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Mesoamerican Ball Games and Greco-Roman World Games: Contrast and Comparison

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The Ancient world sports competitions had not merely secular but also ritualistic significance, as the people of Antiquity believed that certain games were associated with either the deities or the cyclical movements of the world as such. Both Mesoamerican ball games and Greco-Roman athletic contests and combats were characterized by their affinity with greater ritual concerns of both the ruling class and the populace.

For instance, the Olympic Games were originally connected with the celebration of Pan-Hellenic unity embodied in the concept of a shared Olympic pantheon, to which the Games themselves were dedicated (Crowther 50-51). The Mesoamerican ball games represented a symbolic reproduction of the world cycle of existence, with ball signifying the movements of celestial bodies and the losing side’s sacrifices asserting the city-state’s commitment to gods of theUnderworld (166).

On the other hand, the Greco-Roman sports have been gradually emancipated from the older religious and ritualistic constraints by the beginning of the Roman Imperial era, becoming a more cultural pursuit. In addition, unlike Mesoamerican sports, the Greco-Roman contests were rarely team-based, and there were no ball games-style sports in the great games of European Antiquity (Baker 21). The latter were invariably centered on individual prowess.

 

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