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Page 18

The Pentathlon: the Honors paid to Great Athletes

 

    We have now seen average specimens of all the usual athletic sports of the Greeks. Any good authority will tell us, however, that a truly capable athlete will not try to specialize so much in any one kind of contest that he cannot do justice to the others. As an all around well-trained man he will try to excel in the "Pentathlon," the "five contests." Herein he will successfully join in running, javelin casting, quoit throwing, leaping, and wrestling.[9] As the contest proceeds the weaker athletes will be eliminated; only the two fittest will be left for the final trial of strength and skill. Fortunate indeed is "he who overcometh" in the Pentathlon. It is the crown of athletic victories, involving, as it does, no scanty prowess both of body and mind. The victor in the Pentathlon at one of the great Pan-Hellenic games (Olympian, Pythian, Isthmian, or Nemean) or even in the local Attic contest at the Panathenæa is a marked man around Athens or any other Greek city. Poets celebrate him; youths dog his heels and try to imitate him; his kinsfolk take on airs; very likely he is rewarded as a public benefactor by the government. But there is abundant honor for one who has triumphed in any of the great contests; and even as we go out we see people pointing to a bent old man and saying, "Yes; he won the quoit hurling at the Nema when Ithycles was archon."[10]

    ...The Academy is already thinning. The beautiful youths and their admiring "lovers" have gone homeward. The last race has been run. We must hasten if we would not be late to some select symposium. The birds are more melodious than ever around Colonus; the red and golden glow upon the Acropolis is beginning to fade; the night is sowing the stars; and through the light air of a glorious evening we speed back to the city.

 

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