Marianna Koromila was born in Athens in 1949 and began her radio career in 1966. She later worked as a tour guide while also succeeding in completing studies in history and philosophy in Paris. She returned to work with the radio in 1975 and since then has produced more than 2000 radio shows on historical matters. She has traveled extensively in the Middle East, Turkey, the Black Sea, and the Balkans, and has collaborated with numerous Greek and international publishers and TV channels. In 1991 she was awarded a prize by the Academy of Athens for her book The Greeks of the Black Sea (second edition 2002). She was also a key inspirer behind the establishment of the Panorama cultural society in Athens. Since 1985 she has worked tirelessly in the sphere of education, giving lectures, holding seminars, leading tours, running children's programs and many other kinds of event related to history, culture and the environment.
 
MARIANNA KOROMILA

IN THE STADIUM
ESSAY (160 pages, 23X16.5 cm.)
 

Marianna Koromila's latest book takes a different route to the usual publications associated with the Olympic Games. It seeks to bring back to life a forgotten age the centuries covering the period from the successors of Alexander the Great in the late 4th century BC to the reign of the East Roman emperor Justinian in the early 6th century AD. The work takes us on a journey from the depths of Asia Minor and the Middle East to the Aegean and Ionian Seas, the coast of North Africa, the Balkans, and Western Europe.
It visits Hellenistic schools and stadiums, Greco-Roman wrestling rings, theatres, Roman circuses and baths, and early Byzantine hippodromes.
We are introduced to the gladiators training in Pergamum in the days of the physician Galen (131-201 AD), the contests with wild beast in the Colosseum and the Panathenaic Stadium, the naval battles of Piraeus and the Sea of Galilee, the Pythian Games in Philippopolis, the gladiatorial contests at Kourion in Cyprus, the Alexandrian Games in Beroia, the pentathlon and the torch relay in the mountains of Tunisia, the age of the reign of Constantine the Great (272-337 AD), and the Olympic Games held in the Byzantine city of Antioch.
Koromila explores the changing rooms and the stables - and the cages below ground where the beasts were kept until brought up in lifts to the level of the stadium - and compares the wealth of historical material with the legendary tales that have since prevailed.
She also examines ideology, since this is an issue that is intimately bound to the world of sport, and poses a number of timely questions regarding various historical issues.

Her exploration of the stadiums of Antiquity brings to light other issues as well. For example, the way in which the public of the multicultural societies of the Hellenistic and Roman worlds viewed the naked human body.
One of the main themes of Koromila's narrative is the expense that communities were prepared to bear in order to hold their athletic Games. Frequently they were held in honor of their kings, at the same time giving the populace an opportunity to enjoy the spectacle and to release social tensions. A sense of patriotism for the wider political structure was generated by these Games, which took place among such varied linguistic and ethnic groups. In this sense, the champion was always - ultimately the ruler.
Even the early Christian rulers of the later Roman Empire continued this tradition. Otherwise a devout Christian, Theodosius was fully aware of the useful purpose that the Games served, and also the passions it inspired in the populace. He never introduced any legislation forbidding the Games, which normally were held in the name of the pagan gods. This is why many ancient stadiums continued to be used for holding ceremonial Games well into the 5th century AD, and in some rare cases as late as the 7th century. Chariot racing, the noblest of the ancient sports (since the time of Homer even), took place in Constantinople right down to the time of the sack of the Byzantium capital by the Crusaders in 1204.
Perhaps we need to reconsider the modern, romantic principles that have tended to accompany our understanding of the Olympic Games, and look more seriously at the traditional functions of major Games in ancient times.

The text is accompanied by 84 illustrations (photographs, drawings, maps and reproductions)