"Olympic Event-- The Pig Fling"
Greece, 7th Century BCE
1.90 m ~ marble, originally painted

 

Few people watching the splendor and pageantry of the modern Olympic extravaganza suspect the humble beginnings of these classic games. Not always were events divided into neat categories, with weights and measures accurate to a few parts per million and athletes who had trained their whole lives to compete in the grand competitions.

No, the earliest Olympiad began when a bunch of bored Greek teenagers, fed up with the rigors of farm life and the poor quality of the local beer began daring each other to do wild and crazy things, like jumping over fences and streaking past the girl's school in town as fast as they could without getting caught. They also challenged each other to lift heavy weights, swim distances in the river and fling various objects around. Losers had to steal a krater of wine for the winner.

The event shown here is one you will no longer find in the modern Olympiad. The unknown sculptor has caught the contestant in mid-lunge as he prepares to heave a wild boar for the distance. These porcine projectiles could weigh as much as 30 oka (± 35 kilos), and it is a tribute to the fitness of these farmhands that the 624 BCE record for the pig fling was over 32 kubiti (± 15 meters). The fate of the pigs is not recorded, although the feast held afterwards generally consisted of various pork products.

At one point the Athens Humane Society attempted to put a stop to what they saw was rampant animal cruelty, and for several years the gutted carcass of a pig was substituted for the live animal. Older participants looked down on newer ones who played under these revised rules, claiming that the youngsters "couldn't go the whole hog."

 

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