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II. But the most splendid and renowned solemnities, which antient history has transmitted to us, were the Olympic Games. Historians, orators, and poets, abound with references to them, and their sublimest imagery is borrowed from these celebrated exercises. "These games were solemnised every fifth year by an infinite concourse of people from almost all parts of the world. They were celebrated with the greatest pomp and magnificence: hecatombs of victims were slain in honour of the immortal gods: and Elis was a scene of universal festivity and joy. There were other public games instituted, as the Pythian, Nemean, Isthmian; which could also boast of the valour and dexterity of their combatants, and show a splendid list of illustrious names, who had, from time to time, honoured them with their presence. But the lustre of these, though maintained for a series of years, was obscured, and almost totally eclipsed, by the Olympic. We find that the most formidable and opulent sovereigns of those times were competitors for the Olympic crown. We see the kings of Macedon, the tyrants of Sicily, the princes of Asia Minor, and at last the lords of imperial Rome, and emperors of the world, incited by a love of glory, the last infirmity of noble minds, enter their names among the candidates, and contend for the envied palm;-judging their felicity completed, and the career of all human glory and greatness happily terminated, if they could but interweave the Olympic garland with the laurels they had purchased in fields of blood. The various games, which the Romans celebrated in their capital and in the principal cities and towns of Italy, with such splendour, ostentation, and expense, seem to have been instituted in imitation of the Grecian; though these were greatly inferior in point of real merit and intrinsic glory; for though the Romans had the gymnastic exercises of the stadium and the chariot race, yet the mutual slaughter of such numbers of gladiators, the combats with lions, bears, and tigers, though congenial to the sanguinary ferocity and brutality of these people, for no public entertainment could be made agreeable without these scenes, must present spectacles to the last degree shocking to humanity; for every crown here won, was dipt in blood.

1 Josephus De Bello Jud. lib. i. cap. 21. § 12. ed. Havercamp. Arriani Epicte tus, lib. iii. p. 456. edit. Upton. 1741.

2 Philip. Eadem quoque die nuntium pater ejus [Philippus] duarum victoriarum accepit: alterius, belli Illyrici, alterius, certaminis Olympici, in quod quadrigarum currus miserat. Justin. lib. xii. cap. xvi. p. 359. edit. Gronov. 1719. Cui Alexandro tanta omnium virtutum naturâ ornamenta exstitere, ut etiam Olympio certamine vario ludicrorum genere contenderit. Justin. lib. vii. cap. ii. p.


3 Hiero king of Syracuse. See Pindar's first Olympic ode: his first Pythian ode. Theron king of Agrigentum. See the second and third Olympic odes.

4 Nero. See Dion Cassius, tom. ii. pp. 1032, 1033. 1066. edit. Reimar. Aurigavit [Nero] plurifariam, Olympiis etiam decemjugem. Suetonius in Vita Neronis. p. 605. edit. Var. Lug. Bat. 1662.

5 Sunt quos curriculo pulverem Olympicum

Collegisse, juvat: metaque fervidis

Evitata rotis, palmaque nobilis

Terrarum dominos evehit ad Deos.-Horat. lib. i. ode i.

1. "The Olympic exercises principally consisted in running, wrestling, and the chariot-race; for leaping, throwing the dart, and discus, were parts of what they called the Pentathlon. The candidates were to be freemen, and persons of unexceptionable morals. A defect in legitimacy or in personal character totally disqualified them. It was indispensably necessary for them previously to submit to a severe regimen. At their own homes they prescribed themselves a particular course of diet; and the laws required them, when they had given in their names to be enrolled in the list of competitors, to resort to Elis, and reside there thirty3 days before the games commenced; where their regimen and preparatory exercises were regulated and directed by a number of illustrious persons, who were appointed every day to superintend them. This form of diet they authoritatively prescribed, and religiously inspected, that the combatants might acquit themselves in the conflict in a manner worthy the Grecian name, worthy the solemnity of the occasion, and worthy those crowds of illustrious spectators by whom they would be surrounded. There are many passages in the Greek and Roman classics which make mention of that extreme strictness, temperance, and continence which the candidates were obliged to observe.

Qui studet optatam cursu contingere metam,
Multa tulit fecitque puer; sudavit et alsit:
Abstinuit venere et vino.-Hor. Art. Poet. ver. 412.

A youth, who hopes th' Olympic prize to gain,
All arts must try, and every toil sustain;

Th' extremes of heat and cold must often prove,

And shun the weak'ning joys of wine and love.-FRANCIS.

The following is a very distinguished passage in Arrian's discourses of Epictetus, which both represents to the reader the severity of this regimen and the arduous nature of the subsequent contention. "Do you wish to conquer at the Olympic games-But consider what precedes and follows, and then if it be for your advantage, engage in the affair. You must conform to rules; submit to a diet, refrain from dainties, exercise your body whether you choose it or not, in a stated hour, in heat, and in cold; you must drink no cold water, nor sometimes even wine. In a word you must give yourself up to your master, as to a physician. Then, in the combat, you may be thrown into a ditch, dislocate your arm, turn your ankle, swallow abundance of dust, be whipped, and, after all, lose the victory. When you have reckoned up all this, if your inclination still holds, set about the combat."5

1 The candidates were obliged to undergo an examination of another kind, consisting of the following interrogatories: 1. Were they freemen? 2. Were they Grecians? 3. Were their characters clear from all infamous and immoral stains? West's Dissertation on the Olympic Games, p. 152. edit. 12mo.

2 Arriani Epictetus, lib. iii. p. 456. Upton.

3 Philostratus, de Vitâ Apollonii. lib. v. cap. xliii. p. 227. edit. Olearii. Lipsia,


4 Epictetus, lib. iii. c. 15. See also Epicteti Enchiridion. cap. xxix. p. 710. edit. Upton.

5 Mrs. Carter's Translation of Arrian, pp. 268, 269. London, 1758. 4to.

2. "After this preparatory discipline, on the day appointed for the celebration, an herald called over their names, recited to them the laws of the games, encouraged them to exert all their powers, and expatiated upon the blessings and advantages of victory. He then introduced the competitors into the stadium, led them around it, and, with a loud voice, demanded if any one in that assembly could charge any of the candidates with being infamous in his life and morals, could prove him a slave, a robber, or illegitimate. They were then conducted to the altar, and a solemn oath exacted from them, that they would observe the strictest honour in the contention. Afterward, those who were to engage in the foot-race were brought to the barrier, along which they were arranged, and waited, in all the excesses of ardour and impatience, for the signal. The cord being dropped, they all at once sprung forward, fired with the love of glory, conscious that the eyes of all-assembled Greece were now upon them, and that the envied palm, if they won it, would secure them the highest honours and immortalise their memory. It is natural to imagine with what rapidity they would urge their course, and emulous of glory, stretch every nerve to reach the goal. This is beautifully represented in the following elegant epigram (translated by Mr. West) on Arias of Tarsus, victor in the stadium.

The speed of Arias, victor in the race,
Brings to thy founder, Tarsus, no disgrace:
For, able in the course with him to vie,
Like him, he seems on feather'd feet to fly.
The barrier when he quits, the dazzled sight
In vain essays to catch him in his flight.
Lost is the racer through the whole career,
Till victor at the goal he re-appear.

In all these athletic exercises the combatants contended naked ;3 for though, at first, they wore a scarf round the waist, yet an unfortu nate casualty once happening, when this disengaging itself, and entangling round the feet, threw the person down, and proved the unhappy occasion of his losing the victory, it was, after this accident, adjudged to be laid aside.4

3. "Chaplets composed of the sprigs of a wild olive, and branches of palm, were publicly placed on a tripod in the middle

I See West's Dissertation on the Olympic Games, p. 154. 12mo.


signoque repente

Corripiunt spatia audito, limenque relinquunt

Effusi, nimbo similes: simul ultima signant.-Virgil. Æneid. v. ver. 315.

3 Thucydides, lib. i. § vi. tom. i. pp. 16, 17. ed. Glasg.

4 In the xivth Olympiad, one Orsippas, a racer, happened to be thrown down by his scarf tangling about his feet, and was killed; though others say, that he only lost the victory by that fall; but which ever way it was, occasion was taken from thence to make a law, that all the athletes for the future should contend naked. West's Dissertation, p. 66. 12mo.

5 Το γέρας εστιν ουκ αργυρος, ουδε χρυσος, ου μην ουδε κοτινο» στέφανος η σελινου. Josephus contra Apion, lib. ii. § 30. p. 488. Havercamp. Strabo, in his geographical description of the Elian territories, mentions a grove of wild olive. Eort d'algos ayoiɛdalwv minors. Strabo, lib. viii. p. 343. edit. Paris, 1620. Probably from this grove the Olympic crowns were composed.

of the stadium,1 full in the view of the competitors, to inflame them. with all the ardour of contention, and all the spirit of the most generous emulation. Near the goal was erected a tribunal, on which sat the presidents of the games, called Hellanodics, personages venerable for their years and characters, who were the sovereign arbiters and judges of these arduous contentions, the impartial witnesses of the respective merit and pretensions of each combatant, and with the strictest justice conferred the crown.

4. "It is pleasing and instructive to observe, how the several particulars here specified concerning these celebrated solemnities, which were held in the highest renown and glory in the days of the apostles, explain and illustrate various passages in their writings, the beauty, energy, and sublimity of which consist in the metaphorical allusions to these games, from the various gymnastic exercises of which their elegant and expressive imagery is borrowed. Thus the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, (an epistle which, in point of composition, may vie with the most pure and elaborate of the Greek classics,) says: Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us; looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the majesty on high. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest you be wearied and faint in your minds. Wherefore lift up the hands that hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way. (Heb. xii. 1-3. 12, 13.) In allusion to that prodigious assembly, from all parts of the world, which was convened at Olympia to be spectators of those celebrated games, the apostle places the Christian combatant in the midst of a most august and magnificent theatre, composed of all those great and illustrious characters, whom in the preceding chapter he had enumerated, the fancied presence of whom should fire him with a virtuous ambition, and animate him with unconquered ardour to run the race that was set before him. Wherefore seeing we are compassed about with such a cloud of witnesses whose eyes are upon us, who expect every thing from the preparatory discipline we have received, and who long to applaud and congratulate us upon our victory; let us lay

1 To excite the emulation of the competitors, by placing in their view the object of their ambition, these crowns were laid upon a tripod or table, which during the games was brought out and placed in the middle of the stadium. West's Dissertation, p. 174. 12mo.

2 Not merely the inhabitants of Athens, of Lacedæmon, and of Nicopolis, but the inhabitants of the whole world are convened to be spectators of the Olympic exercises. Arrianis Epictetus, lib. iii. p. 456. Upton.

3 Νεφος μαρτυρων. A cloud of witnesses. This form of expression occurs in the politest writers. See Iliad, x. 133. Æneid. vii. 793. Andron. Rhodii Argonauti. con, iv. 398. Appian, Pisc. i. 463. and Euripidis Hecuba, ver. 907.



aside every weight and the sin that doth so easily beset us; let us throw off every impediment, as the competitors for the Olympic crown did, and that sin that would entangle and impede our steps, and prove the fatal cause of our losing the victory; and let us run with patience the race set before us like those, who ran in the Grecian stadium, let us, inflamed with the idea of glory, honour, and immortality, urge our course with unremitting ardour toward the destined happy goal for the prize of our high calling in God our Saviour, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith: as the candidates for the Olympic honours, during the arduous contention had in view those illustrious and venerable personages from whose hands they were to receive the envied palm, and who were immediate witnesses of their respective conduct and merit; in imitation of them, let us Christians keep our eyes steadfastly fixed upon Jesus the original introducer and perfecter of our religion, who, if we are victorious, will rejoice to adorn our temples with a crown of glory that will never fade; Who, for the joy set before him,3 endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now set down at the right hand of God: Jesus himself, to seize the glorious palm which his God and Father placed full in his view in order to inspirit him with ardour and alacrity in the race he had set before him, cheerfully submitted to sorrows and sufferings, endured the cross, contemning the infamy of such a death, and, in consequence of perseverance and victory, is now exalted to the highest honours, and placed on the right hand of the Supreme Majesty. For, consider him that endureth such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds consider him who conflicted with such opposition of wicked men all confederated against him, and let reflections on his fortitude prevent your being languid and dispirited; therefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees. And make strait paths for your feet, lest that which is lame


· Όγκον αποθέμενοι παντα. A stadio sumpta similitudo: ibi qui cursuri sunt, omnia que oneri esse possunt, deponunt. Grot. in loc. Monet ut oyxov abjiciamus, que vocabulo crassa omnis et tarda molis significatur. Beza. 2 EUTEρICTATOV. Entangled by wrapping round. An allusion to the garments of the Greeks which were long, and would entangle and impede their steps, if not thrown off in the race. See Hallet in loc.

3 Προκειμενης αυτω χώρας. The joy placed full in his view. In the Olympic exercises the prize was publicly placed in the view of the combatants to fire their emulation. The following note of Krebsius is very elegant. Elegantissima metaphora est vocis poкcipevns, e veterum certaminum ratione ducta. Proprie enim poxio Sai dicuntur ra ada, sc. præmia certaminis, quæ publicè proponuntur in propatulo, ut eorum aspectus, certaque eorum adipiscendorum spes, certaturos alacriores redderet ad certamen ineundum, victoriamque reportandam. J. Tob. Krebsii Observat. in N. T. e Joseph. p. 377. Lips. 1755. 8vo.

4 Ίνα μη κάμητε, ταις ψυχαις ύμων ἐκλυομενοι. Hæc duo verba a palestra et ah athletis desumpta sunt, qui proprie dicuntur kapveiv et uxais exλveodai, cum corporis viribus debilitati et fracti, omnique spe vincendi, abjectà vietas manus dant adversario Neque dubium est quin Apostolus eo respexerit. Krebsius, p. 390.


5 Διο τας παρειμένας χείρας και τα παραλελυμένα γονατα ανορθωσατε. * Quemadmodum Paulus sæpissime delectatur loquendi formulis ex re palestricâ petitis; ita dubium non est, quin hic quoque respexisse eo videatur. Athletis enim et luctatoribus tribuuntur παρειμέναι χειρες et παραλελυμένα γονατα, cum luctando ita defatigati, viribusque fracti sunt, ut neque manus neque pedes officio suo fungi possint, ipsique adeo victos se esse fateri cogantur. Ibid. p. 392.

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