- Expected 2 Jul 2020
Splash! weaves a 10,000-year-old tale that begins in a bone-dry cave in the remote southwest corner of Egypt, winds its way through ancient Greece and Rome, flows mostly underground through the Dark and Middle Ages, and then reemerges in the wake of the Renaissance before ending on the runway of the Tokyo Olympics.
But swimming is also about more than feats of aquatic endurance or the terror of the bottomless deep. Its history offers a multi-tiered tour through religion, fashion low and high, architecture, sanitation and public health, colonialism, segregation and integration, sexism, sexiness, guts, glory and much, much more.
Unique and compulsive, Splash! sweeps across the whole of humankind's swimming history, with great wit and humour.
With wit and rich detail, avid swimmer Means (67 Shots) documents the history of swimming, from Earth's first "one-cell creatures," which began life in water, through "aquatic apes," who first mastered the "rivers, deltas, and coastal waters," to today's competitive swimmers such as Michael Phelps. Means argues that to take a dip has social, political, cultural, and religious implications for the Greeks and Romans it was a celebration to be done nude, but in the Middle Ages and more Puritanical time periods, swimming was considered an abomination or a sign of witchcraft and thus forbidden. In the 20th century, Means writes, financial and racial divides have put swim lessons out of reach for many African-Americans. With painstakingly researched historical references, Means humorously imagines a Roman swimming pool the day before Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE: "a gaggle of indefatigable kids list in a noisy game of Marcus Antonius ." He intersperses his book with the musings of poets and inventors such as Lord Byron and Ben Franklin, along with anecdotes of athletes such as Annette Kellerman, a turn-of-the-20th-century Australian competitive swimmer. Means's delightful history of humans in water simultaneously educates and entertains.