This book presents the first comprehensive study of how and why athletic contests, a characteristic aspect of Greek culture for over a millennium, disappeared in late antiquity. In contrast to previous discussions, which focus on the ancient Olympics, the end of the most famous games is analyzed here in the context of the collapse of the entire international agonistic circuit, which encompassed several hundred contests. The first part of the book describes this collapse by means of a detailed analysis of the fourth- and fifth-century history of the athletic games in each region of the Mediterranean: Greece, Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, Italy, Gaul and northern Africa. The second half continues by explaining these developments, challenging traditional theories (especially the ban by the Christian emperor Theodosius I) and discussing in detail both the late antique socio-economic context and the late antique perceptions of athletics.
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Table of ContentsIntroduction; Part I. An Overview of Athletics in Late Antiquity: 1. Greece; 2. Asia Minor; 3. Syria; 4. Egypt; 5. Italy; 6. Gaul; 7. North Africa; Conclusions to Part I; Part II. Agones in a Changing World: 8. A religious ban?; 9. An imperial ban?; 10. The athletic professionals; 11. Athletics as elite activity; 12. The practical organization of agones; 13. The agon as spectacle; Conclusions to Part II.