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ISSUE 121 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/26/2007

Olympians compete

By Emily Koester
News Editor

Friday, October 26, 2007

Saturday's sunny weather proved a fitting day to hold one of the Western world's most ancient traditions, the Greek Olympics, on the St. Olaf soccer fields.

An event co-sponsored by the Classics Society's Eta Sigma Phi and the Ancient History Society, the Olympics brought members of both the classics and history departments together for an afternoon of games, contests, and community.

Mike Gulden '08, president of Eta Sigma Phi and an initiator of the Olympics, noted the lack of communication between the classics and history departments in past years. He hoped that the Olympics would build solidarity. "We want to foster community among people who have interest in the ancient world, whether it's in classics or history," Gulden said.

The variety of games and activities featured in Saturday's Olympics echoed Greek and Latin traditions and were designed to appeal to diverse interests. "There was opportunity for those who are athletic, creative or more intellectually inclined," said Paul Adler '09, member of the Ancient History Society.

Events of the day included a "friscus throw," in which a Frisbee was used instead of the traditional discus, a poetry recitation contest, a relay race, a staed (length of 600 ft) footrace, an arm wrestling contest, a game of Red Rover with Greek hoplite armor made of cardboard and a final tug-of-war game between the classics and history departments.

At the end of each contest, the winner was crowned with a leaf wreath and a sheet of paper with Aretha Franklin's picture, a name that punned on "wreath."

Whether or not contestants won their events, however, spirits remained high. "Losing the arm-wrestling competition was a crushing blow, but I rallied enough to make some excellent hoplite armor," Alaina Burkard '08 said.

Kayla Rassmussen '08, an organizer of the Olympics, identified the Spartan Relay as her favorite game. The relay hearkened back to an ancient custom in which a wheel of cheese was placed upon an alter in Artemis' temple and young Spartan boys raced to get as much cheese as they could while being whipped by older boys. The boy who got the most cheese won, while the blood they lost through whipping was intended to appease Artemis.

"Sparta was very violent – it was part of the training regiment for young boys. What we do instead is give the professors plastic rulers, and students race for candy," Rasmussen said.

Professor Tim Howe of the history department and Professors Mark Gustafson, Christopher Brunelle, Anne Groton, Stephanie McCarter and Dean May of the classics department attended alongside students. Rasmussen was pleased with the turnout. "We had about 25 students, not counting professors," she said.

Gulden also noted that the Olympics helped integrate newcomers into the departments. "There were a lot of underclassmen who showed up," Gulden said.

To kick off events, Gulden made a brief speech appealing to the gods and asking for a sign of their favor. Immediately after the speech, an eagle appeared in the sky, considered by all to be an important sign of approval. "The eagle was a very significant omen in ancient times," Gulden said.

Burkard also noted the good luck of its appearance. "The eagle proved to be an excellent omen that foretold the excellent quality of the games," she said.

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