Ancient Wrestling. A Study of Greek and Latin Athletic

Yanzina Evelina V.

Using a wide array of ancient sources, both written (Greek and Roman literature, inscriptions, documents on papyrus) and visual, covering the time span from the 8th century BC to the 12th century AD, the author gives a thorough overview of one of the combat sports most appealing to the ancients, namely, wrestling (πάλη, luctatio). She begins with a brief description of its origins and supposed inventors, introduction to the Olympic games, the attitudes of the Greeks towards this athletic event and its most famous practitioners. The following section examines the rules: to win a victory the wrestler should throw his opponent three times to the ground ((ἀπο)τριάζειν, τριάσσειν; cf. τριακτήρ, ἀτρίακτος) or force him to acknowledge his defeat by strangling (ἄγχειν) or twisting any opponent’s limb (στρεβλοῦν). Biting, punching and kicking were forbidden. The central section of this article systematically explores technical aspects of wrestling together with its terminology and is divided into 6 subsections: 1) general wrestling terms (πάλαισμα, σχῆμα, ἀγώνισμα, numerus); 2) wrestling from a standing position (ὀρθὴ πάλη) and ground wrestling (ἀλίνδησις, κύλισις); 3) the starting stance (προβολή, statio); 4) holds: general terms (λαβή, ἅμμα, περιτιθέναι, πλέκειν etc., nodus, nexus); terms denoting specifi c types of holds (μέσον λαμβάνειν/ ἔχειν, μεσολαβεῖν, διαλαμβάνειν, cf. μεσοπέρδην, ἀμεσολάβητος; τραχηλίζειν, τραχηλισμός; κλιμακίζειν, κλῖμαξ, κλιμακισμός); 5) throws: general terms (καταβάλλειν, abicere); terms denoting specifi c types of throws (τὴν ἕδραν στρέφειν; εἰς ὕψος ἀναβαστάσαι τὸν ἀντίπαλον; ὑποσκελίζειν; ἰγνύων ἀφαίρεσις/ ὑφαίρεσις, ὑφαιρεῖν; παρεμβολή; παραπλαγιασμός, παρακαταγωγή – cf. πλαγιάζειν, μεταπλασμός; ἀντιβαίνειν, ἀντίβασις; ἀγκυρίζειν, ἀγκύρισμα; ὑπτιασμός); 6) Greek terms which do not have modern equivalents (most of them denote different methods of engaging: σύστασις; παράθεσις, παρατιθέναι; ἐμβολή, ἐμβάλλειν). In some cases in order to give a widely-based comparative view of wrestling holds, throws etc., the pictures and drawings of modern wrestling are placed side by side with illustrations from ancient vases, sculptures, gems, coins and other pieces of Greek and Roman art.

Keywords: πάλη, luctatio, καταβάλλειν, abicere, τριάζειν, ἄγχειν, στρεβλοῦν.
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