THE NAKED OLYMPICS: The True Story of the Ancient Games

Tony Perrottet, Author . Random $12.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8129-6991-7

Combining a wealth of vivid details with a knack for narrative pacing and subtle humor, Perrottet (Pagan Holiday ) renders a striking portrayal of the Greek Olympics and their role in the ancient world. While our modern games certainly pay homage to the Greek festival that was held uninterrupted for more than 1,200 years, the book's title refers to the most pronounced difference between the two: Ancient athletes competed in the nude, adorned only with olive oil. While Perrottet also outlines events ranging from the merciless chariot races to the pankration—a sort of early predecessor of ultimate fighting in which strangulation was seen as the surest means of attaining victory—he also puts the games in their heavy religious context and gives readers a strong sense of what they were like from a spectator's point of view. That they were cramped, hot and dizzyingly unsanitary apparently did little to dissuade throngs of people from the often treacherous journey to Olympia to catch glimpses of their heroes. And their experiences provided by Perrottet are what separate this book from staid history. His goal, he writes at the outset, is "to create the ancient games in their sprawling, human entirety," so readers are treated not only to a thorough picture of the games' proceedings but also to glimpses of the shameless bacchanalia, numerous (and often lascivious) entertainments and even corruption that accompanied them. It's an entertaining, edifying account that puts a human face on one of humanity's most remarkable spectacles. Agent, Elizabeth Sheinkman. (June)

Reviewed on: 04/12/2004
Release date: 06/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 222 pages - 978-1-58836-382-4
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