Ancient Greece was full of wonders, but none quite compared to the Olympic Games: They were the most dazzling recurring event in the pagan world, an all- consuming blend of religion and athletics, where the gods themselves took as much interest in the sports results as mortals. Held without interruption for over 1200 years, they still rank as the most alluring festival in Western history. And yet, despite the modern Olympic revival, our understanding of the ancient Greek Games is mired in sentimentality and myth. THE NAKED OLYMPICS approaches the festival day by day, to recreate for the first time the actual experience of visiting the ultimate sporting extravaganza- from the point of view of the ancient spectators who flocked there generation after generation, the beleaguered event organizers in the religious sanctuary of Olympia, and the famous Greek athletes themselves, who competed entirely unadorned in an echo of ancient initiation rites. By piecing together eyewitness accounts (including such little- known gems as the third century AD training manual, Handbook for a Sports Coach), the original Olympics emerge as a fascinating mix of the familiar and the wildly exotic. Ancient sports fans endured chaotic conditions reminiscent of a badly planned rock concert today, camping out under the stars and battling crowds, summer heat waves, water shortages and dehydration. Athletes faced off in such distinctive Greek events as the hoplitodromia, a sprint in full armor, and the pankration, a lethal, no- holds- barred brawl. Off the field, a round-t he- clock bacchanal included everything from raucous banquets and teams of traveling prostitutes to spectacular sacrifices to the presiding god Zeus. And by digging beneath the one- dimensional image of the Greeks, we find the first Games trapped in a more realistic mire of corruption scandals, political interference and rampant commercialism. Along the way, THE NAKED OLYMPICS explores ancient 'gym culture'(including Plato's tips on good pick- up lines to use in the changing rooms), explains the ups and downs of a Greek work- out, visits prototype sports bars where fans could sip wine sold from the back of wagons, and presents athletics coaches who demanded that wrestlers accept death before defeat. Mixing hilarious anecdotes with vivid human details, this hugely original book brings Western civilization's most influential festival back to unforgettable life. Contains 28 illustrations and one double page spread of Olympia.
"A vivid evocation of the blood and guts, not to mention sheer guts, that marked the original Olympic Games more than two thousand years ago. Tony Perrottet tells the gripping story of a festival of physical attainment during which athletes risked and sometimes lost their lives. Today's champions have it easy." --Anthony Everitt, author of Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician
"This is the book to read if you want to know what it felt like to be a spectator or a contestant at the ancient Olympic Games. Perrottet brings the scene to life in all its pageantry and squalor, with its beautiful bodies, rotting meat, flies, and broiling heat. Then, as now, the Games brought out the best and the worst of human potential, and blood, sweat, tears, sex, and money were all part of the Olympic experience, along with religion, bribery and politics.
--Mary Lefkowitz, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Wellesley College and author of Greek Gods, Human Lives: What We Can Learn from Myths
"This lively account of the classical Olympics portrays them as "the Woodstock of antiquity," and claims that the Games, while taken seriously, were also where Greeks gathered for a five-day debauch. A prostitute could earn a year's wages in the course of the tournament, Thessalonian peddlers sold love potions made from horse's sweat and minced lizard, and pentathletes competed to the accompaniment of flutes, perhaps the ancient equivalent of stadium rock. The festival offered beauty pageants and Homer-recitation contests, numerologists and fire-swallowers, and such culinary delicacies as roasted sow's womb. Athletic events also fuelled a thriving pickup scene: a message etched into the wall of a stadium at Nemea reads, "Look up Moschos in Philippi - he's cute."
--The New Yorker
"Erudite, colorful and frequently hilarious, Perrottet's The Naked Olympics is a marvelous resource for athletes, spectators, and scholars alike. I will never watch the Olympic games in quite the same way again."
--Michael Curtis Ford, author of The Ten Thousand and The Last King
"I considered myself a pretty solid researcher on ancient Greece, till Tony Perrottet's The Naked Olympics blew me out of the water. I never knew (just two among hundreds of delicious factoids) that there was no separate event for discus and javelin -- they were part of the pentathlon -- or that the chariot race ran 24 laps and took fifteen hair-raising minutes. (Not to mention the distinction between various attendant types of groupies, courtesans, and pornai.) Mr. Perrottet's vivid cinematic prose not only delivers encyclopedic intelligence of the ancient games but spirits you back in time with such immediacy that you can smell the sweat and feel the hot Greek sun. If you're gonna be glued to the modern Athens Games like I will, you must read The Naked Olympics. No other book communicates with such authenticity ' where it all came from, ' back in the days when you didn't need wardrobe malfunctions to get naked."
--Steven Pressfield, author of Gates of Fire, Tides of War, and Last of the Amazons
"The Naked Olympics presents the Greeks in all their glory, brutality, and vulgarity. It is a fascinating picture and popular history at its best."
--Norman Cantor, Professor Emeritus, New York University, and author of Antiquity: The Civilization of the Ancient World
" Fans of Tony Perrottet's Pagan Holiday (aka Route 66 AD) will kill to read his follow-up The Naked Olympics. A seasoned traveller, Perrottet follows all the highways and byways of ancient Olympic lore. He really makes you feel what it was like to be at the ancient Olympics, conjuring up the sights, sounds and smells (especially the smells) of the Games with a sure and vivid touch. The Naked Olympics would be just the thing to cover your nakedness as you watch the 2004 Athens Olympics or go to visit the ancient site of Olympia - figleaves need not apply. "
--Paul Cartledge, Professor of Classics, Cambridge University, and author of The Spartans
"Short of building your own time machine, reading Tony Perrottet's The Naked Olympics will be the closest you'll come to experiencing the blood, sweat, glory, and greed that were the ancient Olympic Games. And if you do somehow happen upon a time machine, you'd still be wise to trust Tony Perrottet as your guide. Steeped in scholarship, leavened by humor, and lighted by the same flames of history and love of sport that illuminated the works of Homer, Lucian, Herodotus, Thucydides, Pausanias and Dio the Golden-Tongued, Perrottet's The Naked Olympics: The True Story of the Ancient Games is one of those rare books that you'll be citing for years to come."
--Dan Simmons, author of Ilium
"It was the Woodstock of antiquity: a five-day spectacle of heroic performance and after-hours debauchery dedicated to the Greek gods and held every fourth year at the rural religious sanctuary of Olympia. There were no team sports in the first Olympics, no torch marathon - that staple of the modern games was the brainchild of Adolf Hitler - and there was certainly no spandex. The original Olympics, travel writer Tony Perrottet tells us in this fun, light-hearted primer on the Greek competition that began it all, competed buck naked. Except, that is, for a generous coating of olive oil. ('Boy rubbers' were on hand to massage the oil in.) Wrestling, sprinting, boxing and chariot racing were the center-ring events of the competition, which ran uninterrupted and largely unaltered for 1,200 years, beginning in 776 B.C. Released to coincide with this summer's Athens games, The Naked Olympics is an engaging history lesson on an event that has apparently always been as much about pomp and politics as it has about superhuman strength."
---National Geographic Adventure