The Oxford Handbook Sport and Spectacle in the Ancient World

Alison Futrell, Thomas F. Scanlon

Research output: Book/ReportBook

1 Scopus citations


This work presents current approaches and new avenues of enquiry into ancient sport and spectacle. It discusses historical perspectives, contest forms, contest-related texts, civic and social aspects, and use and meaning of the individual body. Greek and Roman topics are interwoven under each heading to simulate contest-like tensions and complementarities, juxtaposing, for example, violence in Greek athletics and in Roman gladiatorial events, Greek and Roman chariot events, architectural frameworks for contests and games in the two cultures, and contrasting views of religion, bodily regimens, and judicial classification related to both cultures. It examines the social contexts of games, namely the evolution of sport and spectacle diachronically and geographically across cultural and political boundaries, and how games are adapted to multiple contexts and multiple purposes, reinforcing, for example, social hierarchies, performing shared values, and playing out deep cultural tensions. The work also pays some attention to other directing forces in the ancient Mediterranean (e.g. Bronze Age Egypt and the Near East; Etruria; and early Christianity). The volume addresses important themes common to antiquity and modern society, such as issues of class, gender, health, and the popular culture of the modern Olympics, and gladiators in cinema. It presents contests and spectacles as venues of connection and as opportunities for the negotiation of status and the exchange of value, broadly for example how early panhellenic sanctuaries responded to economic stakeholders, and how groups and individuals in the later Roman empire forged social and political links through the circus events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages738
ISBN (Electronic)9780199592081
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • Ancient Greece
  • Ancient Rome
  • Athletics
  • Contest
  • Gladiator
  • Olympics
  • Spectacle
  • Sport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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