Team sports

There were no team sports at the Olympic games or at the other games of the periodos. Playing in team was at odds with the Greek competitive mentality, in which each man wanted to be the best and to outdo the others. At some local games, however, team sports had a role in improving the community spirit.

One of the most common team sports was the torch race, a religious ceremony in which a torch was carried from one altar to another in a relay race. Boat-races, in which each boat was operated by a team of rowers, were an event at the Panathenaia and the Actian games. At some games, such as the Panathenaia and gymnasion-games, there were also special events with a military character, some of which were also team events.

Ball sports – the most popular team sports of today – were never part of the Greek games, but were a popular kind of recreation.

Roman sports were generally less focused on 'being the best'. Therefore, team events are more common in the Roman world. In the chariot races, each of the racing stables (or 'circus factions') had its own colour and supporters, cheering more for the team than for the individual charioteer. At the gladiator fights or the wild animal hunts there were no factions, but also here is was not uncommon that several men fought together to beat another group of gladiators or, more frequently, some wild animals.

© KU Leuven, 2012