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Agon (Classical Greek ἀγών) is an ancient Greek word in reference to several things. In general, the term refers to a struggle or contest. In its broader sense of a struggle or contest, agon referred to a contest in athletics, chariot or horse racing, music or literature at a public festival in ancient Greece.
In one sense, agon meant a contest or a competition in athletics, Particularly the Olympic Games (Ὀλυμπιακοὶ Ἀγῶνες). Agon was also a mythological personification of the contests listed above. This god was represented in a statue at Olympia with halteres (dumbbells) (ἁλτῆρες) in his hands. This statue was a work of Dionysius, and dedicated by a Smicythus of Rhegium.
Agon also referred to a challenge that was held in connection with religious festivals. With a further religious meaning as used in 1 Timothy 6:12 in the New Testament and defined by Strong's Concordance as, agón: a gathering, contest, struggle; as an (athletic) contest; hence, a struggle (in the soul).
In Ancient Greek drama, particularly Old Comedy (fifth century B.C.), agon refers to a contest or debate between two characters in highly structured Classical tragedies and dramas. The agon could develop between an actor and the chorus or between two actors with half of the chorus supporting each. Through the argument of opposing principles, the agon in these performances resembled the dialectic dialogues of Plato. The meaning of the term has escaped the circumscriptions of its classical origins to signify, more generally, the conflict on which a literary work turns. In 1948, Lincoln Kirstein posed the idea of a ballet that would later become known as Agon . After ten years of work before Agon's premiere, it became the final ballet in a series of collaborations between choreographer George Balanchine and composer Igor Stravinsky. Balanchine referred to this ballet as "the most perfect work" to come out of the collaboration between Stravinsky and himself.
Harold Bloom in The Western Canon uses the term agon to refer to the attempt by a writer to resolve an intellectual conflict between his ideas and the ideas of an influential predecessor in which "the larger swallows the smaller", such as in chapter 18, Joyce's Agon with Shakespeare.
In sociopolitical theory, agon can refer to the idea that the clash of opposing forces necessarily results in growth and progress. (Colaguori 2012)
- Schmitz, Leonhard (1867), "Agon", in Smith, William, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology 1, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, p. 74
- Pausanias, Description of Greece, book V (Elis), v. 26. § 3
- Trapido (1949)
- Strong's Concordance
- ["agon." Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 17 Feb. 2014.]
- [Alm, Irene. "Stravinsky, Balanchine, and Agon: An Analysis Based on the Collaborative Process." The Journal of Musicology. 7.2 (Spring, 1989): 254-269. Web. 4 Mar. 2014. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/763771>.]
- [Jordan, Stephanie. "Agon: A Musical/Choreographic Analysis." Dance Research Journal. 25.2 (Autumn, 1993): 1-12. Web. 4 Mar. 2014. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/1478549>.]
- Joel Trapido (1949) The Language of the Theatre: I. The Greeks and Romans Educational Theatre Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Oct., 1949), pp. 18–26 doi:10.2307/3204106
- Claudio Colaguori (1 January 2012). Agon Culture: Competition, Conflict and the Problem of Domination. de Sitter Publications. ISBN 978-1-897160-63-3. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
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