Competitiveness In Ancient Greece

2120 Words 9 Pages
What forces shaped the Greeks ' attitudes to competitiveness?
Social performance played a crucial role in the life of any Ancient Greek and the result of this constant performance was that the agôn became essential to the social dynamics of Ancient Greece. Agôn had a variety of meanings throughout Greek history, at first the term was used to define a space in which people compete however later on it was used to denote any kind of competition whether it be in an athletic contest or a philosophical debate. Many social forces can be seen to have shaped Greek attitudes to competitiveness: from the need to assert social status to the focus on displaying arête (excellence) and gaining kleos (fame). These are what I shall examine in this essay in
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There is no doubt that the focus on mortality in Ancient Greece had an effect on every aspect of life considering mortality rates were so high. In terms of competitiveness, this manifests itself in the idea of kleos (fame). In this passage, we see two types of immortality being contrasted: physical immortality and the immortality gained by achieving glory and living on in the memory of others.
This contrast illustrates why the idea of kleos has such an effect on the Greek’s attitudes towards competitiveness. As Sarpedon explains, our own mortality renders competition and competitiveness necessary, therefore, attitudes towards competition are heavily influenced by the Greek individual’s need for kleos. As a result of this attitude, competition becomes closely linked with monuments of memorial, even in Homer’s period, a time which bears little evidence, the Iliad suggests that there were odes similar to what is found in later
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The cause of this is the distancing of athletics from politics, as Murray summarises “The agon or contest was rooted in the competitive ethic of Homeric man which sustained his role of military champion; but in the archaic age it was transformed into a cultural activity - the contest for its own sake, as a form of conspicuous display”. This quote explains how in the Archaic period competition became a form of display as in an ancient society, such as that of Archaic Greece, performance of the self was crucial to an individual’s status in a way which was no longer as closely linked with politics as it was in the Homeric

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