"Crowther provides a historical overview of sport as a cultural practice around the world from about 3000 BCE to the Middle Ages, mentioning nonphysical recreations and games occasionally but concentrating on activities that embrace contests, skill, training, energy, and fitness. The survey, organized by geography, discusses such topics as early forms of polo and golf in China, sumo wrestling in Japan, bull leaping and boxing in Crete, Homeric descriptions of Ancient Greek sport, Roman gladiatorial combats and chariot racing, and team ball games in Mesoamerica, among many others. The range of themes that arise is similarly broad and includes such issues as bribery, cheating, ideals, amateurism and professionalism, violence, ritual, social class, tourism, and war. Distributed in the US by the U. of Washington Press." - Reference & Research Book News "Crowther provides here the second volume in the Praeger Series on the Ancient World, which is aimed at the nonspecialist and general reader. Crowther's broad sweep includes the role of sports in ancient Egypt and the Middle East, early China and Japan, and even Mesoamerica. He focuses on Greek athletics (especially the Olympics) and Roman contests (especially spectator sports) and their use for political purposes, and he expands his discussion to sport in the Byzantine Empire, particularly charioteering. Other chapters emphasize social issues, and include a comparison of noted Greek, Roman, and Byzantine athletes and a discussion of the changing role of women in sport. Crowther's main themes include amateurism and professionalism, fair play, crowd behavior, politics, class, and sexuality. He includes a time line and a brief annotated list of further readings, but no notes. Crowther seems current with relevant sources, so one regrets his failure to name the authorities he discusses. Excellent graphics. Recommended. Lower-/upper-division undergraduates; general readers." - Choice "This book lays the foundation for studying sport within any number of disciplines, exploring the games and competitions of ancient society around the world in order to arrive at an understanding of the forms sports take today...[W]hat distinguishes Sport in Ancient Times from a rich, growing body of literature examining the heritage of sport is that Crowther also explores the role of women and the place of sport in China, Japan, and the Middle East, areas heretofore given short consideration in sports historiography... By presenting evidence for sports in nearly every part of the world, he provides substance for contemporary research. The writing is clear and concise, and the solid bibliography includes easily accessible books. Sport in Ancient Times is appropriate for librarians from secondary through college levels, and, in fact, is so illuminating that it should be required opening text for any college course that deals with sports." - Reference & User Services Quarterly "Although [Crowther] does not shy away from difficult concepts and technical terms, he writes clearly and without excessive 'dumbing down.' Realizing, however, that even college-educated readers are liable to be a little hazy about the dates of Chinese and Egyptian dynasties and the periodization of Green and Roman antiquity, he includes a helpful set of 'timelines' (xiv-20)." - The Historian
This book looks at the role of sport as practiced in several important civilisations in the ancient world. It explores how athletics had an importance that extended beyond physical prowess to include military associations, religious ritual, status, politics, and other concerns. The book has four distinct parts: the Prehistoric Age, Greece, ancient Italy, and the Byzantine Empire. Beginning with the earliest civilizations, the first chapter examines the military and recreational aspects of sports in prehistoric Egypt, with brief references to the cultures in Sumeria, Mesopotamia and Persia. The second looks at the sports and games of bronze-age Greece, such as Cretan bull-leaping and the funeral games described by Homer. In the historic period, the chapters on Greece look at the significance of the ancient Olympic Games. The book then focuses on the Romans, looking at their famous ideal of "sound mind in a sound body", and the significance of the baths for culture and society. It also examines the Romans' love of spectator sports such as gladiatorial contests and chariot racing, and how the concept of "bread and circuses" had an important political role.
The chapter on the Byzantine Empire focuses on chariot racing and the politically-charged riots of spectators at sporting contests. The last three chapters look at the status and significance of ancient athletes, the presence (or absence) of women in sports, and team sports and ball games. Part of the "Praeger Series" on the Ancient World it: provides a study of sports across cultures in the Ancient world; includes both individual and team sports; looks at the role of women in sports; and, compares and contrasts the significance of famous sporting figures in different ancient societies.