Play and Childhood in Ancient Greece


Jan van der Crabben
by Eliseo Andreu Cabrera, Mar Cepero, Fco. Javier Rojas, Juan J Chinchilla-Mira
published on 05 March 2012
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The traditional games of children are the maximum exponent of a people’s culture of play, and though these games are sometimes derived from adult ceremonies, in spirit they belong to the world of children. Most authors assume that games depend on biological, cultural and psychological influences; they are considered a typical anthropological phenomenon in humans that is always transformed by culture. In Mediterranean countries, the climate was favourable for open-air play, which may have meant that it was possible to go without toys to have fun; the imagination developed with the natural surrounding elements, such as water, animals, flowers and shells. Play, childhood and physical education have formed an inseparable union throughout history, and Greece is no exception. Classical authors provided ample documentation on how children played, making it possible to identify analogies in play over the centuries. The agon as play applied from the very first instant of life and survived generation after generation.

Greek Articulated Doll
Greek Articulated Doll
by Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

The Mediterranean was the cradle of Western civilisation and the scene of many notable examples of expansion throughout history Jenkins (1998). Relations between peoples of the Mediterranean existed long before the height of the Bronze Age, though it was in this period that trade routes became established. The Phoenician and Greek civilisations developed in the Mediterranean (Andreu-Cabrera, 2009) during the first half of the first millennium BC – one of the most important cultural and political facts of ancient times.

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The Mediterranean Sea has always been a meeting place for peoples separated by large geographical distances and who speak different languages. As Colet states (1993:7): “The Mediterranean, the Mother Nostrum of the Latin, the Great Sea mentioned by the Holy Writ or the Sea of the Greeks of the Arabic version, the waters of that they join three continents, is the cradle and the crucible of the western civilization. For what it concerns to the arts, the ideas or the thought, the Greeks, who, across them his colonies, were influencing everything the Mediterranean, were introducing also the worship to the one that was by all appearances useless: the love for the beauty, the pleasure of thinking and talking simply for the pleasure of doing it and also the pleasure of writing, reciting, doing; in a word, the pleasure of creating. The Greeks don´t want to leave of side the sport, since this activity was representing the accomplishment of an effort for the simple pleasure of competing, gaining as much the symbolic and only prize of a branch of olive tree…

Journal of Human Sport and Exercise, Vol 5, No 3 (2010)

Editorial Review This article has been reviewed for accuracy, reliability and adherence to academic standards prior to publication.

Written by Eliseo Andreu Cabrera, Mar Cepero, Fco. Javier Rojas, Juan J Chinchilla-Mira, linked by Jan van der Crabben, published 05 March 2012. Source URL:

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APA Style

Chinchilla-Mira, E. A. C. M. C. F. J. R. J. J. (2012, March 05). Play and Childhood in Ancient Greece. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

Chicago Style

Chinchilla-Mira, Eliseo A. C. M. C. F. J. R. J. J. "Play and Childhood in Ancient Greece." Ancient History Encyclopedia. Last modified March 05, 2012.

MLA Style

Chinchilla-Mira, Eliseo A. C. M. C. F. J. R. J. J. "Play and Childhood in Ancient Greece." Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 05 Mar 2012. Web. 04 Aug 2020.

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