On Saturday, Oct. 26, students from all the Great Books classes were able to come together in the spirit of competition in Mercer University’s second annual Great Books Games. Classes became teams that competed in competitions that included a chariot race, a foot race, a rock throw, a banner contest and an “Epic Minute” where teams had one minute to reenact either “The Iliad” or “The Odyssey” by Homer.
Each team chose a Greek god or goddess to represent their team while they competed. “My group was represented by the Goddess Persephone. We selected her because our team was comprised of mostly girls and we thought a strong wom[a]n would represent us well in the games,” shares participant Caroline Hardison.
Dr. Kevin Drace and Dr. Kathryn Kloepper are the professors who organized the Games, and based the event around a series of competitive games featured in “The Iliad”. “Dr. Kevin Drace and I took our initial inspiration from ‘The Iliad’. In the text, there is a detailed description of funeral games. In the book, warriors took part in such events as a foot race and a chariot race. For the Great Books Games, these became a three-legged race and a ‘chair’-iot race—where one student sat in a chair and was carried in the chair by two other teammates. As part of the course, they had to complete certain obstacles like arrow shooting and balloon popping. In ‘The Iliad’, there are many descriptions of warrior smashing things—and often one another—with rocks, so of course we had ‘Rock Throwing’ as an event (with a bean bag chair in place of actual rocks),” explains Kloepper.
Hardison shares that “The [G]ames provide a good creative outlet that not many other programs have… I think students should participate because [the Great Book Games] [are] a great way to learn even more about Greek Mythology and actually put what you are learning about in class to good use. Each time I have attended the games I have had a great time. Plus, the Great Books teachers always provide super yummy food after the competition is over.” Students who participated in the games were able to indulge in traditional Greek style cuisine after the conclusions of the competitions.
“Students should participate in the Games because it gives them a chance to meet other students and faculty in the program, and it is a fun way to celebrate the material from the course readings and classroom discussions,” says Drace. All Great Books students are invited to participate; in future years, the Games hope to add an alumni team composed of former Great Books students.
The event serves as a way for students to connect with other students who are part of the Great Books curriculum as well as serving as an opportunity to meet and connect with Great Books professors. “Faculty teaching GBK courses this fall helped open the Games with an invocation of the Muse, in keeping with the tradition of epics like ‘The Iliad’ and ‘The Odyssey’. These same faculty also helped cheer on their students. Other Great Books faculty were on hand to support our teams and judge events like ‘Team Spirit’, ‘Team Banner’, and ‘Epic Minute.’ Dean Lake Lambert, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, helped open the Games and served as a judge,” says Kloepper.
The Great Books Games is a program that will be continued for years to come and serve as an academic event that allows for friendly interaction among professors and students.