Sports Philosophy from Ancient Times Essay


There is no doubt that athletics was considered to be an integral part in the education, science, mentality, and values of the Ancient Greeks preparing “…their bodies and minds for war” (Demirel & Yıldıranp, 2013, 191) and providing physical training for health. 

The Greeks believed that physical and mental activities were both important when it comes to proper training and healthy eating. In turn, training itself was a civic and compulsive duty, rather than a lifestyle choice.

Key words: Ancient Greeks, physical and mental activities, athletics.

It was of great importance that the people of the Hellenistic cities lived in much more comfortable conditions than their ancestors. This created new opportunities, although there was a problem and increasing free time among young people. This contributed to the fact that the agonistic system (i.e. multifaceted physical training) was based on regular training of young people, athletic contests, a network of stadiums and centers. The principle of competition played the most important role because all the major policy cities competed with each other and sought to become famous for their achievements. If the wars separated the Greeks, then sport and competition united them. Only free people were allowed to participate in the games. The athlete trained for ten months, maintaining a special regime. The judges gave him a test exam before being allowed to compete. In addition to the fact that they were supposed to have a clear conscience and be at peace with people and gods, they also needed funds for playing sports.

Initially, athletes threw a disc and competed only in one form of running. Then the program of games became more diverse: the number of running distances increased, the pentathlon arose, wrestling, fist fighting, horse racing, chariot race appeared, etc. At first, the games lasted a day, then five days. It was understandable peace competitions are much more interesting and exciting than wars. Of course, the antagonist policies (Sparta and Athens) had their own principles in the physical training of the younger generation, but their goals were similar – everyone would like to have healthy citizens, skilled brave warriors who “…were seen as special people in the period when feasts were made for the purpose of worshipping gods” (Demirel & Yıldıranp, 2013, 192). Physical exercise (gymnastics, running, swimming, wrestling) became an indispensable means of training and education. However, the conditions for the development and upbringing of the young men in Sparta were more severe. Extremely healthy and strong people were subject to education and training. It was not accepted to swaddle children so that they could harden better and faster. At the age of seven, Sparta’s children were taken away from their parents and, divided into groups, handed over to state educators. Slaves were not responsible for their upbringing, but only adults, including the ruling elite.

In addition, it is possible to add that people who could not write or swim in ancient times were considered to be physical and mental cripples. Physical culture in the polis reached such a high level that no nation could approach it since “athletics were an integral part of Greek society” (Young, 2004, p. 19). There were many stadiums, special educational institutions where young people were taught to be courage and endurance. The victory at the Olympic Games was a subject of particular joy and considerable pride not only for the winner, but also for his surroundings, family and loved ones.

Talking about similarities between the way Greek athletes trained thousands of years ago and the way athletes train today, it is possible to note that attitudes towards training and competition are quiet similar between ancient and modern athletes. In turn, both ancient and modern athletes strive to demonstrate self-confidence and self-excellence in order to emancipate from human emotions. Modern athletes try to adhere to the same techniques by structuring their workouts in similar ways. This means that these workouts would “convert” the athletes’ bodies into the proper shape and condition. Hence, training itself “can be measured in terms of distance (e.g., yearly cycling or running kilometers) or time (annual training hours)” (Seiler, 2010, p. 277) to succeed in doing physical exercise. However, modern workouts are more diverse and innovative, but they possess the same basic applications and guidelines.

Thus, taking the above-mentioned information into consideration, it is possible to draw a conclusion that the state of society directly depends not only on the material situation and economic base, but also on its physical health and state of mind. The smarter and richer (including morally, intellectually) this or that system, this or that power, the more willingly it spends money, effort, resources, time to go in for sports — mass and varied ones. And on the contrary, the poorer and more useless its life, the more vulgar, more primitive social goals and ideals, the deeper the social contradictions between the poor and the rich part of the population, the more primitive its culture and the less chance a society has for a healthy life. The Olympic Games in antiquity were an indicator of the courage and health of those countries that sent their representatives to the games. The Olympic Games today are the most important litmus test, reflecting the public philosophy of elites and peoples. All in all, modern athletes try to adhere to the same techniques when it comes to self-confidence and self-excellence, proper shape and condition, and structuring their workouts.


Demirel, D.H., & Yıldıran, I. (2013). The Philosophy of Physical Education and Sport from Ancient Times to the Enlightenment. European Journal of Educational Research, 2(4), 191-202.

Seiler, S. (2010). What is Best Practice for Training Intensity and Duration Distribution in Endurance Athletes?. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 5(3), 276-291.

Young, D.C. (2004). A Brief History of the Olympic Games. Malden: Blackwell Publishing.

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

[Accessed: February 4, 2023]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016.

[Accessed: February 4, 2023] (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
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[Accessed: February 4, 2023]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: February 4, 2023]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: February 4, 2023]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: February 4, 2023]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: February 4, 2023]
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