David Stuttard


A gripping narrative set during the pivotal Greek Olympics of 416BC, Power Games: Ritual and Rivalry at the Ancient Greek Olympics reveals the political power struggles that lay behind the athletic contests of the ancient Games.

Power; the power of the gods; the power of Greek cities; the power of the human body: all these were celebrated at the ancient Greek Olympics. Every four years the strongest and fastest athletic champions would flock to Ancient Olympia hoping to win glory for their city-state. With themcame the ruling elite, equally intent on displaying their city’s power and prestige by excelling at the games.

This absorbing narrative, told from a spectator’s viewpoint, revolves around the Games of 416 BC – a turning point in Greek politics when a cold war between Athens and other cities was about to erupt into bloody fighting.

Featuring fresh translations of ancient sources, alongside vivid eye witness accounts and lively anecdotes, Power Games follows the real-time experience of attendees at this crucial event, showcasing the rituals, official banquets, victory celebrations and political parleys that took place amidst five days of astounding athletic achievement.

The competitors’ journeys to Olympia; the pomp and ceremony of swearing in; races and contests such as the brutal pankration; and the political aftermath of 416 BC are all explored in this intriguing tale of strength and weakness, honour and duplicity, victory and loss.

The text is richly illustrated throughout with atmospheric scenes from Olympia and cultural icons from the British Museum.

The British Museum Press

ISBN 978-0-7141-2272-4 First published 2012

Reviews include

Superbly structured and elegantly written, the book is a vehicle for Stuttard’s intimate feel for the fabric of the ancient world, with its customs, quirks, neuroses, and prejudices. He has, in particular, a profound understanding of the myths and rituals of Ancient Greece, and the book is an imaginative and vivid reconstruction. Stuttard’s account of the Olympics in their classical heyday has it all, and is to be warmly recommended. Current World Archaeology

This is thesingle best introduction to the ancient Olympics I've read. Tom Holland (author of Persian Fire, Rubicon etc)

... a vibrant re-creation of the lead-up to the games, followed by an account of the events, celebrations and banquets on each day of the festival. Stuttard’s writing is immensely readable and engaging. BBC History Magazine

David Stuttard inaugura un genere che in qualche modo sfugge alle definizioni. Parlare di romanzo storico sarebbe riduttivo: non renderebbe ragione dell’approccio filologico estremamente accurato, delle ricostruzioni storiche delineate alla perfezione, di una narrativa che non scivola mai nell’immaginario (se mai ipotizza il verosimile, alla maniera di qualsivoglia manuale scientifico). La conoscenza filologica degli eventi narrati incontra una capacità evocativa unica, che va ben oltre le attese del lettore accademico. Questo binomio, che si traduce in uno stile ricco, evocativo, senza rinunciare alla semplicità didascalica, rende la monografia uno strumento polivalente, in grado di abbracciare un target di fruitori decisamente ampio. I frequenti exempla tratti dalle fonti – sistematicamente citate in translation – e un copioso apparato fotografico contribuiscono ad alimentare la narrativa impressionistica degli eventi. Bryn Mawr Classical Review