> The disputative discussion.
>> Yeah, you're going to do an awful lot beside.
Obviously, the young are going to be exercising.
They're going to be wrestling, actually not just wrestling,
they're also going to be doing things like practicing
for the Pentathlon, throwing the discus, throwing the javelin.
We have an interesting case from the end of the 5th century BC
of a boy who's throwing the javelin.
It's a hypothetical case, but it's a case
of a boy who's throwing the javelin and he--
unfortunately, the javelin sticks
into someone and kills him.
And the debate is about whose fault it is, the boy who runs
into the javelin, or the boy who throws it.
So, all of this is going to be going on.
The older men are going to be watching and people are going
to be using it as a major place for the social contact, and,
of course, the sexual contact as well.
This is where we get into, among other things,
nudity because you're not merely, and do bear in mind,
this is men only, no women are present.
But what you have is a world in which young males
who are inherently sexually attractive are exercising,
oiled, bear that in mind too.
Oiled and older men are watching it.
It's a great spectator sport.
We know that it was also quite a place for Cata [phonetic],
there's a passage in Aristophanes where he talks
about his success as a comic poet.
And he says, "I never took advantage of my success.
I was very modest.
I'm the best comic poet you've got,
but I never took advantage of it.
I never went around the gymnasia trying it on with the boys."
And the assumption is, obviously,
that if you've got some sort of status, one useful way
of exercising this status, as with older successful men
in any society, is to hit on young and sexually attractive--
>> But just trying to honor [inaudible], it was also a part
of a larger scheme because--
I'm very surprised to learn that Plato
and Aristotle were frequenting the gymnasium
where in fact a sportsman built them.
Plato was apparently quite good
at wrestling as well as Socrates.
And so, there was-- I can't remember in which
of his dialogues, one of them, possibly in Lysis.
It starts off by Socrates asking people what they were up to
at the gymnasia and they should--
well, they're debating words--
>> Yes. Yeah.
>> -- rather than--
>> Absolutely.
There's the-- my favorite dialogue of Plato,
in this respect, is the Charmides.
A beautiful work.
And Socrates and Critias are sitting in the gymnasia.
They're sitting on the bleachers watching the athletics.
And Socrates is just back from battle.
He's been on campaign up north, and they start chatting
about a range of things.
And this becomes the setting for a philosophical dialogue.
A young man named Charmides comes in.
Charmides is the most beautiful young man in Athens of his day.
He enters like Marilyn Monroe.
He enters and he's-- there's a big--
there's a wave of old men following him,
all bidding for his attention.
But they sit down and Socrates starts to talk to Charmides
and he starts to ask him about modesty, about self-control.
And this becomes a dialogue, and presumably,
although this is a staged dialogue by Plato,
along with everything else that you would do in the gymnasia,
you would also engage in very serious debate on everything
that a man of your class would debate.
Obviously, philosophy, I think philosophy is a big thing
in 5th century Athens,
but I guess as well it would be politics, all sorts of thing
that one would-- [Simultaneous Talking]
>> So, would it be true to say
that you can't imagine a gymnasium
without the philosophy and the knowledge?
Anyone, you could imagine
without the athletics, is that exactly--
>> Yes. I think that's absolutely right.
I'm not just in the individual cities,
we do know that by the end of the 5th century BC, the--
as Olympia, as well as the athletic competitions,
we also have set piece speeches by some
of the big intellectuals of the day.
And obviously, there is a market even there.
There is an audience for almost anything that you want
to offer by way of excellence.
So, there's also an intellectual side at Olympia as well.
>> Okay, let's talk a bit about beauty.
Beauty was also a concept very dear to the--
as it is with us of course.
They admired beautiful bodies.
I suppose they admired mainly male bodies,
but there must have been some admiration
for female bodies, I should think.
>> I think-- yes.
The Greeks did reproduce after all.
[Laughter] So-- but yes, there is.
>> Can we-- well, let us just talk briefly
but I think we will be really interested to hear
that why were women actually excluded.
In fact, women were also excluded in the 1896 Olympians.
>> Yeah.
>> And it's only in the past 30 years
that they have been included.
>> Absolutely, yes.
In many respects, the Olympic revivalists were much closer
to the Greeks than we are now because we freely allow women
to compete in any sport.
If you go back to de Coubertin, Baron de Coubertin,
the initiator, at least at the international level
of the Olympic movement, he felt very strongly
that women should not participate in athletics.
There was a role for women in the Olympics.
Women were there to hand out prizes of valor to men
who achieved things with their bodies.
And I think he is then picking
up on the British Olympic movement
which predates the international Olympic movement,
places like Much Wenlock in the Cotswolds were in fact--
there is a very firm emphasis
on male athletics though there are competitions for women,
but male athletics and females usually gives the prizes.
>> Well, just to stray with that for a moment,
we'll go back to beauty.
de Coubertin was actually, in many ways, extremely right
between [inaudible], his Anglo-Saxon angle
on the case was a very much of Anglo-Saxon angle
which is very much inspired by rugby.
>> Yes.
>> I mean the public school by Matthew Arnold.
>> Yeah.
>> And I think the first Olympic Games were largely made
of WASPish Americans and Oxbridge graduates, wasn't it?
>> Yes, absolutely.
de Coubertin, I'm sure you all know, was strongly influenced
by the French failure in the Franco-Russian War.
He was-- his desire was
to stimulate a resurgence of France.
And so, although eventually this turns
into an international movement,
the place in which he comes is much more nationalist.
A lot of his thinking is although what's--
although a lot of the ideas
of the Olympic movement are projected onto the Greeks,
the Greeks are meant to--
are turned into the source for many of the ideas.
If you look at a lot of the ideas, they are actually English
and they are not mass English, they are very much products
of the English public school system.
So, it's elite Englishness that is driving the French agenda.
And if one looks at things
like the attitude towards professionalism,
which has been a big problem for the Olympic movement
from the very first, the attitude
that they took towards professionalism was
to a large extent an elitist attitude
and it was actually pushing against the thrust
of the Greek Olympic Games, and it involved a rereading
of Greek history in order to turn it into--
turn Greece into a nation of English gentlemen.
I know that sounds like parody,
but there is a strong element of that distortion.
>> I'm very surprised that the media in Britain don't make more
of the fact that Britain had a very, very important role
to play in the genesis of the new Olympic Games.
Let's go back to beauty.
So what-- they admired beauty what--
is there any sort of guide to what they like to--
was it proportion, symmetry, size, what was it?
>> We don't have, I think, any-- if I can just take you back,
I've got some bodies here as I promised.
[Laughter] There we go, okay.
We do find that there is no single consensus,
but from at least the 5th century onwards,
we get a lot discussion of the nature of beauty and it's
in relation to art, but it's also strongly philosophical.
It's not an abstract aesthetic ideal,
but there is a strong emphasis on things like proportion,
balance, cosmos, order, orderliness, [inaudible],
correct order, all of that is there from very early on.
And by the time we get to the middle of the 5th century,
this is the work Polykleitos.
It's not actually Polykleitos' work,
it's a copy because the originals don't survive.
But if you look at this, you can see what Polykleitos is working
with, and again it's a strongly philosophical idea.
Polykleitos uses the notion of the canon
and it's very strongly based on "symmetria", symmetry.
And that doesn't mean absolute mirror imaging of the body
so that the right and left side are identical,
quite the reverse.
It involves a balance between the body with different aspects
in play on the different sides of the body.
If you look at this man, you'll see that one of the legs,
the right leg is load-bearing,
it's tensed, the muscle is tensed.
The other leg is relaxed.
So, you've got a kind of balance between those two sides.
You also have, if you look, you'll see that the hips are
at an angle so there is a kind of balance between the upper
and lower body in terms of the angling.
This is not just, I think, about aesthetics,
it's also about the body as being itself, a possible locus
of order and order being an important way
of judging the body.
So, I think these are very strongly philosophical concepts
and that they also relate to the way in which the Greeks think
about say, life in the city, and they also relate to the way
in which the Greeks think about the inside of the body.
As you know, the Greeks have a medical theory of the humans
that the body is made up of different substances
which must be held in a kind of equilibrium
for health to be achieved.
And so, I think what one has is political ideals and obviously,
one shouldn't over simplify, but political ideals which relate
to order, ideals relating to the physicality of the body,
the inner makeup of the body which are
about balance and order.
We also have ideas about the psyche, about the mind
and the soul which should be also held in order,
and all of these, of course, maps onto the aesthetics
of the body, of the athlete,
and the athlete is actually the supreme example
of what the human body can achieve.
It's the human body perfection.
>> Let me ask, you're-- as a neurobiologist, first of all,
do you know-- you know that there is an area of the brain
which is somewhat specialized for perceiving bodies
because there's another area of the brain
which specialize in perceiving faces.
Now, I'm-- like the puzzle called the Greeks sculpture
and by the way this is being copied many times--
>> Yes. Absolutely.
>> Polykleitos is, I think-- oh, in which--
which in itself, quite interesting.
The bodies stay in the mind, but not the faces with men.
>> Yeah.
>> There is definitely a Greek female head.
Would you like to comment on that?
>> Yes, the-- well, if I can sort of step back--
>> Yes.
>> -- at least for this early period with reference
to the body, there is a--
the Greeks very early
on developed an interest in the male body.
And from the late 6th century BC, you can see lots
of male nudes in public space.
By that, I mean statutes.
They have very strong taboos on nudity in public space
in ancient Greeks with reference to the active human body.
But you can see naked males from the late 6th century onwards.
Late 5th century was starting
to see the partially clothed female.
And by the 4th century, you're starting to see female nudes.
So, they do perceive male and female bodies very differently
and there are differential paces of development
in the perception of the body.
I think with something like this one, you're quite right.
I think the heads are, very often though the faces are,
very often highly stylized.
I think the bodies are too.
>> Yes.
>> The body is-- it has been said to me,
you would know better than [inaudible] but that musculature
at the bottom of the six-pack just around about the diaphragm,
that that musculature doesn't work.
Now, I never worked out.
[Laughter] So, I've never have to test
on my own body whether any of this is plausible.
But there is something posed about this.
>> Yes, yeah.
>> And I think it's the pose that focuses on the body.
>> The pose.
Polykleitos, I believe, said that beauty or the proportion
in designing and executing a sculpture is rising in numbers.
>> Yes.
>> And it's quite interesting that if you look at symmetry--
when people look at symmetry,
it's a part of the parietal cortex, it becomes very active.
The parietal cortex is involved in arithmetic formulations.
>> Yes.
>> And if you look at the beauty,
it's somewhere quite else which I'll come back to, but the fact
that this Polykleitos thing,
I mean the original Polykleitos is gone.
>> Yes.
>> And these are all copies, Greek and Roman.
>> Yeah.
>> The fact that there are so many copies,
which are very similar to each other,
implies that there was a standard
of beauty which people enjoyed.
How did he-- is it known how he settled on these proportions?
>> I don't know how he settled on this.
I'm not sure that anyone actually has full narrative
because it goes-- what one tends to get with this--
with much of the writing
on sculptures is anecdotal mentions in our sources.
But he is, I think, he's the heir to a tradition,
and so he comes up with the canon, but he doesn't come
up with this in a vacuum.
There's been something like 50 years of thought about this,
at least which has gone here.
What makes him different, I think, is that he wrote about it
and he lives in a century when the Greeks are starting
to make life much more technical.
The whole range of things is when the big medical texts start
to be written at 5th century.
It's when they-- there are lots of advances in mathematics,
there are advances in things like oratory,
warfare, they start to study.
This is the age of what they call the tech era,
the skill-based study.
I think what makes him
so successful is he doesn't just do it, but, I think,
he proselytizes and explains it
so that people can actually experience the principles
objectively as well
as subjectively experience in the aesthetics.
>> Okay. There is, to me, a certain contradiction
in the fact that you've got male bodies, you've got the--
depicting the features of male body and you arouse desire,
but it's frowned upon as well, is it not?
>> Yes, yeah.
They are-- there are some really interesting ambiguities.
I suppose sexual desire is always a complicated thing
in all societies, but there are some fascinating
complexities here.
If I can just take you forward-- I'd like to come back to him
at this time-- there is some--
this is 520 BC and those nappy-like things,
those loincloths, they've not been painted on.
We do have other bronzes from that period.
The Greeks discover nudity.
They don't just suddenly stop wrestling naked.
They actually decide that they are going to move
from clothed athletics to naked athletics.
>> [Inaudible], you know, why did they decide that?
Because it is-- I mean, obviously, it's uncomfortable
to wrestle in the nude, I would have thought--
>> Yeah, yeah.
[Simultaneous Talking] I think probably more uncomfortable
to run in the nude.
>> Yes.
>> Because it, you know, not all
of your body stops moving at the same time.
>> So, why did they suddenly decide that?
>> It-- the debate has been endless about it.
>> I see.
>> They do-- some of it may be entirely aesthetics.
Some of it may just be the feeling
that this is the best way to enjoy the body and all
of its beauty, both the aesthetic and the erotic.
But it becomes, for the Greeks,
not just an accidental by-product of athletics,
but it becomes the essence of athletics.
It's not that you happen to strip.
It makes you Greek that you take your clothes off
and wrestle or run.
The Greeks talk about the eastern neighbors
and the Greeks have a nice catch-all term for those
who don't speak Greek.
They call them barbarous, barbaroi and it's the origin
of our word "barbarian".
What it indicates is that this people don't speak in any way
that some real people like us can understand.
So, there is always the insistence
that the Greek takes his clothes off and is comfortable
to be seen naked wrestling in public where barbarians won't.
The Romans never borrowed this.
The Romans are never happy with this approach to nudity.
So, it does become central to athletics,
but at the same time you've got the fact
that you do not accept nudity in public space.
And even semi-nudity, they're very uncomfortable with--
there's an attack by an orator called Aeschines
and an opponent called Timarchus, a successful attack.
He manages to destroy him both
as a politician and as a citizen.
And he talks about him in the assembly speaking
and he says he threw himself about like a wrestler
and you can actually see parts of his body exposed.
And the idea that you as a citizen might be in public space
with parts of your body on display,
it's profoundly unsettling, profoundly repugnant.
But take that citizen, put them in the Palaestra
and recontextualize it as males among males doing healthy
athletics, and suddenly it becomes-- ah, okay.
>> Is there any sense of, I mean, frugal sense of a desire
without satisfaction formalizing that?
>> The-- I suppose the nearest one, we'll get to it,
would be something like the Platonic approach to desire.
The-- Plato, as you know, [inaudible] Socrates,
is probably the arch example.
There's a story tell by the famous Athenian politician,
Alcibiades, that he wanted to seduce Socrates
and this is a very shocking thing for man to say
because it's older men who pursue,
young men who are pursued.
And he talks about wrestling naked with Socrates
and the idea is that Socrates should fight this agreeable
and one thing should lead to another.
And it doesn't this because Socrates is a man who is imbued
with a self-restraint to an unusual degree.
Within Plato, itself, of course, the whole idea
of beauty becomes sublimated so that you begin at the beauty
of the flesh, you move to the beauty of ideas,
and you end up with the beauty of philosophy.
The reality, I think, is often rather more complicated
in that we all desire athletes and I think--
so I was going to show you a couple of texts,
but I'll give you the quote instead.
We all-- that there is a strong emphasis on the desirability
of athletes and the victory songs of Pindar in praise
of the young athletes will frequently present them
as sexually attractive and nobody seems at all bothered
by the fact that you present them in that way.
There is a lot of emphasis on their desirability,
but at the same time, athletes tend
to be associated with asceticism.
It's said of one famous athlete, Ikos of Tarentum,
that while he was in training, he avoided anything
that remotely smacked of sexuality.
No women, no boys, complete abstinence.
There is a man named Kleitomachos,
one of the most successful athletes of the 4th century BC.
And Kleitomachos, a-- well, at least according to Plutarch,
Kleitomachos, if mention of sex came up at a drinking party,
Kleitomachos would stand up and leave the room.
There's another story that's told by our sources
about the famous courtesan named Leiahs [phonetic]
who desired a famous athlete and he wanted to marry her
because she was so influential--
wanted to marry him because she was so influential.
He agreed to it, but found a way
of avoiding the actual sexual contact with this courtesan.
So, athletes have this ambiguous status.
They are always inherently beautiful.
They are the human body at its absolute peak,
desirable by definition and especially in a world
which finds men desirable, but at the same--
and of course, presumably also a great catch and therefore free
to make whatever choices they choose, but at the same time,
they're associated with abstinence and that's of course,
I think is part of this iconic role as the athlete.
>> The whole Greek culture is a culture of contradiction.
>> Absolutely, yeah, yeah.
>> But will you show us--
>> But I think so are all.
>> So are all, yes.
Would you show us some more pictures,
[inaudible] turn to moral beauty.
>> Yeah, oh okay, let's go back and I--
>> They're are also similarly--
>> [Inaudible] they are all very similar.
You'll notice though if I can take you, that's the Diadumenos,
what's worth noting actually,
the way in which they perceive the athlete.
Notice this is not a box of boxing.
We don't know what this man is doing, but it's at a moment
of rest, it's at a moment of triumph.
This is the successful athlete.
This isn't someone engaged in drooling competition.
Even the Dopryphoros, the right hand is for the spear obviously.
He's not actually about to throw.
He is in a position of relaxation, but the--
and this one too, this is the Apoxyomenos,
this is 4th century BC and what you would do, of course,
to clean yourself is you rub yourself with oil
and then you have a thing that the Romans called a strigil
and you scrape yourself, scrape the oil off
and clean yourself down.
And what you have there is the man scraping himself down.
You'll notice, however, that what he is--
what you've got within a century is a change
in the aesthetic ideal, at least within the structure,
the musculature is much reduced,
the torso is much less pronounced,
arguably more realistic.
Much here I'll come back to in a moment.
But the-- this is the town, the Discophorus and this is the--
this is a copy of the famous discus throw
of the 5th century sculpture Myron.
Now, copy-- there are loads of copies around
and this copy alone would form the subject of a lecture
or even a conference for hours or days because there was
such an intricate story behind it.
But here, too, notice the way the body is presented.
This is energy stored.
It's not energy in the process of being released,
it's the back swing, it's not a realistic backswing.
My friend, Mark Golden, who's an expert on these things tells me
that at the 1896 Olympics, they tried in Athens, they insisted
on throwing the discus this way,
that is from a stumping start and like that.
Within two Olympiads, they'd moved onto something
where if you wanted, you could do the Greek discus,
or you could throw a proper discus
where you actually get torsion into your body.
But the thing to note here, I think,
is again the way you've got this balance
between the tensed muscle and the non-tensed muscle,
interesting play between parts of the body,
the beautiful semicircle of this body.
And then, that arm so that in fact as well
as having the semicircle, you've got this wonderful core firmness
to the statue, but notice, it's tension torsion.
It's energy, but not energy released.
And it's always this sense, I think, potential
and that maybe an important part of the aesthetics,
not merely beauty, but beauty with potential, stored potential
at rest but always capable of doing more.
>> You know, it's quite interesting
that beauty is represented in a very specific part.
Well, not-- that's not true.
The experience of beauty regardless
of its source correlates with one very specific part
of the brain which is in the medial frontal cortex--
front end of the frontal lobes buried inside which is full
of dopaminergic activity, and the [inaudible]
of dopaminergic neurons not only respond when rewarded,
but apparently respond even more
at the expectation of the reward.
So, in a sense, the dangling of something from--
if [inaudible] was holding that, of course, up to a part and then
at the interest, it wanes,
but might have been a very interesting rule used
by the Greeks.
[Inaudible Remark] You are going to show us--
[Inaudible Remark] Yes.
Are you going to show us some more slides?
I want to move on to moral beauty.
>> Yes. Okay, I'll-- I just wanted to show you one
of the most interesting slides that you can find this
at the British Museum at the moment.
It's just been brought in from Mozia in Sicily.
It is the so-called Mozia Charioteer
and there is a big debate, some of which I witnessed recently
as to whether this is a charioteer or not.
The reason that people see it as a charioteer possibly is
because of resemblance, some resemblance in the clothing
to the Delphic Charioteer.
And this, of course, is not the beautiful male body
because charioteers do not use their body
in the way that athletes do.
This is basically a racing driver.
But, of course, notice again, a racing driver-- bless you--
a racing driver in, again, at rest,
this is a triumphal position.
The Mozia charioteer, here is one,
is the ultimate eroticized statue
because you can see the genitals there at the front.
This is a diaphanous outfit and the buttocks are very prominent
because he's bending forward.
This is a highly eroticized male statue.
I myself am largely convinced by those who see it
as not a charioteer, but if it is a charioteer, it's a very,
very erotic charioteer indeed.
Yes, definitely something different.
>> And why did they wear tunics when they were charioteers
as opposed to running, is there a reason?
>> We're never told.
I suppose it may well be that it's
because this is not actually about the body, it's actually--
it's much more about the--
>> I see.
>> -- about skill.
It may be-- well, it may well be as well, of course,
that if you're naked and thrown from a chariot rather
like falling from a motorbike, you'll be, you know,
you'll need [inaudible] or the equivalent,
so some of it may be self-protection.
As well, if you're going to tie the reins,
[noise] behind your waist--
sorry, tie the reins behind your waist or otherwise, sort of try
and attach them to your body, you do actually want something
between you and the reins.
>> I see.
>> So, it may be a safety thing.
>> Oh, so practical reasons.
Okay, let's start now to talk to moral beauty.
Now, I think there is somewhere in the Iliad, someone who says,
"Look-- ," I think this was a fight between two Greek states,
one who is-- there's a guy who says, "Look,
don't do it because only the rich man are going
to benefit out of this.
Why did you make peace with them?"
But the rich man not liking him say to him, "Look,
if you carry on, we will expose your ugliness because--
and when we expose your ugliness, people will realize
that what you're saying is not true."
There was a conflation
or perhaps conflation is the wrong word,
but there was certainly association of physical beauty
with spiritual beauty and also with goodness.
>> Yes.
>> Can we talk about that?
>> Yes, absolutely.
I don't think this is exclusive to the Greeks
because there's certain amount of research that have been done
in modern societies to suggest
that people respond much more positively
to those they perceive as aesthetically pleasing.
But certainly, the Greeks have a word "kalos"
and it means beautiful, but it also means fine and good
and noble, and there's a constant crossover
between the ethical and the physical aspect of it.
The term that the Greeks used for a decent man is
"kalos kai agathos", a fine and good man
or a beautiful and good man.
And so, there is always this feeling that there is a link
between physical beauty and moral obviously.
They're aware because the Greeks live in the real world.
They're aware that there are people who look the part
and don't, and some
of our earliest satirical Greek texts take up this idea
that you can have someone who smells good, looks good,
has nice hair, dresses well, but is actually worthless,
whereas you can have someone who is bandy-legged and ugly
but actually is a good fighter.
So, they're also aware of the potential gap
between physical and ethical.
But nonetheless, this tendency to conflate them persists
and I do think that we see it very firmly in these pictures
of the athletes and the athletes as being a beautiful object
as well as a beautiful subject, someone who has pushed himself
to the extreme, who has achieved all
that the human body can achieve, and has done it by dedication,
by ruthlessness, by skill, by training.
And it is worth bearing in mind that, of course,
these are not just bodies, these are highly trained athletes
who are-- who've devoted a lot of time
to acquiring the skill as well.
>> It's interesting that in our society,
as I gather from the social psychology research
that if you are a very good looking man,
a very good looking woman, you are much more likely
to get a lenient sentence--
>> Yeah.
>> -- in being let-off, and things like that.
Now, it's also interesting that in the brain,
the area which is active when one experiences beauty,
be it musical or visual,
is the same area that's active during the experience
of moral beauty.
So, if you give people a statement such as,
this man raped this young girl,
which is a morally repugnant thing,
but this man sacrifices money for this children,
which is a morally-- being on the high ground,
you'd find that the activity in that region which I'm talking
about goes up with a morally acceptable statement and goes
down with morally unacceptable statement.
So, there is the association from Greek times today of beauty
with goodness and morality, find some reflection in the way
in which the brain is organized.
It's not entirely fortuitous.
>> No, I think the Greeks are also aware as well
that various kinds of abuse actually causes
physical degeneration.
And so things like drunkenness, a life spent in various kinds
of self-indulgence, they feel will also show itself.
There are lots of texts that suggest
that disgruntled life will ultimately tell in the face,
in the body and serve as--
>> Presumably in the gymnasia and in the--
at the Olympic Games, drinking was not allowed or frowned upon.
>> The-- that's much more difficult, I think.
And certainly, an athlete in training will not drink
and you had to arrive at Olympia a substantial period.
I think it's something like a month before the games
in order to start training.
So, I think abstemiousness is built in.
It's not necessarily built in to the [inaudible] games.
We do-- we have a nice story from 4th a century source
of an Athenian politician who has--
he wins the chariot race and, of course, this isn't--
it's not athletics in the straight sense,
but we have a reference to his celebratory party that was held
on the coast of Attica and it has lots of drink,
lots of women off ill repute.
So, I don't think that-- I think when one is in training,
abstemiousness is absolute.
But I assume that the-- that people drank at the Olympics.
>> I was--
>> Not athlete's, but I assume that the--
>> Oh, yes.
Look, there's one point which you actually have brought
up which I have forgot about it, which is if you're talking
about moral beauty and physical beauty, it is true that not,
is it not, that the Ancient Olympics were associated
with the gods, are they not?
>> No.
>> And this-- I mean, there's a very strong religious element,
if you can tell us briefly about that because I want to move
to one more topic which we have got to cover a portion of it.
>> Sure. Yeah.
Anything that Sameer [phonetic]
and I have missed, obviously you can--
>> You can bring up in the discussion.
>> You can bring up.
And the-- I think there were several things, I think,
that if you were a time traveler coming from say the 5th century
or 6th century BC, several things that you would notice
as different if you were suddenly plunked into the stand
of London for Olympics 2012.
One of them, I think, would be the absence of nudity,
the fact that all of these men are overdressed.
I think another thing that you would notice is how soppy the
modern games are that you have second and third places.
I think they would regard that as really for wusses
and I think the third thing
that they would notice is the secularization of the games.
There's lots of ritual and ritual
of course has been stocked up miles high
over the history of the modern games.
Lots of ritual, but it would-- but its secular ritual,
whereas for the Greeks, you began with a sacrifice.
The winner of the Foot Races Olympia have the honor
of lighting the fire on the altar of Zeus at Olympia.
So, there is a feeling of absolute seamless continuity
between the athletic activity and the ritual.
You begin with a sacrifice.
You only win because the god win-- wants you to win.
It is always assumed that you win as Olympia or you win
at Delphi because the god wants you to win.
So, there is always a feeling that you are engaged
in a religious activity.
Now, in order to understand what that means, you need to bear
in mind that this is not a spiritual view of religion.
It is about communication with the gods, but it's not
about being in a state of grace, if say you're struck
by lightning while running at Olympia at a divine festival,
you don't have any blessedness in the afterlife.
You're as dead as anyone else is.
There is no feeling of a state of grace, but there is a feeling
that all of these is being done for the god
and it reflects, I think, two things.
The first is that the-- it's assumed that--
first thing I guess I should say, Greek gods, of course,
as you all know, have human form.
It's assumed that the gods, because they have human form,
also have human emotions and they
like spectacle, they enjoy things.
So, I think the gods are being offered something
which will please them.
But what they're being offered is not just entertainment.
They're being offered the human body at its most perfect.
And if you look at what happens in Greek worship,
you always offer the gods what is perfect.
You cannot, for instance, sacrifice to the god a cow
which just had a yoke on it, an ox which just had a yoke on it
because it is no longer marked out.
Things must be marked out as separate for the gods.
And I think so many of the competitive aspects
of ancient religion are not just about entertaining the gods,
though I think that's part of it, but they're also
about giving the gods what is superb, what is outstanding.
And I think they would be very surprised
that not only do we not take our clothes off, but we just do it
for the fun of it and the glory.
There's more to it.
>> Before-- I just-- I want to bring up the question
of reward briefly because we're running out of time.
But I-- it's perhaps worth emphasizing just
to emphasize how little our attitude of change
that the Leni Riefenstahl film of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin,
which was, of course, is a very unpleasant,
one of the most unpleasant Olympics.
But notice that Leni Riefenstahl film,
the second part is entitled Fest der Schonheit, the Festival
of Beauty, and apparently, is been voted by number
of newspapers and by the Venice Film Festival as well as one
of the 10 best films ever made.
And it is actually stripped of its political--
>> Yeah.
>> -- repugnant political sensation.
It is in fact concentrating on the beauty of the human body
which in this case is clad, but nevertheless is an [inaudible].
Let me just go to reward and I'm asking this
because we've talked about--
so I'm trying, as a unreformed neurobiologist,
I'm trying to accommodate all of these within some kind
of brain system and if you look at it, the experience of beauty
and the experience of desire and the experience of moral beauty,
all correlate with activity in a given part of the brain
which is a part of the emotional brain.
But there's something else that correlates
with activity there, which is reward.
And I would like to talk about reward.
The Greek idea of reward was very different.
They didn't have first, second, and third price.
There was one, first, who got the reward
and the others were sidelined.
Indeed, were they humiliated?
>> There is strong evidence that there's enormous loss of face.
>> Loss of face.
Well, maybe you can share something briefly
about what was the reward that-- which have been so coveted.
Today, it's a gold medal.
>> Yeah. There is some-- there's a passage in book 8 of Herodotus
where the Persians are invading Greece, this is 480 BC,
they're sweeping down through Greece.
And they received news that the Greeks have not assembled
to fight them because the Greeks are celebrating the Olympic
Games in the southern half of Greece.
And obviously, the Persians are puzzled, you know,
here you have an army, Herodotus would say 2-1/2 million,
most people would say that that's at best 200,000,
but its big and its invading your country
and there you are throwing the discus.
One of Xerxes is that-- as-- the Persian King Xerxes,
his men says to him, "What kind
of people have you brought us against?"
And the-- and his point isn't these are losers,
we'll run them into the dust.
He says, "This people are competing for what?
They're competing not for money.
They're competing for a crown.
They're competing for glory.
How can we possibly beat people whose values are like this?"
And the idea obviously for Herodotus is
that what you're competing for is the glory,
the sense of being the top, the sense of being a winner,
but you're also-- the token of that is a crown
and it's worth sort of looking at what the crown is made of.
It's a vegetable matter.
It is a crown made of the wild olive, the Cotinos.
And all of the big four games of Greece,
what they called the crown games,
they are all just a vegetable crown and you take it home,
and obviously you'll press it somehow
and save it as it matters.
But that is what you get.
And clearly for them, the key thing is the glory.
If you then strip away and go to the next level, glory is nice,
but there are other things which are nice too,
and the Greek city is tended to offer quite substantial rewards
to successful victors.
The Athenians, for instance, offered cash rewards
and there were other competitions, and obviously
if there are questions afterwards,
I can give you some information on that,
but there are other competitions
where they do actually offer objects and sums of money--
>> So, it's a--
>> -- but the glory is the key thing.
>> Yes.
>> And that's what they emphasize in the monument.
>> Much more physiological than Coubertin's statement
that the important thing in the Olympic Games is not
to win, but to take part.
The Greeks were much more physiological about this.
>> I think they would have been shocked.
>> They would have been shocked by that.
>> Absolutely shocked that someone
who actually thinks that--
in fact nowhere in any of the Greek texts
from the early period known
to me does anyone use the language of fun for athletics.
You know, if you want to have fun, go somewhere else.
Here, we compete and we compete to win.
But the idea that it's about taking part,
I think they would have teetered and walked quietly away.
>> Thank you.
Let me summarize our discussion briefly
and then we'll invite questions, discussions.
So, the Greek Olympics really were base around concepts
of displaced aggression, beauty, physical beauty,
moral beauty, and reward.
And of these, it's interesting that three
of these four are actually--
it correlate with activity on the same parts of the brain.
It's a very nice physiological reflection.
Well, so, now maybe if anyone has any point to raise or wants
to ask any questions so we can all distribute points,
we can do so.
[ Pause ]
There is-- there's someone there.
>> Yes, we have a mic.
>> It's to do with what you were saying about the athletes not--
they had to be abstinent.
And so, how much do you think
that the Olympic Games would have been kind of, you know,
that it was an intellectual kind of way to be abstinent?
Do you understand what I mean?
I don't know if I'm making myself clear.
>> The--
>> It was an exercise in abstinence,
that's a better way to put it, I think.
>> Yeah. Yeah.
I certainly think there is an element of that.
And the fact that this comes [inaudible] so much,
I think does mean that the athlete is regarded as someone
who focuses to an unusual degree.
My modern model, for all that it might not have the same
connotations as sexual abstinence,
would be the tennis player because, you know,
the professional tennis player with that sort of that feeling
of intense laser-like concentration.
But, I think, it's this sense that you give up,
you perhaps push everything to the side in order just to focus
on that achievement of excellence, I think, is core.
And I guess that the reality must have been very different.
But nonetheless, the fact that the myth persists does suggest
that I think that the athlete is saying something to the Greeks
about what you're prepared to give up in order to achieve.
Well, the Greeks use the term "Arete"
which is virtually untranslatable.
We tend to think of-- we tend to translate it in words
like virtue, but I think what it means is excellence,
not that feeling of achieving the absolute.
>> If you were being abstinent, would that be triggered
in your reward system?
>> Would it be-- if you're being abstinent,
would be triggered your reward sys--
>> Would that trigger you?
Is that-- would that work in you reward system?
Would you be rewarded for being abstinent?
>> I suppose you could be rewarded, yes.
I mean, yes.
I suppose there is some kind of reward, but I cannot tell you
about the relative brain activity when you have that kind
of reward especially a reward that you get when you give in.
>> Yeah, that thing.
[ Laughter ]
>> Any other points?
[ Noise ]
>> First, I just want to say thank you very much.
It's a very interesting discussion especially the new
biological points about pairing moral beauties
in the same place as physical beauty.
I didn't realize that, so very interesting.
I have two questions if that's okay.
The first is about is about body hair.
>> Body?
>> Body hair.
I've always been confused looking at these status,
they didn't have any body hair.
Is that because the athletes themselves didn't--
they had to wax before they competed as--
was it to do if you are nude, you had to be hairless or--
>> Interesting.
It's quite-- I've never thought about.
[Simultaneous Talking] There is something somewhere
in the Greek sources about body hair.
And-- but I'm trying--
I'm desperately trying to remember what it says.
I think some of this is just the idealizing body.
>> Sure.
>> And I think it is the flesh quality that they're after.
I think as well, probably athletes do lose,
physically lose a lot of body hair because I would imagine
if you're scraping yourself constantly,
there must be a natural depilation.
But I don't know that they automatically go for depilation.
There is one case known to me
where there is a very hairy man wrestling against a man
without a lot of body hair and the point seems to be
that the man with the body hair traps his sweat and there--
for they're wrestling in the sun and there's a lot
of sweat attached to the body hair and it allows him to win
because they-- you know, the game goes on for so long
that the other guy just dehydrates.
That's one of those anecdotes you can believe or not.
I'm-- generally, I think the answer is probably not.
But I don't think that there is a general culture of depilation,
but I do suspect that things like the--
that man there, I think that probably as you were
and unscraped, you probably do lose a lot body hair.
But the fact that they talk about hairy athletes suggests
that you're not as a matter, of course, trying to lose hair.
>> Okay, thank you.
>> Do you have question?
>> I do, yes.
It's about the equality of the sexes.
You say that the statues of female nudes came
about a century after statues of male nudes.
If the desire for-- remember there, they reproduce
as you said, why did it take so long?
And secondly, why were women excluded from the games
as spectators and also as competitors?
>> Yeah.
>> Especially--
>> Were they excluded as spectators?
[Simultaneous Talking]
>> Oh, yes absolutely yeah.
And the--
>> And just so to-- just to compete, just for the--
>> I'll just fast forward.
Sorry, please go ahead.
>> So, I understand in Sparta, women did actually--
>> Yeah, absolutely.
>> -- have to exercise.
So, why was it okay in Sparta but not in the Olympics?
>> Yeah.
>> Sorry to interrupt.
>> I have a Spartan woman for you with a bit of luck
after the athletic stuff there.
I don't see-- I came loaded with stuff, there we are, women.
That is a Spartan bronze,
a small Spartan bronze of a female runner.
Interestingly, you know that--
you notice that she is almost entirely clothed.
They tend to-- we do know that Olympia,
at Olympia where women [inaudible] they exposed one
breast, why?
I'm not sure.
Maybe-- I guess maybe to make sure they're no men.
But I'll come back to her in a minute.
But the-- I think that there is a--
that what you have is this complicated attitude to nudity.
That nudity is fine and it's beautiful and it's part
of the athletic ideal, but the exposure of the male bodies
of the female-- and the female bodies and the male
in public is, I think, an area of, not taboo,
but it's something to be avoided.
And so, I think some of it is propriety,
just straight old fashioned propriety.
We do know that women were not allowed
across the Alpheus during the course of the Olympic Games.
Women weren't allowed in the sanctuary.
There was only one woman allowed to watch the games
and that was the priestess of Demeter.
And obviously, you know, that your chances of being priestess
of Demeter are relatively small, you know, so, you know,
once every 30 years, someone is going to get this job.
So, I think a lot of it is just that it's not right for females
to watch males in nude.
I think as well, it goes deeper than that
because I think exercises for men,
exposing the body is for men.
Exposure to the sun is for men.
If you look at the pictures of women on bronzes,
they're always pale as against the males.
There are some cultures where this is--
where this isn't the case.
Sparta, we do have lots of evidence.
And we do have evidence
that some people thought this was scandalous.
The Athenians when they mentioned about the Spartans get
up to women, you know, no better than they ought to be.
If you look at the length of her skirt, a decent woman ought
to have her skirt around her ankles, stripping the top half
of your body, exercising, all of these I think are things
that women shouldn't do.
The Spartans aren't alone however in this.
We do know that there were women's competitions at Elis,
that is at Olympia and it looks as though they were girl only.
You never get mixed sex competitions.
And we do know that there were racers between girls and we know
that they were divided up by ages.
And so, it isn't true that all Greek societies avoided
female athletics.
You start to get women turning up at Olympia
in the 4th century BC in the chariot race because, of course,
there, you don't actually get up and do it.
Normally, you pay someone to do the chariot.
But there are actually societies that allow women to exercise,
but for many Greek societies, this is just a step too far.
They would agree with the de Coubertin,
except they'd regard de Coubertin as too liberal
in allowing women to hand out the prices.
The women should just stay at home, I think.
>> Yup.
>> Did they allow Barbarians to take part and were they capable
of admiring different forms of beauty, different races
or did they have such a sense of superiority
that they were really unable to see that?
>> I don't think they ever suppose
that the Greeks have a monopoly on beauty,
so that they're willing to accept
that beauty occurs in all races.
They don't, however-- their idea
of an international game is a game that allows people
from anywhere in Greece.
And a recent modern writer has compared it
to the American World Series that, you know,
essentially it's a small part of the globe
that competes in the World Series.
>> And then the modern-- the 1896 Olympics was 13 nations.
>> Yeah.
>> Most of them, the British Commonwealth and the French--
>> Yeah. And again,--
>> -- and the Japanese.
>> -- I suspect that the Greeks would have been comfortable
with that.
So, I think Greekness is very important for the games.
And actually, interestingly,
the games are very important for Greekness.
There is a story told by Herodotus
about Alexander the son of Amyntas, the kind of Macedon
at the early part-- in the early parts of the 5th century,
known as Alexander the Philhellene,
the friend of Greece.
And Herodotus just throws in the story
about Alexander competing at Olympia.
And he uses it to prove that the Macedonians are Greek
because the Greeks argued about this
and of course moderns has have argued about it too,
Herodotus says there's no question about this.
Alexander went to Olympia.
There were people who said he can't compete,
he's just a Macedonian.
He proved to them he was Greek, and he competed at Olympia,
end of story for Herodotus.
Raises all sorts of questions about how you do it in a world
without birth certificates.
How you manage to persuade people that you are--
what he seems do is trace his genealogy back
to the kings of Argos.
So, it starts very early on as something
which is quintessentially Greek.
And interestingly, what happens is it just changes its shape
as Greek history evolves.
By the second century BC, Greece belongs to Rome.
What we still get is this Greek insistence
on Greekness on athletics.
And I think what happens is it starts to take a-- on a--
not a different form, but a difference significance.
We've lost to the Romans.
The Romans are bigger, uglier than we are.
They're stronger, they're better engineers, they are richer.
What we have is culture.
And I think this sort of sense of hanging on to the essence
of one's national identity means
that athletics stays very important
for being Greek right the way through Greek history virtually
until it reaches its thousandth year
and Theodosius the First closes the games.
>> Yeah?
>> You offered some insight-- comparative insight with respect
to the athlete in Greece and the contemporary athlete.
Could you make some observations with respect to the spectators
in Greece as opposed to the fans of today?
The different views and approaches they might have.
>> Yeah.
>> That reminds me something.
In fact, there's another side question, which is would you,
from your reading, you were not [inaudible], would you say
that the emphasis on physical beauty is much less today
than it was in the Greek times?
>> I would have said "Yes."
There's a strong emphasis, I think, on the fine body,
on the well-toned body.
But I think it's much more than the--
>> The performance?
>> -- the finest of musculature, I think,
but based much more on performance.
You're quite right.
Whereas, I think, there is a much stronger aesthetic feel.
I don't think it is completely absent now,
but I think it has much stronger sense of the athletes,
as something beautiful to admire.
>> Yeah. That was [inaudible].
>> The question was about the spectator.
I read something interesting with reference
to athletics and society.
Sorry, I should step back and say that we came from--
we can get something of the sense of the number of people
who could watch the run-- the races at Olympia.
It's thousands that you will get.
So, people do descend on these festivals to watch.
Probably much more from the locality, because if you think
about the difficulties of travel, even in the summer
in the ancient world, you're much more likely to travel
if you can walk there, get there within a day, et cetera.
But the-- but we know that there is mass spectating.
I read somewhere recently
that you probably have a very similar phenomenon
in the ancient world, but what you've got is a lot
of very highly trained experts performing
for an audience of couch potatoes.
I think it's slightly different from there
because I think sport is embedded in Greek society
in a way that I don't think it is in modern society.
The modern approach is always to try
to feed the Olympic movement back into society
to achieve sort of a sustainable sports training
from Olympic activity.
I think because everywhere you go, there is a gymnasium.
Everywhere you go, there is a wrestling school.
I think if you remember of the Greek Elites
and I do think there's a class aspect to this,
but if you remember of the Greek Elite,
I think you probably understand athletics.
Experience athletics in your life to a degree that most--
that a lot of people don't.
And therefore, I think, there's probably a lot more continuity
between those who are performing and those
who are watching other things being equal.
I have read some-- heard some recent research
about the vase paintings with reference to things like boxing
and wrestling and the-- some very good recent research,
which is reenactment research, strongly suggests that a lot
of the vase paintings are actually depicting real moves.
And therefore, the people painting these vases often
understood the games and the people
who are buying the vase also know the games.
Also if you look-- if I can just take you back
through the stuff I never got around to show you.
If you look there, you've got a wrestling school
and you'll notice that you've got two boxers, two pancratiast,
the really vicious stuff, and you got a man with a stick
and his job to hit you if you if you break the rules.
And there's-- there are all these details
that one is getting that suggest the people know
about these things.
And then if you look at the literary text, you get lots
of occasions when people use images from athletics.
There's a term for instance called the Ephedros.
And it looks as though at certain points
in the Pentathlon, you actually--
you'd end up with three wrestlers in your final.
And, of course, you can't put three wrestlers into the room--
into the ring at the same time.
So, one of them is standby, Ephedros.
And it looks as though two of them wrestle and then he comes
in as the-- to wrestle the winner of the match.
There's so much of these imagery in the literature
that it suggests a lot of understanding
of the sport across a wider range.
Everyone in this room, I think, could explain the offside rule
to me because you all are familiar with football.
I won't ask you to explain it,
but those who don't understand it can ask those who do.
But, you know, there are certain things that we understand,
but the understanding of athletics seems
to be much more across the range.
I think there's a--
>> I wondered one other thing, has there been any discussion
of apparel between the Greek Olympics and something like sumo
in Japan where there's much ceremony involved?
And it's more respectful?
>> I know of nothing myself, but I can refer you
to a book published this year by the British Museum Press
by a colleague of mine at UCL called Vivian Lo, L-O,
and it is a comparative study.
It's a complimentary volume with a number of scholars talking,
and certainly she introduces things like Chinese sport.
Lots of interesting comparatives,
stuff like the presence of China-- of team sports in China,
which you never get in ancient Greece.
They don't like teams.
But that would be a good place to start for some of these.
There's not enough comparative work that has been done;
the reenactment stuff is obviously operating
with modern western athletics.
But there's a lot of room for comparative study
within sports history.
There's a lady--
>> Last question.
Well, last two questions because we're-- okay.
[Laughter] You go ahead.
>> We will have a drink afterwards, and so obviously,
if there are any questions-- [Simultaneous Talking]
>> We're going to carry on with the drinks afterwards
so you can--
>> Yeah, and the last thing we would want to do is to keep you
from the wine obviously.
>> Well, is beauty something
that you have [inaudible] you are or you are,
or something that you can achieve?
>> The-- you mean--
>> Yeah, for Greek, yeah.
[Simultaneous Talking]
>> The-- there seems to be a strong emphasis
on the genetic aspect of beauty.
One thing that we did not have a chance to talk
about is what makes a winner.
And the Greeks are-- where they talk about it,
they talk obviously as we probably would as well in terms
of sort of physical capacity, whether you're--
whether you actually have the inherent potential.
When our sources talk about beauty, they tend to perceive it
as something which you have or don't have.
Obviously, you can make yourself more beautiful.
There are all sorts of ways of enhancing the body.
But actual physical beauty seems to be something
that one possesses rather than something that one acquires.
>> Okay. You want to ask a question with us directly.
[Inaudible Remark] Yes?
You. Go ahead.
>> Actually, I want to ask one question
about neurobiological aspect of beauty.
I'm wondering that-- because you said that there is this--
like there is this in the brain that you have the same area
that responds both to the [inaudible]
and the physical aspect of beauty.
So, I'm wondering, what if like, would the experience
of beauty changes if-- to something physically beautiful,
but not [inaudible] beautiful?
>> Well, these are separate studies.
It's an interesting question, but if you find--
if you look at someone whom you find physically very beautiful,
but you know that they are morally repugnant,
I wonder what you will experience
and I wonder what brain activity will result.
I just don't know the answer.
What is clear is that morally repugnant act tend to lead
to activity elsewhere in the brain, whereas morally beautiful
or morally acceptable and desirable act tend to lead
to activity in a region which is also engaged
when you experience beauty.
But what-- the question you're asking is an interesting,
your biological question, I just don't know the answer to it.
So, [inaudible] really a question of why, you know,
someone who is very-- let's go beyond that,
somebody who's very beautiful, very able, very intelligent,
but is morally repugnant.
Do you experience such a presence of beautiful,
I don't the answer to that.
I don't have them [inaudible].
Well, there we are.
All right, before we break up for [inaudible] just say
that you're all invited to have a drink
in the south place there, it's across the road.
I think we have done a nice tour of the Olympics
and the pre-culture and the concepts
and how they are associated in the Olympic Games.
And in the break, we will have the privilege
of having Chris Carey who's [inaudible] knowledge have put
to our disposal.
Chris, thank you very much.