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!)