Mercer Great Books Games Turns Back Time 3,000 Years


Time turned back on Porter Patch on Oct. 27, as the Mercer University Great Books program held its inaugural Great Books Games. The event was loosely based on the funeral games in the Iliad and featured students and faculty dressed in costumes to participate in a number of individual and team competitions.

The purpose of the games, organizers said, is to further explore the ancient texts the students are studying by adding a fun twist. The program is a general education track at the University, using the great books of the Western canon to study subjects through the original texts in subjects from literature to science.

Participants and organizers were in the spirit of the games, dressing in togas and warrior costumes, including co-organizers Dr. Kathy Kloepper, assistant professor of chemistry, and Dr. Kevin Drace, assistant professor of biology.

“It’s a way for students to get together as a community outside of the class,” Dr. Kloepper said. “We have other events as well in the Great Books program for students to come together, but we don’t have a field day, so we thought it would be fun to reenact, with liberties, the funeral games of the Iliad.”

The event kicked off with six teams competing in a number of competitions including a three-legged race, a “rock” throwing competition using a beanbag chair, a “chariot” race, a tug of war and a battle of wits based on trivia from the Iliad and Odyssey.  The chariot race consisted of three members pulling a teammate in a homemade chariot. Chariots included decorated wagons, wheelbarrows and large storage bins. The battle of wits tested the team’s knowledge in trivia-type questions about the Iliad and the Odyssey.

Each Great Books class was encouraged to field a team. The teams were named after the Greek gods, including Zeus, Poseidon, Yahweh, Athena, Hephaestus and Apollo.

Winners of the competitions were crowned in gold, silver or bronze leaf crowns and received prizes relating to the class’ reading, where winners were presented with interesting prizes. “For example, for the chariot races the awards are in line with what’s in the Iliad’s chariot races. The second place was supposed to win a pregnant horse, so we are giving them a My Little Pony with their second place ribbon,” Dr. Kloepper said.

The team that won the overall Games won the grand prize of having brunch served in class. Teams were also judged on team spirit, best team banner and chariot design.

Amber Davenport, a freshman in Dr. Drace’s class, said, ”My favorite part is seeing everyone’s enthusiasm and spirit. A lot of the event fits in with our class because in the Iliad when there is low morale that’s when they start doing bad and when everyone is excited they start doing better. So it’s a lot like what’s going on here. When people are excited and putting forth their best effort, the team does well.”