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Ancient Greek History and Contemporary Social Science$
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Mirko Canevaro, Andrew Erskine, Benjamin Gray, and Josiah Ober

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474421775

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474421775.001.0001

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Cash and Crowns: A Network Approach to Greek Athletic Prizes

Cash and Crowns: A Network Approach to Greek Athletic Prizes

(p.293) 10 Cash and Crowns: A Network Approach to Greek Athletic Prizes
Ancient Greek History and Contemporary Social Science

Christian Mann

Edinburgh University Press

It is well known that Olympic victors received “only” an olive wreath – a fact that classified them as “amateurs” in the perspective of the modern Olympic movement. But the reality of ancient sports was far more complex: At many competitions, the victors’ awards were objects of value (amphorae filled with olive oil, weapons and other bronze objects, living animals) or cash. In some cases, victors were not allowed to do with the prize what they wanted to, but were obligated to dedicate it in a sanctuary, to sell it to the polis officials, to deliver it to a king etc. So what was the nature of athletic prizes? They have been analyzed as cult objects or in the context of gift exchange (according to Marcel Mauss). This chapter offers a new approach taking into account network theory and theories about the convertibility of capital: Athletic prizes – wreaths as well as value prizes – are considered as objects with both an economic and symbolic dimension. Their function was to construct and strengthen networks in the Greek world, while the structure of those networks changed according to political developments.

Keywords:   Actor-Network Theory, Greek athletics, prizes and competitions

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