The ancient Olympics
Time: 11:00 - 17:00
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
This course has now finished
What is the course about?
Using images from sculpture and pottery and the descriptions by ancient authors, we shall look at the origins of the Olympic Games and how they developed over the centuries and also at games at other places in Greece such as Athens, Corinth and Delphi. We shall look at all the contests and how they differ from their modern versions but also at the lives of the athletes involved in the games and what it meant to win or lose or to be found cheating.
This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.
What will we cover?
The games that will be covered in the course include running, running in armour, discus, javelin, jumping with weights, boxing, wrestling, the pankration, pentathlon and equestrian events. At some games (such as Delphi and Athens) there were also music, poetry and painting competitions. The history of the Olympic Games from 776 BC to 393 AD will be looked at showing how different games were added over time. The differences between the four Panhellenic games, at which the prizes were wreaths only, and other games such as the Panathenaic games, at which the prizes were multiple amphorae of valuable olive oil, will be examined to judge the status of the athletes. The names of some of the athletes have survived and their stories will be examined as far as possible. We shall also look at the Heraen games for women but these were much smaller and less well recorded than the games for men.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
- Have a better knowledge of how game were conducted in Ancient Greece
- Understand how Ancient games relate to modern games
- Understand about the lives of the professional athletes and how they were viewed by their compatriots
- Discover the relationship between sport and religion.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
This is an introductory course and does not assume any previous study or reading although you will need a good grasp of English to keep up with the course. As with most of our history and current affairs courses, an open mind and a willingness to listen to and think about views with which you do not always agree are more important than specific levels of skills.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
The course is run by Dr William Sterling so anyone familiar with his courses will be aware of the mixture of illustrated lectures, discussions, questions, reading and analysis of original texts (in translation).
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
Please bring pen and paper.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Any Ancient Civilisation classes.
After a BA in History & Geography at Keele with Music, Education and Greek Studies as subsidiaries, William Sterling taught History full-time before becoming a Civil Servant working for the Departments of Transport and Education. This allowed him to study part-time for his MA from Birkbeck and PhD from King’s College, London. From 1992, he lectured in Adult Education at a number of colleges before joining the City Lit in 2008. Since 1994 he has been an official Gallery Guide at the British Museum, covering the whole museum but specialising in the Ancient Greeks, Romans and Etruscans, the Medieval & Modern European and Enlightenment Galleries. As a lecturer, he specialises in those same areas as well as Royal History (especially British Monarchs from 1603 to 1910), Composers’ Lives and other Cultural, especially interdisciplinary, topics. He also lectures on Cruise Ships on subjects ranging from Vikings to Shakespeare. He runs a website offering free resources on the subjects he teaches.
Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.