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date: 30 November 2020

ball gameslocked

  • Frederick Adam Wright
  •  and Antony Spawforth


Playing with a ball (σφαῖρα) was at least as old as *Homer (Od. 6. 100, 8. 370). It is shown in Athenian art, notably two late Archaic reliefs, one (Athens 3476) apparently showing a throw-in from the touch-line in a team game, the other (Athens 3477) what looks like a hockey match; a black-figure vase (London B182a) depicts ball-play by piggyback. Sparta was credited with the invention of ball-play (Ath. 1. 14); a Spartan wrote a lost work on the subject (Ath. 1. 15c), and the ephebes of imperial times fielded 14-strong teams of ball-players (sphaireis) in an annual tournament perhaps akin to American football (P. Cartledge and A. Spawforth, Hellenistic and Roman Sparta (1989), 205 ff.). In other Greek cities ball-play was not an important part of athletic training; the sphairistērion of the Hellenistic *gymnasium was probably a boxing-ring, not a ball-ground (so H.

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