Ancient Greek word meaning a contest -- an agon -- either in war or in sport.

And which thus well illustrates the Greek philosopher Heracleitus' idea that "Strife is the Father of Everything."

As classicist Eric Segal points out:

[T]o some historians -- notably the Swiss Jakob Burkhardt (1818 - 1897) -- this "agonal drive" was the key to understanding an entire mentality. In his unequivocal words, "All Greek life was animated by this principle."

As Segal says, then, athlos "could mean a contest taking place in a stadium or on a battlefield."

While an "athletes" could be a prize-fighter, a boxer, or a combatant; and only latterly, an athlete, or a champion.

So the ancient Greek word from which we derive our words for athletics and athlete refers first and foremost, in Greek, to Fighting and Combat.

There are many words in Greek like athlos:

See also

Agogé; Agon; Areté; Natural masculinity; and Natural male sex aggression.

© Copyright 2013 by Bill Weintraub.
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