The Good

The old man slowly made his way through the crowds, face upturned to feel the hot Mediterranean sun on his aged skin. The journey to Olympia had been long. Longer than he remembered. But missing the Games was unthinkable for a true-blooded Athenian.

As he approached the Stadium his senses were swept up in a wave of memory. His nostrils caught a hint of celery wine, and he saw the warm day in his youth when he had coaxed a lithe Elean girl away from the festivities with a jug of the herbal draught. His skin felt the shaded cool beneath the vaulted stones, and he saw himself as a small boy, led by the hand and gaping in awe at the colorful procession of competitors. His ears took in the din and roar of the crowd and he saw the day his young cousin had earned the Victor’s Crown after running the stadia. He walked on, lost in his thoughts.

“You ol’ sot, get out o’ the damn way!”

The old man turned, startled to see a stout, red-faced man angrily gesturing for him to move. He stammered an apology. “Pardon me, friend, I—”

His voice was drowned out by a swell of profanity and screaming from the seated crowd. He limped forward, trying to get out of the way of the angry spectators.

“By the gods! Someone throw the codger off the ramparts!” yelled a young Corinthian.

At this, the old man started to hobble along faster. The crowds found his panic to be funny, and they erupted into peals of laughter. They began to hurl fruit, rocks, and the occasional empty wine jug at him. He stumbled forward, feet bloodied from the broken pottery strewn across the floor. They eventually lost interest and directed their attention back to the young men running the stadia.

Moments later, the old man came upon the area of the stadium where the men of Sparta sat. Fearing more of the same treatment, he kept his head low and pressed forward quickly. A young Spartan sitting in the front row, upon seeing the old man, immediately stood and offered him his seat. This drew the attention of the other Spartan men seated around him. As each Spartan saw the old man, he rose and offered his own seat as well.

The old man gratefully accepted the seat of the young Spartan who had first offered.

“I see,” the old man said, “all Greeks know the good, but only the Spartans do it.”

Photo by slava296/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by slava296/iStock / Getty Images