Saturday, April 9, 2011

Reasoning: Sports and War Review

The most recent lecture on Marathon 2500 was Thomas Scanlon's lecture "Sports and War." You can listen to the lecture by clicking on the link at the bottom of that post or you can download the lecture by right clicking on the link and (if you have firefox) clicking "Save Link As" and then saving the file.

I have to admit, I was not particularly excited about this lecture. Although my thesis adviser, Messalla, did most of his work in sports, my interested only extended to the odes of Pindar and references to sports in Plato's discussion of education. I decided I would listen to the lecture anyway and I was pleasantly surprised with the lecture and enjoyed the Q&A thoroughly.

The lecture spoke much about the different races from which the Phidippides/Philippides might have originated. That was pretty interesting. He also mentions that athletic training for war is highly overstated (with the exception of training in Sparta), which was something that I did not know and certainly goes against the ideas transmitted in Plato [1].

My favorite moments were a few tidbits I didn't know in the Q&A. First, I had no idea that there were races that included women. Scanlon revealed in the Q&A that there was a race for Hera that happened directly before the Olympics that was specifically for women. I also had no idea that, as there were small dramatic competitions which happened all year and offered cash to actors to come and perform, there were also small sports competitions all year that offered cash prizes. This is a striking contrast to the Olympics which only offered a laurel crown, although, as Scanlon pointed out, the home city of the winning athlete would often give him lifetime room and board for free. The lecture is good, but the Q&A has some really fabulous kernels of information and Scalon provides a short bibliography for future reading.

  1. Plato obviously models some of his political philosophy on Sparta, although I think the case is overstated by many scholars.