Mercer’s Historic Quad transformed into an ancient Greek arena replete with teams whose focus was to honor their respective god or goddess on Sept. 23. Acts of strength of body and mind proved which team was most indebted to their respective deity, all followed by a skit from each team about a scene from a Great Book of their choosing.
The Great Books Games is an annual event put on by the Great Books Advisory Board as a means to appreciate the program and the texts used in it. This year, the games occurred for the first time after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal of the games is to bring the texts students read in class to life.
Each Great Books class that participated in the games created armor and a chant that went along with their chosen god or goddess. Of course, no team would be complete without a creative, themed title, and the classes delivered. Hades’ Hotheads and Dionysus’ Deities were just two of the many creative group names on Friday.
The chariot race and sprint around the Historic Quad were like the contests performed in ancient Greece. Each team felt a sense of camaraderie with their teammates as they competed against other classes. Each team carried with them a desire to win each category, so every contest had a competitive air to it. No matter the stakes, however, every class that won was cheered and celebrated by the audience.
The skits put on by each class had a range of topics. From disputes between Hera and her husband, Zeus, to putting a comedic spin on the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus, there was plenty in the sketches to enjoy.
Charlotte Thomas, professor of philosophy and director of the Great Books program, said she enjoyed the relaxed environment outside of the classroom where students and faculty alike could revel in the Great Books community.
"All of the other Great Books students know that they all have these jokes and opinions and frustrations in common because they have these core texts in common,” Thomas said.
The Great Books Program at Mercer is a series of courses where students read classic Western texts, reinforcing the understanding of those books with classroom instruction and classwide discussions about topics in the ancient works. Class discussions often include how the situations the Greek heroes find themselves in are similar to those experiences in their daily lives, albeit with less blood and gore. With the help of Great Books and the Games, students can immerse themselves in a culture that is foreign, but one that still holds relevance to today’s world.
Students may not have known what to expect from the Great Books Games, but they were eager to find out what was to come. In the end, the celebration was an opportunity for classes to come together early in the year to appreciate the timelessness of the texts we consider great today.
Gabriel Kopp, a general assignment reporter at The Cluster, is a student in the Great Books Program.