The hosting of the Olympics in Athens, after a modern absence of 108 years, is reason enough to explore the origin of the Games themselves. Nigel Spivey does this admirably in The Ancient Olympics, tracing the games' origins from a local footrace to the leading sporting event of the ancient world. The book offers not only insight into the ancient games at Olympia, but into Greek attitudes about athletics, religion, social class and physical beauty, and how these same attitudes, for good or ill, have survived into our own time. Spivey's book is an interesting study of history, art, literature and philosophy that scrapes away the layers of myth covering the reality of the ancient games.

Howard Shirley is a writer in Nashville.

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