Honorary Sports Titles in Graeco-Roman Antiquity

Authors

KOUŘIL Jiří

Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Citation
Description This paper deals with sports titles of ancient Greece and Rome, that were granted to the best athletai in gymnikos agon, the best Roman gladiators and agitatores. The ancient athletai with special titles were mostly the greatest "sportsmen" and many of them were also excellent soldiers. The paper focuses on the warriors with the aristeion to whom their aristeia was awarded, because this title became a precursor for sports titles. Aristeia was a Greek term for unusual valiant behaviour in the battle, heroism, valor, and a rare proof of courage. And the term aristeion meant heroism and also honour, reward, and a victorious prize for the biggest valour in the battle. Many great Greeks gained that (Spartans like Dieneces, Amomfaretos, Cleonymus, Archidamus, Anticrates or e.g. Sophanes of Athens). The Greek warriors who received the aristeion were the best men and this special reward and title had very similar inner and outer marks as sports titles. For this reason it is possible to compare and distinguish the importance of warlike and sports titles because these meant that warriors/athletai entered the higher level of society. They were the best role models with great cultural power. With the aristeion or victory at Olympia (mainly when they gained a sports title), ancient warriors and athletai entered to the significance level (similar as the stratum of the gods and demigods) and gained fame in ancient Greece, nothing was as highly valued as the fame there. A description of athletic titles such as triastes, paradoxonikes, aristos Hellenon and periodonikes follows. Only the best runners gained the title triastes (victory in three running competitions during one Games); the best of them and the best runner in ancient and modern Olympics (regarding to the number of Olympics victories) was Leonidas of Rhodes, who gained the triastes title four times. The best combative athletai received the title paradoxonikes or paradoxos (unexpected or unbelievable winner, who achieved the victory in pankration and pale/wrestling or pankration and pygme/boxing in one day during one Olympics –the paradigm for this was Heracles and his famous twofold victory); officially only seven athletai received this title. The fastest runner in the race of soldiers (hoplitodromos) was called the "best of the Greeks" (aristos Hellenon or with the regard to Achilleus aristos Achaion). And only the best athletai could gain the title periodonikes (repetitious winner; the title awarded to the one who won in all Panhellenic Games during a certain period at Olympia, Delphi, Isthmus and Nemea). The best of athletai with this title was Milo of Croton, who gained the title periodonikes 6 times in pale. In the subsequent development of the title periodonikes there arose the title periodonikes teleios, a complete or successful winner, the undefeated athlete who won everything; the first such winner was Titus Aelius Aurelius Maron of Seleucia in Cilicia (in pale and pankration). Later, the title periodonikes pantonikes appears as the title for the absolute winner of the whole circuit; periodonikes pantonikes was called only Nero, the emperor, after his journey along Greece and his participation in the Great Panhellenic and local games and his "victories" there. The next part of the paper focuses on the best gladiators and agitatores and the titles given to them. Regarding to Roman gladiators these titles were mainly primus palus, summa rudis and rudiarius; the gladiators titles were also only for the best of them. The best agitatores could be miliarii – the charioteers, who gained 1 000 victories. The titles for the Greek athletai and Romans will be compared with regard to their significance and outcomes.
Related projects: