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COMBAT SPORTS Pale (Wrestling) 708 B.C. Pyx (Boxing) 688 B.C. Pankration 648 B.C. the “all-powerful contest” a combination of pale and pyx.

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Presentation on theme: "COMBAT SPORTS Pale (Wrestling) 708 B.C. Pyx (Boxing) 688 B.C. Pankration 648 B.C. the “all-powerful contest” a combination of pale and pyx."— Presentation transcript:


2 COMBAT SPORTS Pale (Wrestling) 708 B.C. Pyx (Boxing) 688 B.C. Pankration 648 B.C. the “all-powerful contest” a combination of pale and pyx

3 Mythic Origins Gods Apollo and Ares box at Olympia Heracles the Boxer Theseus the Athenian Pollux (Polydeuces) the brother of Helen (Arete #25) Lapiths and Centaurs Spartans? (Arete #24)

4 Earlier Evidence for Combat Sports

5 "Boxer" and "Antelope" frescoes, from Thera (Akrotiri), c.1650 B.C.


7 And don’t forget about wrestling match at the Funeral Games for Patroclus in Iliad 23 (Arete 1)

8 Pale (Wrestling) 708 B.C. orthe (upright, erect) systasis (standing together) beginning from standing position object: throw opponent to ground

9 Note the kampter suggesting that the skamma for the combat events was in the stadium


11 skamma = dug-up area (also used for boxing and pankration)

12 meson echein = grab the middle

13 apparently one knee could touch the ground, but not both

14 trachelizein = to hold by the neck

15 hedran strephein = “to turn the seat” or “to turn the buttocks”

16 Flying mare a variation of the hedran strephein, but uses the back instead of the hip as a fulcrum

17 no weight classes competitors chosen by lot ephedros = “on the seat” received a bye on the first match anephedros winning without a bye

18 Kleobis and Biton from Argos, wrestlers. Herodotus writes a story about these brothers and their mother Cydippe: When Solon had provoked him by saying that the affairs of Tellos were so olbios, Croesus asked who he thought was next, fully expecting to win second prize. Solon answered, "Kleobis and Biton." They were Argive in genos, they had enough to live on, and on top of this they had great bodily strength. Both were prize-winning athletes [athlophoroi], and this story is told about them: There was a festival of Hera in Argos, and their mother absolutely had to be conveyed to the sacred precinct by a team of oxen. But their oxen had not come back from the fields in time [hôra], so the youths took the yoke upon their own shoulders under constraint of time. They drew the wagon, with their mother riding atop it, traveling 45 stadia until they arrived at the sacred precinct. When they had done this and had been seen by the entire gathering, their lives came to the best fulfillment [ariston telos], and in their case the god made clear that for human beings it is better to be dead than to live. The Argive men stood around the youths and congratulated them on their strength; the Argive women congratulated their mother for having such children. She was overjoyed at the feat and at the praise, so she stood before the image and prayed that the goddess might grant the best thing for humanity to her children Kleobis and Biton, who had given great timê to the goddess. After this prayer they sacrificed and feasted. The youths then lay down in the sacred precinct and went to sleep, and they never got up again; they remained in the pose that they had assumed in reaching their telos. The Argives made and dedicated at Delphi statues of them, since they were aristoi.

19 Milo of Croton The wrestler Milo of Crotona, several times Olympic champion for around 26 years. He won the boys wrestling in the 60th Olympiad in 540 BC, five-time wrestling champion from the 62nd to the 66th Olympiad, (532 to 516 BC). He wore a lion-skin cloak and carried a club like Hercules, very impressive athlete as he was eating 8 kg meat each day. Some say that he even once carried to the Olympic stadium a four-year old bull on his shoulders that he slaughter and devour it. Milo was not only a wrestler but also a musician a poet and a student of Pythagoras the mathematician and Philosopher. See Arete 33, 74, 143, 163a-b, 216 SUV É E, Joseph-Benoit (b. 1743, Brugge, d. 1807, Roma)

20 himantes = gloves Pygmachia = Boxing Match

21 Philostratus. On Gymnastics. Arete #37 Boxing invented by the Spartans who had no helmets, nor did they think it proper to their native land to fight in helmets. They felt that a sheild, properly used, could serve in the place of a helmet. Therefore they practiced boxing in order to know how to ward off blows to the face.



24 Note himantes hanging in background.

25 Like wresting, boxing took place in the skamma. Opponents chosen by lot. Preliminary bouts held Simultaneously. Note blows to the head.







32 hard himantes introduced by 4 th century





37 korykos = punching bag

38 Euthymos of Lokris Euthymus of Locris, three times winner in the boxing event in Olympia. Statue based inscription (to be admired by mortals) and “produced by Pythagoras of Samos” (not the mathematician). See Arete 166a and 166b

39 Diagoras of Rhodes Victor in the 79th Olympiad, 464 BC. His sons' and grandsons' also became boxing and pancration winners and in the 83 rd Olympiad his sons Damagetos and Akousilaos lifted their father Diagoras on their shoulders in the stadium. Diagoras was also a winner in the Isthmia Games (4 times) and 2 times winner in Nemea. His other son Dorieus and the two sons of his daughter were also winners in various Games. See Arete #170; also 149 and 248

40 Pankration



43 Brutality a key feature. Kicking and biting allowed. Ground holds allowed.





48 Statues by Canova. Story told by Pausanias.

49 In a Pancration event in Nemea in 400 BC Creugas (or Kreugas) of Epidamnos and Damoxenos of Syracuse struggle for hours without a decision. Creugas and Damoxenos agreed that each would accept an undefended blow. Creugas delivered first a punch to his opponent's head. Still standing, Damoxenos jabbed Creugas with his fingers straight out, piercing his rib cage. Damoxenos yanked out his intestines, killing him on the spot. Damoxenos was expelled, although seemingly on a technicality: The judges deemed the disemboweling to be several blows (one for each finger) instead of the single agreed- upon blow. Creugas (or Kreugas) of Epidamnos and Damoxenos of Syracuse

50 POLYDAMAS of Scotassa

51 Polydamas of Skotoussa (Πολυδάμας) winner of the 93 th Olympiad (408 BC) a wrestler that once had to fight simultaneously with 3 of the best wrestlers of Dareius II Ochon, the king of Persia. He killed 2 while the third Persian wrestler run away. Legend says that he killed a lion like Hercules with his bare hands. Polydamas died in a cave in when he tried to hold the collapsing mountain up with his arms. Pausanias saw the statue of Polydamas at Olympia and wrote (VI, 5, 1) "And he on a high pedestal, the work of Lysippus, greater than all men, except for those called heroes,and of any other race that preceded mankind, and of contemporary men, Polydamas the Nicean is the greatest. Julian the African (Euseb. 93rd Olymp.) wrote: The oversize Polydamas won at the pancration, he who in Persia, in front of King Ochon, naked and unarmed, killed lions, had a duel with three of the fully armed bodyguard of the king, of those called the immortals "and killed them. The same man stopped chariots which were moving at full speed.

52 Arrachion of Phigalia A heroic and at the same time tragic event took place at Olympia, when the pankratiast Arrachion from Phigalia died during the game. Arrachion being in a difficult position, when his opponent grabbed his neck, managed to make him raise his hand (the sign of defeat) by twisting his leg, while himself was dying. Arrachion, though dead, was pronounced the winner. He won three times at Olympia (572/568/564 BC). See Arete #38. For more on Ancient Greek Athletes, see

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