As one might imagine from the title of the book, I discovered that early Olympians competed in the nude. Much of the salacious information in the book has been carefully researched and conveyed thanks to what remains of ancient texts and artifacts. I was surprised to read that use of the Olympic torch first came about during the Berlin games in 1936 in Nazi occupied Germany. What irony this was as early Olympic tradition called for cease-fires throughout the land during the course of the Olympic games. Much like today, winning athletes became legendary heroes. Some unfortunate athletes competed in violent matches to their deaths.
I particularly liked this quote from the text:
What was the secret of the Games’ longevity? What kept the hordes coming back, generation after generation? It was a question the Athenian philosopher and avid sports buff Epictetus pondered late in the first century. He argued that the Olympics were a metaphor for human existence itself. Every day was filled with difficulties and tribulations: unbearable heat, pushy crowds, grime, noise, and endless petty annoyances. “But of course ou put up with it all,” he said, because it’s an unforgettable spectacle.”
Thanks to this interesting history, I learned not only about the games, but about ancient Greece and its culture as well. It was enlightening.