The Naked Olympics
The Naked Olympics

Reviews of The Naked Olympics

"A vivid evocation of the blood and guts, not to mention sheer guts, that marked the original Olympic Games more than two thousand years ago. Tony Perrottet tells the gripping story of a festival of physical attainment during which athletes risked and sometimes lost their lives. Today's champions have it easy."

Anthony Everitt, Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician

"This is the book to read if you want to know what it felt like to be a spectator or a contestant at the ancient Olympic Games. Perrottet brings the scene to life in all its pageantry and squalor, with its beautiful bodies, rotting meat, flies, and broiling heat. Then, as now, the Games brought out the best and the worst of human potential, and blood, sweat, tears, sex, and money were all part of the Olympic experience, along with religion, bribery and politics."

Mary Lefkowitz, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Wellesley College and author of Greek Gods, Human Lives: What We Can Learn from Myths

"Erudite, colorful and frequently hilarious, Perrottet's The Naked Olympics is a marvelous resource for athletes, spectators, and scholars alike. I will never watch the Olympic games in quite the same way again."

Michael Curtis Ford, author of The Ten Thousand and The Last King

"I considered myself a pretty solid researcher on ancient Greece, till Tony Perrottet's The Naked Olympics blew me out of the water. I never knew (just two among hundreds of delicious factoids) that there was no separate event for discus and javelin—they were part of the pentathlon—or that the chariot race ran 24 laps and took fifteen hair-raising minutes. (Not to mention the distinction between various attendant types of groupies, courtesans, and pornai.) Mr. Perrottet's vivid cinematic prose not only delivers encyclopedic intelligence of the ancient games but spirits you back in time with such immediacy that you can smell the sweat and feel the hot Greek sun. If you're gonna be glued to the modern Athens Games like I will, you must read The Naked Olympics. No other book communicates with such authenticity 'where it all came from,' back in the days when you didn't need wardrobe malfunctions to get naked."

Steven Pressfield, author of Gates of Fire, Tides of War, and Last of the Amazons

"The Naked Olympics presents the Greeks in all their glory, brutality, and vulgarity. It is a fascinating picture and popular history at its best."

Norman Cantor, Professor Emeritus, New York University, and author of Antiquity: The Civilization of the Ancient World

"Fans of Tony Perrottet's Pagan Holiday (aka Route 66 AD) will kill to read his follow-up The Naked Olympics. A seasoned traveller, Perrottet follows all the highways and byways of ancient Olympic lore. He really makes you feel what it was like to be at the ancient Olympics, conjuring up the sights, sounds and smells (especially the smells) of the Games with a sure and vivid touch. The Naked Olympics would be just the thing to cover your nakedness as you watch the 2004 Athens Olympics or go to visit the ancient site of Olympia—figleaves need not apply."

Paul Cartledge, Professor of Classics, Cambridge University, and author of The Spartans

"Short of building your own time machine, reading Tony Perrottet's The Naked Olympics will be the closest you'll come to experiencing the blood, sweat, glory, and greed that were the ancient Olympic Games. And if you do somehow happen upon a time machine, you'd still be wise to trust Tony Perrottet as your guide. Steeped in scholarship, leavened by humor, and lighted by the same flames of history and love of sport that illuminated the works of Homer, Lucian, Herodotus, Thucydides, Pausanias and Dio the Golden-Tongued, Perrottet's The Naked Olympics: The True Story of the Ancient Games is one of those rare books that you'll be citing for years to come."

Dan Simmons, author of Ilium

"Combining a wealth of vivid details with a knack for narrative pacing and subtle humor, Perrottet (Pagan Holiday ) renders a striking portrayal of the Greek Olympics and their role in the ancient world. While our modern games certainly pay homage to the Greek festival that was held uninterrupted for more than 1,200 years, the book's title refers to the most pronounced difference between the two: Ancient athletes competed in the nude, adorned only with olive oil. While Perrottet also outlines events ranging from the merciless chariot races to the pankration—a sort of early predecessor of ultimate fighting in which strangulation was seen as the surest means of attaining victory—he also puts the games in their heavy religious context and gives readers a strong sense of what they were like from a spectator's point of view. That they were cramped, hot and dizzyingly unsanitary apparently did little to dissuade throngs of people from the often treacherous journey to Olympia to catc h glimpses of their heroes. And their experiences provided by Perrottet are what separate this book from staid history. His goal, he writes at the outset, is "to create the ancient games in their sprawling, human entirety," so readers are treated not only to a thorough picture of the games' proceedings but also to glimpses of the shameless bacchanalia, numerous (and often lascivious) entertainments and even corruption that accompanied them. It's an entertaining, edifying account that puts a human face on one of humanity's most remarkable spectacles."

Publishers Weekly

"It was the Woodstock of antiquity: a five-day spectacle of heroic performance and after-hours debauchery dedicated to the Greek gods and held every fourth year at the rural religious sancturary of Olympia. There were no team sports in the first Olympics, no torch marathon—that staple of the modern games was the brainchild of Adolf Hitler—and there was certainly no spandex. The original Olympics, travel writer Tony Perrottet tells us in this fun, light-hearted primer on the Greek competition that began it all, competed buck naked. Except, that is, for a generous coating of olive oil. ("Boy rubbers" were on hand to massage the oil in). Wrestling, sprinting, boxing and chariot racing were the center-ring events of the competition, which ran uninterrupted and largely unaltered for 1,200 years, beginning in 776 B.C. Released to coincide with this summer's Athens games, The Naked Olympics is an engaging history less on an event that has apparently always been as much about pomp and politics as it has about superhuman strength."

National Geographic Adventure

"Fear of terrorism is keeping some folks from traveling to Greece for this summer's Olympic Games. Turns out there's a long history of avoiding the games for a variety of reasons. The Naked Olympics by Tony Perrottet cuts through the glamour of the modern contests to reveal just how gross the original Olympics were. Fans had to stand the whole time because there were no seats. There was no drinking water, "so dehydrated spectators would be collapsing in droves from heatstroke." And "nobody bathed for days. The sharp odor of sweat did battle with Olympia's fragrant pine forests and wild flowers, only to be overpowered by the intermittent wafts from the dry riverbeds, which had been turned into open-air latrines . . . The whole experience was so famously uncomfortable that a master once threatened his disobedient slave with a visit to the Olympic Games." And yes, those Olympians did compete naked."