Do you have Olympic fever Richard Armitage?

Big things happening domi Obscurae this week.  I was looking forward to my first real winter break in years (I usually teach in the Winter term).  Two solid weeks of relatively free time to catch up on so many unfinished projects.  Then life happened.  I picked up my new glasses on Saturday and have been stumbling around since then trying to adjust to my first ever bifocal lenses.  I am not a happy camper!  In addition to the assault on my personal vanity, it turns out that crashing into walls, headaches and vertigo are big productivity killers!

I’m getting better with them…especially if I force myself to focus on one task at a time – Obscurus will have no problem adjusting when his time comes, since he is a professional “mono-tasker.”  The big issue now is the weather…so far, sub-zero temperatures and dangerous wind chills have resulted in the a two day extension of my kids’ holiday break – which by extension cuts into my “relatively free” time.  I am determined to persevere however to the extent that I wrapped up and trekked to the library yesterday for a day of quiet time during which I managed to complete and post the next chapter of Recovery at DreamerFiction.  It is constantly amazing to me how much better I feel when I make time to write.  I even came home and cheerfully cleaned the kitchen (Mr. Monotasker didn’t notice it), cooked dinner and made a bonus crock of baked beans.

I’m sure you’re all riveted by the daily routine here in the frozen upper Midwest, but that really wasn’t the point I was aiming at.  One side effect of being – what to call it?  It’s not really snowbound since there’s been no new snow since the serious cold set in… coldbound….frozenbound?  I don’t know, but suffice it to say, we’ve been watching A LOT of TV…especially a lot of football since the NFL playoffs are now in full swing.  *Sniffle* pardon me while I lament the first round defeat of Packers *sniffle*  During all of this sportsvision, I couldn’t help but notice that the push to market the 2014 Sochi Olympics has begun in earnest.  The Olympics have become an extremely lucrative business in the modern era, a consequence that is in marked contrast to the eponymous ancient event.  Michael Phelps, the most decorated athlete of modern Olympiad has an estimated net worth of $30-50 million.  Not bad for an amateur athlete!  Of course, the great bulk of that is generated from his endorsement of products including swimming gear, cereal and sandwiches, so he’s technically not being paid to swim.  A whole lot of ink and angst has been spilled over the commercialization of the Olympics, so I thought it might be interesting to look at the original version a bit.

Actually, I was thinking about the Richard Armitage and the melee surrounding the premiere events for TDOS when it struck me that the intense adulation of such events was not unlike that sort of welcome and Olympic victor (Ολυμπιονίκη) might expect in his hometown.

A nike of a different sort.... Source:  Guylty

A Νίκη of a different sort….
Source: Guylty

The original  Olympic Games…the origins of which are traditionally dated to 776 BC were an athletic competition that was a part of the celebration of the Festival of Zeus in his sanctuary at Olympia.  It was a Panhellenic festival…one for all of the Greeks.  The notion of a single nation of Greece is a very modern idea.  The ancient Greeks, from about 800 BC or so, were intensely divided along political lines.  There was no single nation of Greece, but rather a series of city-states (poleis) like Athens, Sparta, Corinth, Argos, etc.  Each polis considered itself independent and autonomous as a nation and as a cultural entity.  These people, first and foremost, saw themselves as Athenians or Spartans or Corinthians, etc. and only secondarily as Hellenes….Greeks.  The various city states bickered and argued over virtually everything, but every so often they laid aside their differences to celebrate their common culture.  The Festival of Zeus at Olympia, and it’s corresponding athletic games, was one these times.  The Olympic games were not only a sporting event, they were a religious celebration that was sacrosanct.  During an Olympiad, disputes, even wars, were suspended to allow all Greeks the ability to participate.

Although it would seem that an event of such importance would carry the promise of great rewards for the victors, that was not the case…at least not in terms of enormous monetary rewards anyway.

A victor receiving awards. (the inscription on the piece is actually the signature of the painter...Epiktetos) Source: Wikimedia Commons

A victor receiving awards.
(the inscription on the piece is actually the signature of the painter…Epiktetos)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Above, on the painted interior of a kylix, we can see an athlete being presented with something similar to what would have been awarded to an Olympic victor…namely, a stick, a ribbon and an leafy crown.  That’s right, the typical Olympic victor won a crown of olive branches, a palm branch and red wool ribbons tied around his arms and head.  The honor of the victory, of being Ολυμπιονίκη… of hearing your name, the name of your father and your hometown announced before gods and the assembled Greeks, was the main prize.  If he was being exceptionally honored, he would be allowed to place a statue of himself within the Sanctuary of Zeus to commemorate his victory.

 Ολυμπιονίκη celebration statue...his right hand is raised to the red ribbon that would have been around his head. Source:  J.P. Getty

Ολυμπιονίκη celebration statue…his right hand is raised to the red ribbon that would have been around his head.
Source: J.P. Getty Museum

It was the additional perks that reminded me a bit of the premiere celebrations.  When the Festival of Zeus came to an end, the newly crowned victors returned home to a great deal of fanfare…parades and parties all in honor of the victor commenced.  In addition, the  hometown Ολυμπιονίκη was guaranteed free meals and lodging for life, and deluxe seats at the theater.  It was also not uncommon for the victor’s hometown to erect a statue of him to celebrate the honor he had brought to his nation.

Victor of the Premiere... Source:  Guylty

Victor of the Premiere…
Source: Guylty

Now, I know that Richard Armitage isn’t Ολυμπιονίκη, but his recent successes have made me wonder if his hometown has given him the free meal ticket or front row seats…or dare I ask….a statue?  (You have no idea how tempted I am to do a little edit on that statue up there!)

16 comments on “Do you have Olympic fever Richard Armitage?

  1. Perry says:

    Now you’ve got me thinking that the original olympic games might have been a little a precursor of the red carpet and/or premiere. Stars parade around being looked at; they have fans in the audience – well-wishers, if you choose – I don’t – only the clothes weren’t that important at the Olympics – but I bet people celebrity watched just the same.

  2. guylty says:

    Oh yes, the victor of the premiere. Well, at least in the polis of Armitageia. Not sure how the Cumbertonians and the Freemaniki see it :-D.
    Can I ask something here: You were saying ancient Greece was made up of city states, the poleis. What about all the other territory on mainland Greece? I mean, when you say city state, does that only literally refer to the boundaries of, say, Sparta or Athens, or did these also have the surrounding rural countryside assigned to the realm of the city?
    That whole thing about the statue in Leicester and a free meal ticket had me LOL. Just imagine… Well, what I really want to know is, how life-like *are* those winners’ statues?

    • obscura says:


      Polis…each one consisted of the city itself and associated territory around it. Some were large – like Athens, including the city of Athens and the surrounding region of Attica, others were very small…Like Elis, which was tiny buy swelled every four years during the Olympiad (Olympia lies within the polis of Elis.) Basically the entire land mass of Greece and the Aegean islands, and ultimately anywhere the Greeks planted colonies was controlled by one polis or another. The problem was, anytime anyone moved in one direction or another, they were crossing essentially international borders and encroaching on the neighboring polis – hence the often cantankerous relationships between the Greek city states.

      Free meal ticket…I know right – so is that only him, does he get a plus one for the theater…does he have to carry ID in case some new resident of Leicester doesn’t recognize the hometown boy?

      Life like winner’s statues? Weeeeellll, judging by Greek sculptures in general, “size” didn’t seem to matter much 😉 (and now I will stray well into the realm of Too Much Information to wonder if that wasn’t at least in part by design since anything that projected very far from the main body of the piece was very vulnerable…art imitating life? Sorry…so sorry!)

  3. katie70 says:

    Sounds like we are in for some warmer weather here soon. Stay warm until then. We where back to school last Thursday for two days, then a four day holiday of sorts. Not everyone was happy at our house, I lost two days pay, but son2 was not either. He should have had archery practice this morning before school and there was no school. Next weekend is there first meet at the Badger State Games (there is the close’s to a Olympic comment from me) and he what’s to be ready. I don’t know if your children’s school has archery but there are a few in Wisconsin, and there has to be a couple by you as there is two meet’s on the same day close by. I really blame the whole Robin Hood thing for the archery, he was maybe three and his aunt let him take home the Walt Disney movie and then every time he would go there, he would get to take it home.

    • katie70 says:

      Make that one more day off school, just got the call from my boss this morning. I think that I will go back to bed.

    • obscura says:

      We were back to school on Wednesday….thank the powers that be! My son was interested in archery for about a minute (I’m sure as a consequence of running around as Link playing whatever incarnations the Legend of Zelda). I’m not sure who does it competitively in these parts. I hope things are moving back to normal…more or less is here. With the exception of the ice rink on the hard surfaces, but hopefully that will melt tomorrow. It’s supposed to be like 40f…it’s crazy, that’s nearly 60 degrees warmer than it was a week ago! Gotta live Wisconsin!

      • katie70 says:

        Only in Wisconsin, we had high 20’s today and 30’s on Sunday. Wednesday we had a low that was lower than Monday. So glad that is gone at least for a bit. Since Mr. 70 has worked for the school ( the 12th year) we had never had a 2 hour delay that is till Thursday. I still had to go to work at the same time, so much to do.

  4. […] Obscura actually manages to make the Olympic Games interesting […]

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