The Value of Physical Education to the Ancient Gre Essay Example
The Value of Physical Education to the Ancient Gre Essay Example

The Value of Physical Education to the Ancient Gre Essay Example

Available Only on StudyHippo
  • Pages: 6 (1385 words)
  • Published: December 23, 2018
  • Type: Essay
View Entire Sample
Text preview

Throughout history, the ancient Greeks and Romans had differing perspectives on physical education and sport. The purpose of physical education has evolved over time due to socio-cultural events. The Athenian Greeks, Spartan Greeks, and Romans all held their own beliefs regarding the mind, body, and spirit. While these civilizations valued physical development in varying degrees, they all played significant roles in the realm of sport and physical education.

In ancient Athens, physical education was deemed essential for achieving overall excellence in mental, moral, and physical capabilities. This concept was personified by the Greek gods known as arte. These Olympic Council gods possessed exceptional intellectual and physical abilities, showcasing the fusion of action with wisdom. The Athenian Ideal aimed to foster both mental and physical aptitudes in boys through their educational system.

Boys in ancient Greece sought to e


nhance their physical prowess for combat readiness as well as to display the aesthetic appeal of the body. In Athenian society, an ideal physique encompassed harmonious proportions along with alertness and capability for civil and military duties (Mechikoff & Estes, 1993). Physical competitions were primarily conducted by the Athenians to honor fallen soldiers from battles while also paying homage to deitiesThe Iliad, a famous Greek epic, described funeral games held in memory of Patroclus, Achilles' comrade who died in the Trojan War. These games included various events like chariot racing, boxing, wrestling, footraces, spear duels, discus throwing, archery, and javelin throwing (Lumpkin, 1990, p.167).

In contrast to this portrayal of men's activities in Greek society, women had a significantly different role in Athenian society. Girls would stay at home under their mothers' care and received limited or no education. After getting

View entire sample
Join StudyHippo to see entire essay

married, they were confined to domestic life (Lumpkin, 1990,p.168).

In ancient Sparta, education had the purpose of producing disciplined and obedient soldiers for their marching army (Donn & Donn ,2000). The focus of Spartan society was on conquering other lands and every aspect revolved around achieving this objective. To become superior Spartan soldiers,b oys underwent tremendous pain and hardship.They were separated from their families at the age of seven and subjected to a harsh lifestyle in soldiers' barracks (Estes ,1993,p.37).

Similarly,in Rome,Campus Martinus served as a place where fathers taught their sons physical skills necessary for manhood and military service(Estes ,1993,p .42). Boys learned activities such as running,jumping swimming,wrestling ,horsemanship boxing,fencing,and archery while emphasizing absolute obedience to commands(Mechikoff & Estes ,1993,p .43 ).In ancient Rome, physical education served two purposes: teaching boys military skills and promoting their overall health and fitness. The Romans considered these goals important and natural (Mechikoff & Estes, 1993, p.43). Conversely, women's physical training was viewed as unnecessary and purely for entertainment. Women participated in activities such as swimming, dancing, and ball toss games. Engaging in weight-training exercises was seen as fashionable for women (Mechikoff & Estes, 1993, p.45).

While the primary focus of physical education in ancient Rome was on military training, sport and competition became a form of entertainment for the masses. Unlike the Greeks who actively participated in festivals' events, the Romans mainly watched rather than took part (Estes, 1993, p.45). The Colosseum and the Circus Maximus were popular venues that offered large-scale entertainment in ancient Rome. These spectacles included fights and horse chariot races.

The public enjoyed watching these events where slaves, Christians, criminals, and political prisoners engaged in brutal competitions

that often ended in death – known as Roman gladiators. While free men willingly volunteered to participate in these games and were preferred by the Romans as spectators' favorites; slaves also provided entertaining performances.As gladiators, even lower-class free men gained admiration from wealthy Roman citizens (Estes et al., 1993).Criminals who committed serious crimes were compelled to participate in gladiatorial fights without weapons, while other criminals received formal training at private schools that specialized in teaching combat techniques. Unlike the gladiators in the arena, these trained individuals focused on disabling and capturing opponents rather than killing them quickly. They were allowed to choose their own weapons and armor, and if they survived three to five years of combat without dying, they would be granted their freedom. However, only a few managed to survive for that long.

While these festivals provided leisure time and relief from rigorous training, they did not have any educational purposes. In contrast to this, Athenian Greeks prioritized individual excellence over collective achievements (Lumpkin, 1990). The state held utmost importance in Sparta, where the affairs of the state outweighed those of the individual. Serving the state was the primary focus for Spartans.

On the other hand, ancient Romans viewed Greek athletics as too individualistic and instead emphasized "team unity" as a crucial aspect (Mechikoff & Estes, 1993, p.42). The Spartan city-state embodied dualism by separating mind and body; society could prioritize either one. However, Spartans placed emphasis on the body over the mind and aimed primarily at winning at any cost.Spartan boys were taught skills like cunning, deceit, theft, and evasion (Donn & Donn, 2000). In contrast, Athenians believed in the equality of both mind

and body and placed great emphasis on education in various fields including arts and sciences. They were trained to be highly productive during times of peace or war (Donn & Donn, 2000). Athenian boys attended day school from age 7 to 14 and continued their education for four more years in higher school. At age 18, they attended military school for an additional two years (Donn & Donn, 2000).

Although the Greeks and Romans had different perspectives on physical education, both cultures have had a lasting impact on this subject matter. The modern programs of physical education in the United States are mainly derived from European philosophies, activities, and developments (Lumpkin, 1990, p.165). The foundations for later physical education and sport programs can be attributed to the Greeks. However, the Romans developed their own system of physical training without borrowing from the Greeks when it came to military strategies (Mechikoff & Estes, 1993,p.42).

By examining the beliefs and practices of these historical periods we can observe commonalities between ancient civilizations and current philosophy and curricular practices.The Greek Ideal of the Athenians aligns with the movement approach, emphasizing holistic child development. Similarly, the movement approach and Athenian Greeks prioritize personal excellence and individual growth. This concept is prevalent in physical education courses at Bowling Green State University, where programs highlight integrating intellect and physicality through foundational human movement courses and activity/movement performance courses. In contrast, like Spartan society, many high schools prioritize physical ability over academic performance, allowing athletes with low grades to still participate in games. Universities also give preferential treatment to athletes through scholarships and special recognition. Americans still admire the god-like bodies of Athenians for

their physicality; men strive for muscular bodies while steroids and dietary supplements suggest increasing importance on physical form among adolescent boys. American women are idealized for their femininity reminiscent of Athena's divinity.The Romans, who considered sporting events and competitions as pure entertainment, may have influenced the current trend of using sports and competition for revenue generation and societal entertainment. The World Wrestling Federation, a popular sports league, is exclusively designed for entertaining purposes. Physical education has its origins in Athenians, Spartans, and Romans. The value and purpose of education change over time but also have a cyclical nature. Currently, our nation is preparing for a potential physical war that may result in an increased emphasis on physical education if men are required to fight. The value of physical education from ancient Greece and Rome continues to play a role in American society and schools.

References Donn, L., & The information provided in this text includes various sources about ancient Greece, physical education and sport, and the Roman gladiator.
The first source is an article titled "Daily life in ancient Greece" by Donn D. (2000), which can be found on the Donn Pages website (
The second source is a book called "Physical education and sport: A contemporary introduction" by Lumpkin, A. (1990), discussing physical education and sport published in St.Louis by Mosby.
The third source is a book called "A history and philosophy of sport and physical education" by Mechikoff R., & Estes S. (1993), published in Madison WI by Brown & Benchmark.The fourth source is a webpage titled "The roman gladiator" found on the Classics Technology Center website by AbleMedia (2000), which can be accessed at

Get an explanation on any task
Get unstuck with the help of our AI assistant in seconds