Olive Oil and Athletics


A young athlete pours from a cylindrical flask called a lekythos to rub over his body before competition or exercise.


These two athletes are holding an instrument called a stlengis (in Latin, strigil) used to scrape off oil after competition or exercise.


Here is a closer look at a stlengis along with another type of oil jar, a spherical flask called an aryballos.

Modern scholars have not been able to determine the practical point of athletes' use of oil, but David Sansone1 has suggested that  ancient Greek athletes believed it increased their strength (cf. the anointing with oil in the Roman Catholic ceremony of Confirmation to confer spiritual strength).

1. Greek Athletics and the Genesis of Sport (Berkeley/Los Angeles/London, 1988).