The athletes were only men – only they could attend the competitions – and they were naked. The beauty of their bodies was considered a symbol of virtue and effort; the winners were treated as heroes and received money and prizes of great symbolic value, such as free admission to the theater. Also then, sports competitions were paid for by the wealthy to reinforce their status in society.

Also then, sports competitions were paid for by the rich to reinforce their status within society

But also, as I said, there were cultural competitions. As if it were a current literary award, theater competitions were held and juries decided which was the best of the works presented: the three great Greek playwrights, Euripides, Sophocles and Aeschylus came out of this competitive and somewhat cruel system. We know little about the music that was performed in competitions between instrumentalists, but we do know that its execution was very demanding: several exhibits show how the double flute players tied it to their heads with straps to avoid tremendous pain in the jaw.

Competition was seen by the Greeks as a way to increase social cohesion and achieve excellence, as an inherently human trait, an element of their nature that not only should not be condemned, but should be enhanced to achieve the best possible results. in all spheres of human activity. But it is not difficult to imagine that this competition was less civic than what the commemorative works were intended to convey. Also, it was certainly brutal.

Today this conception of life in society is familiar to us, but it is likely to be more controversial. It is difficult to imagine a life without competition, and not only in sports; In the end, this may serve to peacefully channel social confrontations that might otherwise be expressed through more dangerous channels. Culture would surely not be the same without a competitive spirit: perhaps there are writers or musicians who act only for the love of art or money, but I would say that in many cases the competition between them is enormous (sometimes a little cruel and sometimes a little ridiculous ). And of course the economy, what incentives would companies have to improve if they did not compete with each other? One of the most competitive places I have ever seen are left-wing political parties: the more fiercely they defend that competition is a perverse mechanism.