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Greek Guide to Greatness – Episode 5: Athletics

The Greeks lived to compete, and while a competitive spirit pushed them to greater heights it also pulled them together. Athletics in Ancient Greece were about much more than individual achievement. They saw that greater communities and a stronger sense of identity could be forged around athletic contests. In 776 BC, the Greek world united around the first Olympic Games, and similar festivals throughout Greece became so important, city-states at war would enact temporary truces in order to attend. Today, the modern Olympic Games brings nations together and spreads a message of peace, but could the Games somehow play a role in conflict resolution? Scientists have found positive psychological correlations between fighting in war and competing in combative sports. Could more organized conflict through sport lead to less conflict through war?


The National Hellenic Society is an association of visionary Greek American leaders dedicated to celebrating, preserving, and promoting Greece’ s rich heritage with an emphasis on the next generation. The organization’s innovative programs are designed to engage, and inspire its members, families, and communities.

National Geographic and the National Hellenic Society have produced a companion digital series, The Greek Guide to Greatness, that’s available on the PBS and National Geographic websites in addition to below.


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