"Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2014.08.36
David M. Pritchard, Sport, Democracy and War in Classical Athens. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Pp. xii, 251. ISBN 9781107007338. $103.00.
Reviewed by Stephen Brunet, University of New Hampshire (Stephen.Brunet@unh.edu)
In Sport, Democracy and War in Classical Athens David Pritchard asks why Athens, a city in which one would expect egalitarianism to reign supreme, tolerated and even encouraged athletics, an activity that had long been associated with the elites of Greek cities and with aristocratic claims to social and political superiority. Central to Pritchard’s explanation is the proposition that athletes were viewed as possessing the same type of endurance and willingness to undertake risks that Athenian citizens were required to demonstrate in war. As a consequence, the perceived value of athletics overrode any potential opposition to this particular element of the aristocratic lifestyle and the Athenian state saw nothing wrong in expending its resources on athletic contests in which most Athenians never had a hope of competing due to their lack of training. In pursuing this one explanation for the Athenian acceptance of athletics, Pritchard may have overlooked other factors that were
at work here, notably the fact that athletics was so deeply embedded in Greek culture that many Athenians would never have been able to envisage a world without it. Yet his study, touching as it does on such diverse subjects as the extent to which most Athenians had access to education and the tendency among Athenians to conceive of land and naval warfare using similar language, does not limit itself just to the history of Greek athletics but deals with the social and ideological processes of the Athenian democracy in a broad fashion."