The Ancient Greek Way Of Life: Competition And Honor
by Alex B.
“It’s not what you have, it’s how you do.” -Alex B., Olympic Gold Medalist (1989)
In the ancient world, competition was a major part of life. From sports to politics, there were always competitions to win or lose. There are many reasons why people competed, but they all had one thing in common; honor and respect for your fellow man.
Honor was something that everyone could relate to. You would compete against someone else for their respect and admiration. If you won, then you gained their respect and admiration. If you lost, well then you lost them completely! A person who didn’t show respect towards others would never gain any respect from anyone else either.
Competition was a good way to keep up with the rest of society because it kept people engaged in learning new things and improving themselves. Competition made people want to improve and learn more than they ever did before. It gave them purpose and motivation to do so.
So, if competition was such a positive force for society, why did it become frowned upon in the past?
The answer lies in the fact that there were rules that prevented people from cheating. People wanted to win at everything; even when it came to competing against each other.
When there weren’t any rules preventing cheating, then what happened?
Well, cheating became accepted as a normal part of competition. People wanted to win so much that they would resort to any means necessary. This caused society to become more violent than it was before and it took years for us to collectively realize this.
With the advent of the modern era, we decided to make rules for all types of competition. We made rules for things like sport, business, politics and everything else in between. Everyone had to follow these rules or else they would be punished. The problem with this is that people were still willing to cheat and risk punishment in order to win!
For example, take the story of Oedipus. He solved the riddle of the sphinx and was awarded the throne of Thebes as a reward. Later he found out that his mom, Jocasta, was also his wife. This caused him to go blind and put his own eyes out so he wouldn’t have to see what he had done. Well, this is an extreme case, but it goes to show how someone would cheat and not learn from their mistakes.
In any case, this kind of behavior is frowned upon in society nowadays.
It’s easy to say that competitions should have no rules or that people shouldn’t be punished for cheating, but it would cause greater problems than it would solve. Competing is still a great way to keep people active and engaged, but the reasons why have changed over time. We compete now to test our abilities against one another and to see what we’re made of. Whether you win or lose doesn’t matter as much as how you play the game because that’s what makes you a man (or woman!)
So next time you compete against someone, keep this in mind.
A Good Example
Today, I got into a fist fight with this guy in my class. He was tough and managed to give me a black eye. I didn’t know how I was going to get him back, but then I remembered what you said last time we spoke.
“All challenges are not fair. If your enemy is bigger than you, you have to find another way to defeat him. Strategy is key and sometimes you have to look underneath the underneath.”
I realized that in order to beat this guy, I’d have to get him when he wasn’t aware. He was so big that he probably couldn’t see what was going on at his feet! My first idea was to find something sticky and cover his shoes with it. I could sneak up on him and cause him to fall, but then I realized that this wasn’t a good idea. Even if it worked, he could still run after me and I’d be defeated.
I thought about what else was at his feet. If he didn’t watch where he was going, he could trip on just about anything. I just needed to find the right thing…
I snuck into the classroom and grabbed one of the larger charts hanging from the wall. I brought it back to the hallway and ripped it into several strips.
Then I unraveled his sneaker laces and tied them together.
After that, I tied the strips of paper to his shoe strings.
I was just finishing up my plan when he walked out the classroom door. When he stepped forward, his foot got caught on one of the strings. He tried to pull it out, but he only managed to step on another one. He immediately fell forward and hit his face on the wall.
I ran up to him and put my fist in his face a few times. He didn’t even fight back because he was too busy trying to get his foot out. I looked down at him as the teacher and everyone else from the class came out.
“That’ll show you to mess with me!” I said and walked away.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so good about a fight before…
I hope you’re proud of me, Dad.
Next Chapter – More competitions
I’ve been writing to you for quite some time now, and I’m not sure if you’ve received any of my letters. It doesn’t matter though, since I’m doing it for my own well-being. You always told me that keeping everything inside would only hurt me in the long-run, and I never understood what you meant until recently.
I’ve been keeping a lot of things inside and I’m not sure if it’s healthy. I don’t know where you are, what you’re doing or even how you’re doing.
Are you safe? Are you happy?
Right now, all those things are unknowns to me and it’s really starting to get to me. I need to know.
I know that you’re the one who always told me to focus on myself and not worry about others, but this is different. You’re all I have left, and I don’t even have a photograph of you to remember what you look like. The only thing I know about you is your name, and that’s only because I found an old letter you wrote to Mom before she passed away. (R.I.P)
What if something were to happen to you? Am I just supposed to forget everything about you? How am I supposed to move on if I can’t even do that?
In any case, my point is I want to find you. I don’t know where to look though. I’ve thought of asking the Captain for a transfer to a higher-ranking military base, but something tells me you wouldn’t be stationed there. You must be out in the field, fighting and killing the enemies of Mother Earth. I don’t think I’d be able to reach you if you’re in the middle of a war zone.
Maybe I’m just over-thinking this and should just try looking on my own. It’s not like the government is going to just tell me what you really do, they cover everything up with phony stories about the “defenders of truth and justice”. I shouldn’t rely on their help anyway, I should do this myself.
I’m going to go on a search for you, and nothing is going to stop me this time!
P.S. A girl in my class asked me to theSpring Dance. I don’t know if I should go or not. I barely know her, but more than that…I really don’t have any experience with girls.
Maybe you had Mom when you were young too?
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Sources & references used in this article:
Sacred and Obscene Laughter in” The Contendings of Horus and Seth,” in Egyptian Inversions of Everyday Life, and in the Context of Cultic Competition by EF Morris – 2007 – academiccommons.columbia.edu
Sanctuaries and the sacred in the ancient Greek world by J Pedley – 2005 – books.google.com
Religions of the ancient Greeks by SRF Price, S Price – 1999 – books.google.com
The sacred and the feminine in ancient Greece by S Blundell, M Williamson, M Williamson – 1998 – books.google.com