Synopses & Reviews
What was it like to attend the ancient Olympic Games?
With the summer Olympics return to Athens, Tony Perrottet delves into the ancient world and lets the Greek Games begin again. The acclaimed author of Pagan Holiday brings attitude, erudition, and humor to the fascinating story of the original Olympic festival, tracking the event day by day to re-create the experience in all its compelling spectacle.
Using firsthand reports and little-known sources—including an actual Handbook for a Sports Coach used by the Greeks—The Naked Olympics creates a vivid picture of an extravaganza performed before as many as forty thousand people, featuring contests as timeless as the javelin throw and as exotic as the chariot race.
Peeling away the layers of myth, Perrottet lays bare the ancient sporting experience—including the round-the-clock bacchanal inside the tents of the Olympic Village, the all-male nude workouts under the statue of Eros, and historys first corruption scandals involving athletes. Featuring sometimes scandalous cameos by sports enthusiasts Plato, Socrates, and Herodotus, The Naked Olympics offers essential insight into todays Games and an unforgettable guide to the worlds first and most influential athletic festival.
"Just in time for the modern Olympic games to return to Greece this summer for the first time in more than a century, Tony Perrottet offers up a diverting primer on the Olympics of the ancient kind….Well researched; his sources are as solid as sources come. It's also well writen….Perhaps no book of the season will show us so briefly and entertainingly just how complete is our inheritance from the Greeks, vulgarity and all."
--The Washington Post
"Combining a wealth of vivid details with a knack for narrative pacing and subtle humor, Perrottet...renders a striking portrayal of the Greek Olympics and their role in the ancient world....[A]n entertaining, edifying account." Publishers Weekly
"A timely re-creation and recreation: wonderful history for sports fans, great sportswriting for classicists, and fun for all." Kirkus Reviews
The Naked Olympics
approaches the Olympic Games day by day, to recreate for the first time the actual experience of visiting the ultimate sporting extravaganza from the point of view of the ancient spectators who flocked there generation after generation, the beleaguered event organizers in the religious sanctuary of Olympia, and the famous Greek athletes themselves, who competed entirely unadorned in an echo of ancient initiation rites.
By piecing together eyewitness accounts, the original Olympics emerge as a fascinating mix of the familiar and the wildly exotic. Ancient sports fans endured chaotic conditions reminiscent of a badly planned rock concert today, camping out under the stars and battling crowds, summer heat waves, water shortages and dehydration. Athletes faced off in such distinctive Greek events as the hoplitodromia, a sprint in full armor, and the pankration, a lethal, no-holds-barred brawl.
Off the field, a round-the-clock bacchanal included everything from raucous banquets and teams of traveling prostitutes to spectacular sacrifices to the presiding god Zeus. And by digging beneath the one-dimensional image of the Greeks, we find the first Games trapped in a more realistic mire of corruption scandals, political interference and rampant commercialism.
Perrottet approaches the Olympic Games day by day, to recreate for the first time the actual experience of visiting the ultimate sporting extravaganza from the point of view of the ancient spectators, the beleaguered event organizers in the religious sanctuary of Olympia, and the famous Greek athletes themselves, who competed entirely unadorned in an echo of ancient initiation rites.
A highly readable, hilarious and fascinating account of the original Greek Olympics.