Colgate University

First-Year Course Offerings — Fall 2022

FSEM 154   Sports and Spectacles in Ancient Greece and Rome
RestrictionsNo 2025 2024 2023
DistributionHuman Thought and Expression
Core AreaNone

Faculty Profile for Professor Benson

The Olympic Games, gladiators, chariot racing: the sports and spectacles of ancient Greece and Rome still loom large in the modern imagination. The summer and winter Olympic and Paralympic games, for example, are staged in major cities every four years, and NFL football players are routinely called “modern-day gladiators” and compete in annual Super Bowls designated by Roman Numerals. Why are we fascinated by ancient sports and spectacles? And why do people across the globe spend so much time playing, watching, and enjoying sports? Without a doubt, billions of eyes will be glued to television screens in November and December for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. To answer these questions, students explore how sports and spectacles were practiced, experienced, developed, and diffused in the Greco-Roman World, from the legendary foundation of the Olympic Games in 776 BCE to the violent spectacles of the Roman Empire. Students also compare the role of sports in Classical Antiquity to the position they now occupy in contemporary society, with special focus on the revival of the Olympic Games in 1896 and the rise of televised team sports in the 20th century. Students who successfully complete this seminar will earn credit for CLAS 223 and satisfy one half of the human thought and expression areas of inquiry requirement.

Geoffrey Benson is Associate Professor in the Department of the Classics, but he is also a diehard Chicago Cubs fan. He's thrilled to be teaching an FSEM about two of the subjects that he loves learning about the most -- the ancient Mediterranean world and the global history of sport. Professor Benson also enjoys teaching Latin and Greek, and he recommends a year of Latin or Greek (or both) for all!