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us, that with them it was no less honorable than the consular dignity in its original splendor with the ancient Romans. And in another place he says,
that *to conquer at Olympia, was almost, in the sense of the Grecians, more great and glorious than to receive the honor of a triumph at Rome. Horace speaks in still
stronger terms upon this kind of victory. He is not afraid to say, that “it exalts the victor above human nature; they were no longer men but gods.”
We shall see hereafter what extraordinary honors were paid to the victor, of which one of the most affecting was, to date the year with his name. Nothing could more effectually enliven their endeavours, and make them regardless of expenses, than the assurance of immortalizing their names, which, for the future, would be annexed to the calendar, and in the front of all laws made in the same year with the victory. To this motive may be added, the joy of knowing that their praises would be celebrated by the most famous poets, and share in the entertainment of the most illustrious assemblies; for these odes were sung in every house, and had a part in every entertainment. What could be a more powerful incentive to a people, who had no other object and aim than that of human glory?
I shall confine myself upon this head to the Olympic games, which continued five days; and shall describe, in as brief a manner as possible, the several kinds of
Olympionicam esse åpud Græcos prope majus fuit et gloriosus, quam Romæ triumphasse. Pro Flacco. num. xxxi.
HOR. Od. ii. lib. 4.
combats of which they were composed. Mr. Burette has treated this subject in several dissertations, printed in the memoirs of the academy of Belles Lettres; wherein purity, perspicuity, and elegance of style are united with profound erudition. I make no scruple in appropriating to my use the riches of my brethren; and, upon the subject of the Olympic games, have made very free with the late Abbé Massieu's remarks upon the odes of Pindar.
The combats, which had the greatest share in the solemnity of the public games, were boxing, wrestling, the pancratium, the discus or quoit, and racing. To these may be added the exercises of leaping, throwing the dart, and that of the trochus or wheel; but as these were neither important, nor of any great reputation, I shall content myself with having only mentioned them in this place. For the better methodising the particulars of these games and exercises, it will be necessary to begin with an account of the Athletæ, or Combatants.
THE ATHLETÆ OR COMBATANTS.
The term Athletæ is derived from the Greek word" which signifies labor, combat. This name was given to those who exercised themselves with design to dispute the prizes in the public games. The art by which they formed themselves for these encounters was called Gymnastic, from the Athletæ's practising naked.
Those who were designed for this profession frequented, from their most tender age, the Gymnasia
or Palestræ, which were a kind of academies maintained for that purpose at the public expense. In these places, such young people were under the direction of different masters, who employed the most effectual methods to inure their bodies for the fatigues of the public games, and to form them for the combats. The regimen they were under was very hard and
At first they had no other nourishment but dried figs, nuts, soft cheese, and a gross heavy sor* of bread, called Maze. They were absolutely forbid the use of wine, and enjoined continence; which Horace expresses thus : Y
Qui studet optatam cursu contingere metam,
Abstinuit venere et vino. St. Paul, by an allusion to the Athletæ, exhorts the Corinthians, near whose city the Isthmian games were celebrated, to a sober and penitent life. “Those who strive,” says he, "for the mastery, are temperate in all things: now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible.” ? Tertullian uses the same thought to encourage the martyrs. He makes a comparison from what the hopes of victory made the Athletæ endure. He repeats the severe and painful exercises they were obliged to undergo; the continual anguish and constraint, in which they passed the best years of their lives; and the voluntary privation which they imposed upon themselves, of all that was most affecting and grateful to their passions. It is true, the
και μαζα. .
y Art. Poet. v. 412. 2 Nempe enim et Athletæ segregantur ad strictiorem disciplinam, ut robori ædificando vacent;, continentur à luxuria, à cibus lætioribus, à potu jucundiore ; coguntur, cruciantur, fatigantur. Tertul. ad Martyr:
Athletæ did not always observe so severe a regimen, but at length substituted in its stead a voracity and indolence extremely remote from it.
The Athletæ, before their exercises, were rubbed with oils and ointments, to make their bodies more supple and vigorous. At first they made use of a belt, with an apron or scarf fastened to it, for their more decent appearance in the combats; but one of the combatants happening to lose the victory by this covering's falling off, that accident was the occasion of sacrificing modesty to convenience, and retrenching the apron for the future: but the Athletæ were only naked in some exercises, as wrestling, boxing, the pancratium, and the foot race. They practised a kind of noviciate in the Gymnasia for ten months, to accomplish themselves in the several exercises by assiduous application; and this they did in the pres. ence of such as curiosity or idleness conducted to look on. But when the celebration of the Olympic games drew nigh, the Athletæ, who were to appear in them, were kept at double exercise.
Before they were admitted to combat, other proofs were required. As to birth, none but Greeks were to be received. It was also necessary, that their manners should be unexceptionable, and their condition free. No stranger was admitted to combat in the Olympic games; and when Alexander, the son of Amyntas, king of Macedon, presented himself to dispute the prize, his competitors, without any regard to the royal dignity, opposed his reception as a Macedonian, and consequently a barbarian and a stranger; nor could the judges be prevailed upon to admit him, till he had
proved, in due form, his family originally descended from the Argives.
The persons who presided in the games, called Agonothetæ, Athlothetæ, and Hellanodicæ, registered the name and country of each champion; and upon the opening of the games an herald proclaimed the names of the combatants. They were then made to take an oath, that they would religiously observe the several laws prescribed in each kind of combat, and do nothing contrary to the established orders and regulations of the games. Fraud, artifice, and excessive violence, were absolutely prohibited; and the maxim, so generally received elsewhere, that it is indifferent whether an enemy is conquered by deceit or valour, was banished from these combats. The address of a combatant, expert in all the turns of his art, who knew how to shift and fence dexterously, to put the change upon his adversary with art and subtlety, and to improve the least advantages, must not be confounded here with the cowardly and knavish cunning of one, who, without regard to the laws prescribed, employs the most unfair means to vanquish his competitor. Those who dispute the prize in the several kinds of combats, drew lots for their precedency in them.
It is time to bring our champions to blows, and to run over the different kinds of combats in which they exercised themselves.
Of Wrestling. Wrestling is one of the most ancient exercises of which we have any knowledge, having been practised in the time of the patriarchs, as the