War Without the Shooting: Neil Faulkner discusses the ancient Greek Olympics in a video interview

A Visitor’s Guide to the Ancient Olympics transports the reader to the games of 388 B.C., providing a lively guided tour of the ancient Greek Olympics and bringing to life the sights and sounds of the competition. Last week the book’s author Neil Faulkner described the gruesome spectacle of boxing at the games. This week, in an interview for Blackwells, he introduces us to the ancient Greek Olympics from a visitor’s perspective, revealing some fascinating, and surprising, details.

Olympic fever is growing. This summer, millions of people will flock to London for the 2012 Olympic Games, where thousands of top athletes will compete in over 25 different sports. Blanket media coverage will ensure that for a few weeks in July and August, the games will be the main topic of conversations across the country (whether you’re a sports fan, or simply grumbling about the traffic). But where did it all begin, what were the origins of the games that are now such a huge part of the sporting calendar, and what was it actually like to be there, in the thick of the action?

Published this week, A Visitor’s Guide to the Ancient Olympics by historian Neil Faulkner is a colourfully illustrated new book from Yale that offers a complete tour of the Olympic site exactly as athletes and spectators found it.

The book evokes the sights, sounds, and smells of the crowded (and rather grim) encampment; introduces the various attendees (from champions and charlatans to aristocrats and prostitutes); and, explains the numerous exotic religious rituals. Uniquely detailed and precise, this guide offers readers an unparalleled opportunity to travel in time, back to the excitement of ancient Olympia.

Here, in this interview for Blackwells, Neil Faulkner provides a general introduction to the Greek games, vividly describing the spectacle as experienced by a visitor in ancient times. Along the way Faulkner reveals some unusual details. For instance, did you know that the spectators at the games made offerings to Zeus to rid them of flies? Faulkner also offers an explanation for the popularity of the games, as a physical and mental preparation for war…

(Recorded by George Miller at podularity.com)

A Visitor's Guide to the Ancient Olympics

A Visitor's Guide to the Ancient Olympics

Dr Neil Faulkner is research fellow at the University of Bristol, fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and codirector of several field projects. A freelance archaeologist and historian, his previous books include Apocalypse: The Great Jewish Revolt against Rome and Rome: Empire of the Eagles. He lives in Hertfordshire, UK.

A Visitor’s Guide to the Ancient Olympics is published in April 2012.

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