“We Are All Greeks”:
: Assessing The Appropriation of Ancient Greece in Modern Olympic Revivals

  • Al J Harlington

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy (MPhil)


The modern Olympic Games have proved themselves to be indelibly connected to the West’s interpretation of ancient Greek culture. Indeed, reincarnations of the perceived glories of ancient Greece have been a prominent feature of Olympic revivals both before and after the establishment of the International Olympic Committee in 1894. Of particular interest to the classical scholar and the focus of this thesis is how different hosts have sought to legitimise their values using the merits of ancient Greek society often with no regard for ancient sources and the accuracy of their claims. The combination of the uncertainty surrounding ancient Greece’s reality and its idealisation throughout the West presented Greek antiquity as the perfect legitimising tool, capable of successfully serving an array of social, political and philosophical functions.

This dissertation outlines how the concept of ancient Greece has developed and become distorted over time to signify a fabrication rather than a reality, building on both existing scholarship and primary source material in the process. Moreover, its unique contribution to the field lies in its exploration of how these interpretations of ancient Greece have been expressed through the medium of Olympic revivals and how ideas of Greek antiquity impacted pre-IOC revivals, especially in England and Greece, leading up to the 1896 Olympic Games in Athens. Gaps in our knowledge of ancient Greece have provided the basis for Olympic organisers to root their values in coveted antiquity and showcase them to the world with legitimacy.
Date of Award24 Mar 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorPatrick Finglass (Supervisor) & Lyndsay Coo (Supervisor)

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