Attic black-figure skyphos

Archaic period, 6th century B.C.
H. 17.7 cm (6 31⁄32 in) Diam. 22.8 cm (8 31⁄32 in)

Art market, Geneva
Private collection, Dr. Samy Tarab (1929-2019), Geneva, acquired from the above in the 1960s-70s
Private collection, Suzanne Tardivat (1907-2012), Geneva, from the above

Jacques Chamay
Flâneries archéologiques: la collection d’un amateur. Hellas & Roma IX, 1998, 25-27, 85

Both sides represent an athletic scene : The middle of the scene of side A shows a bearded trainer in three quarter view wearing a himation draped over his left shoulder, holding a stick in his right hand and correcting the position of the nude athlete in front of him with his raised left hand, behind him an athlete holding halteres (dumbbles) for the long jump, on the opposite side another athlete looking back, pseudo-inscription in the field; Side B depicts four naked athletes, most probably pankratiasts (boxers), the hands of the athlete on the left are tied with leather strips (caestus) for protection, both athlete in the middle of the scene hold the strips ready to  be tied round their hands, the fourth athlete is looking back, all of the athlete wear a ribbon around their head,; below one handle a bird in added white, below the other a crounching athlete, addition of red and white pigments for detail.

Running, jumping, throwing - the foundations of athletics were already laid by the Egyptians 3,500 years BC, even if these exercises were for military purposes. Around 1500 BC, the Greeks organised the first sporting competitions with the games, notably those at Olympia. Every four years from 776 BC, the Greeks organised public festivals in Olympia to honour Zeus. The most popular event was the dromos, or stadium-length sprint. Olympia had a number of sports facilities, including a stadium (a rectangular earthen track around 192 m long, surrounded by bleachers), a palestra (for wrestling matches), a hippodrome (for chariot races) and a gymnasium (for training sessions).

The most popular disciplines were those that featured on the programme of sports competitions, essentially gymnastic sports: running, long jump, discus throw, javelin throw, wrestling, boxing and pancrachism. Equestrian sports (harness and mounted racing, on the flat) appeared relatively early in competitions: mounted racing was introduced at the Olympic Games in 680 BC and at Delphi in 586 BC. However, they were the preserve of the wealthiest, generally aristocrats.

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