Swings and seesaws in ancient Greece

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A man lifts a child into a swing (Eretria Painter, 435-420 BC)

A man lifts a child into a swing (Eretria Painter, 435-420 BC)

Even though people in ancient Greece loved competitive games, they also played games without competition. In this picture from a Greek vase, a man pushes a little boy in a wooden swing hung from a tree branch. (You can see the leaves hanging down among the ropes of the swing.) The man’s wreath and beard show that he is not a slave, but probably the boy’s father. The swing isn’t quite like our baby swings – it’s more of a wooden platform, where they boy’s legs stick straight out in front of him.

Another popular game was like our see-saws or teeter-totters. Here a long wooden plank is balanced on a center fulcrum, and two girls are jumping on the ends. That’s a much more dangerous version than our see-saws today, where we usually sit down! But it does look like fun.

Girls jump on a seesaw

Girls jump on a seesaw

A toddler with a pull-toy

A toddler with a pull-toy

Clearly there was also a thriving toy-making industry in ancient Greece. That see-saw is balanced on something made for the purpose, and this toddler is dragging a wooden pull toy that was probably bought in a toy-store too. It’s a small wagon on wheels.

A child on a swingset, in a small clay model

A child on a swingset

Ancient Greek children even had swingsets, as this clay model shows. Probably the swingsets and the swings were made of wood, with hemp ropes for the swings. The little model, which is made of clay, was also probably a toy swingset, with a little clay doll that swings on it. The clay model swingset, too, was probably made in a small factory and sold in a toystore for parents to give their children.

There are lots of other toys from ancient Greece too – dolls, and tops, and hoops, and other little models.

Learn by doing: learn to juggle
More about ancient Greek swimming

Bibliography and further reading about Greek games:

The Ancient Greek Olympics, by Richard Woff (2000). , from Oxford University Press.

Hour Of The Olympics (Magic Tree House 16) by Mary Pope Osborne (1998). A good beginning reading series. You can also get a research book about the Olympics to go with this storybook.

Sport and Society in Ancient Greece, by Mark Golden (P. A. Cartledge and Peter Garnsey are series editors)(1998). Mark Golden’s an entertaining writer, and this book is a good general introduction, although not specifically for kids.

Sport and Recreation in Ancient Greece: A Sourcebook With Translations, by Waldo E. Sweet (1987) 0195041275. Find out what ancient Greek and Roman writers had to say about sports and games, in their own words.

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By | 2017-07-06T03:28:28+00:00 July 6th, 2017|Games, Greeks|0 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Swings and seesaws in ancient Greece. Quatr.us Study Guides, July 6, 2017. Web. December 11, 2017.

About the Author:

Karen Carr

Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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