The archaeological site of Pompeii joins the big event of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, participating in the sporting spirit of the moment with an exhibition of artifacts and information panels that tell about the importance and attention of the ancient Pompeians to the sports practices and body care. Therefore, on the occasion of the opening day of the Olympic Games a showcase with some original instruments used by athletes at the thermal bath was staged at the Antiquarian of the excavations: a bronze “strigilis” (a metal spatula curved to wipe away perspiration), an ointment for the oil, a pumice stone slicker, a bronze ladle for the water. The athletes before and after doing sports activities used to clean their bodies with a thermal bath. This frequent practice has given us many toiletry items, of which some examples are displayed in the exhibition.
The athletes of the world evoked by the mosaics and frescoes are rather well told in some areas of the so-called "Gymnasium", located in the district of the Regio VIII of the excavations. From the outside of the building visitors can see in the hallway a beautiful mosaic floor entrance with a fight scene between two athletes facing each other with their bare hands, while on the walls in front of it people can see a painting representing athletes, wrestlers, a jumper with dumbbells, the judge of the race (called Magister Ludi) that is holding the bandage, which is the prize for the winning athlete. This large room that hosts the depictions was actually part of a men's spa facility of the first century A.D. placed in a scenic area of the ancient city. Outside of the "Gym" an information panel will provide a descriptive detail of the environments depictions.
The main sports in ancient Rome were: pankration (a mix between boxing and wrestling), wrestling, boxing, running, javelin, discus, shot put, who had been taken as a model by Greece. However, the idea of sport in ancient Rome did not reflect the preference of Greek culture for non-professional athletic activities, bloodless contests concerning not only sports but also different fields of human activities, where the winner received a prize for showing, according to the Greek mentality, his superior physical and moral qualities.
Moreover, the nudity of the athletes that among the Greeks was to represent the beauty of sports victory, disturbed sense of Roman modesty. They carried out a substantial revision of costumes of the Greek culture, giving rise to a class of specialists and professionals in sports which everyone could be part of, without distinction of social belonging, as evidenced by the discovery in 1959 of the fifth-century BC tomb of the so-called Athlete of Taranto where emerges social function of the athletic events, no longer tied to religious meanings and demonstration of the primacy of the noble class, but as an expression of a form of entertainment.
Finally, according to the modern history of the sport it can be argued that the Romans have perhaps created the modern sport, with its mass spectacles, its mighty clubs and its financial problems.
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Staff at Flashback Journey to Pompeii. Our goal is to bring you up-to-date information on events, continuing archeological excavations and more on Pompeii.