On February 13, 2004, exactly six months before the opening of the 2004 Athens
Olympiad, greekworks.com inaugurated its publication series with Wrestling
With the Ancients: Modern Greek Identity and the Olympics, written
by Alexander Kitroeff. In the first study of this fascinating subject in any language, Kitroeff follows the tortuous route of Greece’s relationship to the modern Olympic movement from the mid-nineteenth century to the first modern games held in Athens in 1896 through the entire twentieth century and on to the Athens Olympiad of 2004. Written with the adept, illuminating touch of a novelist, this extraordinary history uses original archival sources and a deep understanding of modern Greek and European history to recount the ongoing saga of modern Greece’s often impassioned engagement with the Olympic movement.
According to Kitroeff, Greece’s role in the international Olympic movement must be seen as a continual process by which the country has experienced, constructed, and confronted its dual identity: presumptive heir to antiquity’s heritage and modern, European state. The Olympic Games’ revival in 1896, and the subsequent emergence and development of the modern Olympic movement, added yet another area for constructing Greek identity, as well as a new and grand international arena in which Greece could vie for honors. In the end, as Kitroeff shows masterfully in this very important and highly original work, which is certain to become the standard history of the subject, Greece has managed to attain a privileged status in the Olympic movement by assuming its unique role of modern steward of ancient tradition.
Praise for Wrestling With the Ancients
….Wrestling With the Ancients: Modern Greek Identity and the Olympics
makes a major contribution to the history of the modern Olympic movement….Kitroeff’s
excavations illuminate how…[t]hrough the Olympic Games Greeks both
affirmed their roles as stewards of the movement’s ancient legacy
and pursued international acclaim that they were a progressive, modern
culture by devoting considerable time and energy to competing in and hosting
— Mark Dyreson, departments of kinesiology and history, Pennsylvania
State University, author of Making the American Team: Sport, Culture,
and the Olympic Experience and president, North American Society
for Sport History
Anyone who wants to understand this year’s games and all the cultural
imagery that will surround them will find Wrestling With the Ancients
necessary, as well as pleasurable, reading.
— Tom LeClair, Nathaniel Ropes Professor of English, University
of Cincinnati, and author of Passing Off
…Kitroeff’s book…offers us a window with a double view: A
history of the Olympiads through their connection with Greece, and of
modern Greece through its claim to the Olympiads.
— Antônês Liakos, professor of history, University of Athens
…[A] thorough, important look at Greece.…This book is vital
for those who wish to understand not only the dilemma of choosing between
tradition and transition, but how the country that is the cradle of the
Olympics continues to honor that role.
— Bob Ford, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Wrestling With the Ancients was reviewed in The Economist, in Athens and the Olympics.
About the Author
Alexander Kitroeff is associate professor of history at Haverford College. He was born in Athens and received his D. Phil. from Oxford University. In addition to Haverford, Kitroeff has taught at Queens College (CUNY), Princeton University, Temple University, and New York University. He is coeditor of the Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora and a contributing editor to the online journal of greekworks.com. He has published numerous books and articles on Greece and its diaspora, including The Greeks in Egypt, 1919-1937; Griegos en America, 1492-1992 (published in Madrid); and Wartime Jews, The Case of Athens.