Home judo “Once upon a time Olympia”: an exciting journey through sport, art and literature

“Once upon a time Olympia”: an exciting journey through sport, art and literature

by archysport

Rome 23 December 2020 It has been in bookstores for a few days, but obviously you can also buy online, the book of our historical and artistic consultant, architect Livio Toschi, entitled Once upon a time Olympia. Readers of the News followed the 21 episodes of his story from April to November through almost 12 centuries of ancient Olympics, which in the book are even better narrated, documented and illustrated. The text is preceded by the presentation of the federal president Domenico Falcone and concluded by the afterword by the journalist Vanni Lòriga, former head of the FIJLKAM Press Office.
We quote the Publisher’s introduction.

“This book, with the help of many literary passages and rich iconography, examines the 293 Olympics of antiquity, from 776 BC to 393 AD. The long journey through the history of sport is also an unexpected and compelling journey into the culture of Ancient Greece.
Once upon a time Olimpia is an indispensable book for both “experts” and sports enthusiasts; precious for those who appreciate art and literature, incessantly fertilized by history and myth; tantalizing even for a merely curious audience, who want easy reading texts, rich in information, anecdotes and images. In short, it is a book for everyone, the result of the scrupulous and passionate research of a scholar already author of excellent publications, who for thirty years has been the historical consultant of the Italian Federation of Judo Fight Karate Martial Arts, where he teaches the history of sport, as well as artistic director of the Combat Sports Museum. Prestigious assignments which, combined with important national and international awards, constitute a reliable guarantee even for the most demanding reader.
Sport is present in all genres and in all forms of art and literature, but also of Greek music. It was intended not only as a “techne”, a technical knowledge to achieve competitive results, but also as a “sophia”, a knowledge that aimed to improve man and the society in which he lived. So not just a healthy and often profitable entertainment, but an “ethical” activity.
In short, ancient sport can still teach us a lot, if we really learn to know it ».

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We continue with the presentation of President Falcone.

«The architect Livio Toschi surprises us with a new literary work of great cultural depth. Talking about the Olympics of antiquity is a difficult task, if you want to be original and not fall into the repetition of the many information contained in the numerous existing texts on the subject. Yet our precious federal historian managed to win this challenge by giving the prints an exciting writing for the versatility of the contents, which combine cultural, sporting, architectural aspects together with unpublished anecdotes and interesting curiosities, even managing to add a philosophical approach.
The reading of this text will be an inspiration for the heirs of the ancient Olympic sportsmen, but also for those who follow the sport as a non-practicing enthusiast.
Knowing our roots is essential to understand who we are and what we do: wrestling has always been included in the Olympic program of our federal sports and the deeds of the most famous fighters of more or less remote times are still narrated and illustrated today thanks to the ‘extensive literature and iconography inherited from the writers and artists of antiquity. The best fighters of our day dream of Olympia’s crown no less than their Greek ancestors, but the awareness of who they are today can only come from knowing what it was.
It is clear that in rethinking the Olympic Games in a modern key, a process of updating has been carried out and, therefore, many other sports besides the “classic” ones have been added to the program. Among which also Judo and, last arrived in Tokyo 2020, Karate.
Athletes live their passion for the Games with great enthusiasm and dedication: the Olympics is still “the race of competitions” because, as Pindar wrote, “as water is the most precious of all elements, like gold it has more value than any other good, as the sun shines brighter than any other star, so Olympia shines, overshadowing all other games ».
The Olympic Games are imprinted in our cultural imagination, as well as in the individual one of every sportsman, and constitute a sublimation of the figure of the ancient hero, the glorification of those who know how to accomplish an extraordinary feat: the inscription of their name in the list of the demigods. It was like this in the ancient Greek world, it was so in the Roman world and it started to be so again from 1896 up to the present day. Knowing, therefore, what the ancient Olympics were, as well as the other Games described here, means having the opportunity to grasp the link between the ancient and the modern, between what we are and our origins; it means enriching what we do with love and what we call “sport” with contents.
This research can be easily carried out between the pages of this book without seriousness and heaviness, thanks to a simple and clear language, to the precious explanatory sheets, to the rich appendix, to the wonderful illustrations and also to the delicious cartoons of the great humorous designer Lucio Trojano.
Therefore I wish everyone an enjoyable reading, however wise, and I thank the architect Toschi for having wished to dedicate his efforts to make our common sporting culture even richer ».

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We conclude with Lòriga’s afterword.

«I have carefully read the 160 pages of a text which, for simplicity of language, completeness of research (which goes well beyond the sporting theme) and historical scrupulousness (also in the indication of sources), far exceeds similar publications. We pass from legend to history, from architecture to art, from literature to music, from the lists of winners to the cards of famous people, from learned glossaries to the vast bibliography. Countless athletes, writers and artists mentioned, and the iconography is precious, often unpublished and accompanied by rich captions. Nor are curiosities and anecdotes lacking at times at the level of gossip (amorous passions of men and gods or the comic story of the boxer who at home knocked them from his wife), all enlivened by 25 drawings of the inimitable Lucio Trojano, often traveling companion in explorations historical-cultural of the Author.
Reading this book it is immediately clear that Toschi is an admirer of the struggle, as it is evident that he is an architect, given his persuasive competence but also his verve in brilliantly describing buildings and systems without ever slipping on useless technicalities. All seasoned with a versatile and vast knowledge of history, art and literature. Here, culture and passion transpire in every page, elements that are increasingly rare and therefore increasingly appreciated.
Nor is the elegant graphics, curated by the author himself, negligible.
The invitation I am making is twofold. Read this book, which for its narrative vivacity looks like a historical novel, and keep it at hand for any future reference: as scholars know, the most useful books are not those that are read, but those that are consulted. You will not regret it”.

Once upon a time Olimpia, by Livio Toschi, Edizioni Efesto
160 pages, 150 illustrations + 25 drawings by Lucio Trojano
15 euros, in bookstores or online (lafeltrinelli.it/, ibs.it/, Libreriauniversitaria.it/, etc.)

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The cover of the book, which shows Zeus engaged in Olympia in the “thunderbolt” (drawing by Lucio Trojano)

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