July 21–November 28, 2004

Games for the Gods

The Greek Athlete and the Olympic Spirit

Athletics were a key component of ancient Greek life from the founding of the Olympic Games in 776 B.C. until the banishment of pagan festivals and games in the late fourth century A.D. The MFA has one of the best collections of such imagery. The objects in this tour represent a wide range of dates and media (painted pottery, sculpture, bronze, and gems) and range in date from the Bronze Age through the Roman Imperial period. The games were held to honor the gods and during religious festivals: foremost were those at Olympia (Zeus), Delphi (Apollo), Isthmia (Poseidon), Nemea (Zeus), and Athens (Athena). Athletic events such as running, jumping, discus throwing, javelin toss, boxing and wrestling, as well as equestrian contests are exceptionally well represented. In addition, there are many evocative images of the victors who stand in the nude—most events were performed in the nude—wearing and or receiving their wreaths and honorary ribbons.


Media sponsor is Classical 99.5 WCRB Boston.