Soccer in Ancient Greece

“Ball games were used as training technique, practised on a field (sfairodromion) or in a room (sfairisterion). Later, the playing-field was also called “palaistra” (palaestra) which became more popular as wrestling-field. 

It is claimed that the game of “Episkyros”, also known as “Ephebike”, was practised in Greece as long ago as 800 BC. One of the basic rules was that you were allowed to use your hands, which really suggests that it is a closer relation to rugby than football. However, many of the characteristics of the game are similar to football, particularly the dimensions of the pitch and the fact that 12 players formed a team.

Julius Pollux (150-200 AD) was a teach and scholar of rhetoric and oratory. He was from Naucratis (Egypt), became tutor to the Emperor Commodus in Rome, and eventually took a job in Athens. He had a reputation for being unintelligent, his “Dictionary Onomasticon” (= collection of Greek names and terms, with explanatory notes, made about 180 AD) seems to many readers to be disorganized. However, Pollux’ book contains many anecdotes that offer evidence about many aspects of the ancient world. In his book, he explained : “Two teams are separated with a line, made with piece of chalk, and behind each team there is another line. The purpose of the game is throwing a ball over the opposite team without passing the line in the middle, trying to reach to line behind the opponent.””


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Ancient Hawaiian Lava Sledding- Kevin

Papa Holua was a cultural ritual and favorite sport for the ancient Hawaiians for over 1,000 years. It translates into “to slide into the pit.” It ended in the 1800s when missionaries got to the island and forced them to stop because they thought it was a dangerous and barbaric tradition. It was also called lava sledding

It was similar to surfing but on rock and with a wooden sled. They would start running down a steep rocky hill and dive head first on to the sled or rode standing up. They ride down lava rock that sometimes would be padded with a thin layer of grass.

The Holua sleds were 12 feet long, 6 inches wide and weighed about 50 pounds. It was made of wood and had runners down it. There were handrails at the top and crosspieces to balance on. They were capable of reaching over 50 mph and  people sled 100s of miles to the bottom of a mountain.


This cultural tradition had to do with the worshiping of their goddess of fire, Pele. They honored her and worshiped her by riding down the volcano. They also held rituals and competitions for speed and distance.

The christian missionaries stopped it in the 1800s, and it wasn’t known to be done until around the late 1900s. The sleds are being built again with the same design as before and it is becoming a popular sport again. They are trying to hold the first lava sledding competition since 1825.

This sport was created from the idea of surfing on land. Surfing was around a long time before the lava sledding. The first people to stand on a wooden board in the Pacific Ocean are thought to do so before 400 AD. Petroglyphs of surfers were found on lava rock which proves its been around for a long time. Early surfboards were made of wood and couldn’t be used for too long. It has been around for thousands of years and led to later the invention of later sports such as snowboarding and skateboarding.

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Nile River Poaching-Josh

The modern implications between ancient Nile River Sports and the unfortunate environmental effects these continued practices are having on the region is undoubtedly a hard thing to stomach for those who enjoy the diversity of life and nature present throughout the world. However habitat loss as a result of a growing human population has been a significant factor for several species near- extinction, I will discuss three animals susceptible to poaching which is more related to ancient Nile sports.

The Nile crocodile was almost hunted to extinction for creating exceptional leather out of its tough skin, for meat, and also medicinal purposes. Another amazing creature that has been poached to near-extinction is the Black Rhinoceros. The horns are sought for a variety of purposes such as medicinal, fighting off poisons, and also for luxury. It was in 1970 that the Rhino population really started to drop. A dagger with a hilt carved out of Rhino horn is a symbol of wealth and status for men in Yemen. When the oil prices skyrocketed, the per capita income increased seven-fold allowing a large proportion of the male population to afford these daggers. The basic idea of supply and demand can be applied here; the more people could afford these daggers, the more Rhinos were poached. Incredibly, a set of horns from one Rhino would go for as much as 50,000 dollars. Another sad tale on this topic includes the constant exponential decline in respect to the cat count. Leopards and Lions are threatened as a result of human contact, loss of habitat, prey decline, trophy hunting, pesticide poisoning, and Tuberculosis. In fact, 517 trophies were legally exported to the U.S. in 2008 according to the Convention in International Trade of Endangered Species. Conservationists are extremely concerned that these predators will soon vanish, and that without these large cats, the ecosystem will not function correctly.

Pharaoh’s and high officials would enjoy the sport of hunting back in the olden days, however it obviously did not had the adverse effects we see today.  The result of new technologies such as highly efficient guns, and a growing population creates the perfect recipe for the ultimate extinction of any species with any sort of economic value. While people still hunt for sport today, it is only a fraction of the larger picture that, in conglomeration with human conflict as a result of loss of habitat, that is causing the rapid decrease of these incredible animals. I’m for sure bummed. It would be boring, and quite selfish of our species to create a world only inhabited by humans. Conservationists claim strategies such as ecotourism, banning hunting and arresting poachers, and reduced human conflict by protecting reserves are key in the survival of these majestic creatures.

Joubert, Derrick and Beverley. “Protecting Predators.” National Geographic. December 2010. 138-144.


“Black Rhino An Endangered Species.” Google. Web. 28 November 2010.


“Nile Crocodile.” 25 November 2010. Wikipedia. Web. 27 November 2010.

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Dragon Boat Racing-Josh

Over time, this ancient event has transformed from a deadly sport intertwined with religious and ritualistic principles into a purely competitive, non-fatal sport that in 2007, was made a national holiday in China as part of Dueng Ngas. Today exists an International Dragon Boat Federation boasting over 20 million members, and is a recognized member of the General Association of Sports Federation. Dragon boat Racing has also become a popular competitive and recreational sport in Canada, Europe, the United States, and Australia.

People apparently really enjoy coming together for the sole purpose of Dragon Boat racing, and the ancient event has turned into a sport recognized by the Olympic Council of Asia. It is essentially the same as rowing teams throughout the United States, however in Dragon Boat racing, the participants take pride in the building of their craft. Not all, but many individual teams still build their craft from scratch in a form very reminiscent to the old days. They take time to decorate and paint the Dragon head located on the bow of the craft that supposedly leads them to victory. The allure of this sport is not only the rich historical implications, but also the intense training and physical fitness it takes to be a solid competitor, as well as the necessary teamwork and camaraderie it requires to be effective as a unit.

See the official International Dragon Boat Federation website-

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Pankration can be considered an earlier version of MMA because both allow participants to use a variety of unarmed fighting techniques including stress holds, punches and kicks to the head. The same argument that followed Pankration continues today with  MMA or “Ultimate Fighting”. Many have argued that these events are barbaric and require brute force more than skill, and therefore cannot be considered a sport. People of this belief over the years want it to be banned. In ancient times, many athletes argued that Pankration required just as much skill as brute force. Today, there is no doubt that MMA requires brute force, seeing as how beefy the participants are. However, the brute force is undoubtedly complemented by a plethora of skill. The fighters combine the fast footwork of boxing with kickboxing, Muy Thai, Brazilian Jujitsu, Judo, and wrestling. Essentially, you do have men just beating the living shit out of each other in the middle of the ring, just through world renowned fighting forms that are considered art forms by those who practice them regularly. I’m not sure if that justifies the argument for pro-MMA, seeing as how many view the sport as a “simulated bar fight”. Despite opposition, MMA is legal at the pro level today in 37 states, and many argue that boxing, football, snowboarding and skateboarding actually cause more injuries and death.

Nevertheless, for those who enjoy competition, mixed with skill, violence, and ultra-levels of testosterone, MMA provides the perfect recipe for quality entertainment. For all you pansies out there who just can’t bear seeing a bit of blood, just don’t get involved, turn off the TV if you have too, and don’t ruin the fun for everybody else. No one is hurting you personally. In my opinion, MMA is an exceptional idea. The character of men you see training for these fights require a mental and physical discipline that would only be useful in some branch of the military. Although there are always exceptions, most of these men have no place being in a white collar, nine to five position. They obviously generate much more revenue, and feel more personally fulfilled by participating in MMA. At the end of the day, shouldn’t it be their decision to get bloodied up in the ring if they want too, and ours to choose whether or not we want to watch? I mean, no one has died yet. Sure there have been concussions, but the same thing happens in the multi-billion dollar football corporation. Reporter Kai Jackson sums it up pretty well, “While fighters are in the ring pushing it to the limit, everyone else is seeing dollar signs. Professional fights bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars at the gate. Some even rake in millions. Once Maryland starts hosting the events, 10 percent of all money collected at the gate goes straight to the state. That’s money well spent for most rabid fans.” Although there might have been a strong push for the elimination of such a sport, now that there is so much money involved, and if you believe in the philosophy that everything is economics, I really do not see this sport coming to a sudden collapse anytime in the near future.

Clemmit, Maria. “Extreme Sports.” 3 April 2009. CQ Press Electronic Library. Web. 27 September 2010.

Jackson, Kai. “Mixed Martial Arts Controversy comes to Maryland.” 12 May 2008. Google. Web. 27 November 2010.

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Medieval Tournaments – Russ

Tournaments were held all over Europe during the Medieval period but originated in Northern France. The tournaments were put on by various Lords as entertainment for peasants and nobility alike. The tournaments originated as battle practice for the knights but quickly became a means of solving disputes between the knights and eventually became a form of entertainment. As the games grew in popularity, rules had to be instituted to curb the amount of knights that were killed and to maintain order and dignity among them.


The most popular game that took place at the tournaments was the jousting event. There were two types of jousting. The first and most popular among the fans was called the Joust a plaisance tournament, in which a series of elimination jousts would take place over several days and eventually a single knight would emerge victorious. The other was called Pas D’armes, or passage of arms tournament, in which a knight would send out a proclamation that he would take on all challengers at a specific time and place.


The melee events were by far the most popular games at the tournaments. Only a small portion of the tournaments was for jousting and most of the time was spent on the two different melee events. The first of the melee events was called “melee a pied” in which teams of knights would fight on foot using swords and various other weapons of the period. The second melee event was called “melee a cheval” in which teams of knights would fight on horseback. These melee battles would sometimes last all day and would end when too tired to go on or if one team sustained too many injuries and could no longer compete.


Archery was another very popular sporting event in the middle ages. It was so popular that in England it was actually a law that all men between the ages of 15 and 60 had to practice their archery regularly (this helped England dominate many battles over the French). Archery tournaments became very popular all over Europe because they were not just restricted to knights, all could enter.

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Pankration, developed by the ancient Greeks, was another brutal sport endured in ancient times. It consisted of a mixture between wrestling, boxing, and the primitive rough and tumble which can be defined as the natural instinct of a savage or child attempting to get an opponent down in any possible way including beating, strangling, kicking, and biting. However, Pankration differed from wrestling in that the objective of the latter is to throw an opponent without using kicks or directed blows. Boxing differs because in Pankration one can use his fists as well as several other part of his body to submit an opponent. Wrestling was introduced in the 18th Olympiad, boxing in the 23rd olympiad, and Pankration in the 33rd Olympiad around 776 B.C.E.

Pankration can be compared to modern MMA except that it was much more intense. The only rules were no biting and no eye-gouging, which meant choking, scratching, slapping, kicking, punching the genitals, leg tripping, finger bending and flipping an opponent overhead were all fair game. There was a judge who watched over the matches with a stick ready to strike anyone who committed a foul. Participants fought in the nude, and there were no rounds or rests. Interestingly enough, the point of this sport was to get as close as you could to killing your opponent without actually sending him to the grave. One lost only by admitting defeat. So if you killed your opponent it meant he could endure more physical pain and was more of a man. Killing someone resulted in an instant loss. Once, an Olympic medal was awarded to the fighter Arrichon who, just before his death, had forced his opponent to surrender by the overwhelming pain he inflicted on him by dislocating a bone in the man’s ankle. Another interesting fact is that the Greek Spartans were not allowed to participate in Pankration because it was disgraceful for them to admit defeat.

Pankration can be considered an earlier version of MMA because both allow participants to use a variety of unarmed fighting techniques including stress holds, punches and kicks to the head. The same argument that followed Pankration continues today with  MMA or “Ultimate Fighting”. Many have argued that these events are barbaric and require brute force more than skill, and therefore cannot be considered a sport. People of this belief over the years want it to be banned. In ancient times, many athletes argued that Pankration required just as much skill as brute force. Despite opposition, MMA is legal at the pro level today in 37 states, and many argue that boxing, football, snowboarding and skateboarding actually cause more injuries and death.



Clemmit, Maria. “Extreme Sports.” 3 April 2009. CQ Press Electronic Library. Web. 27 September 2010.

Gardiner, Norman. “The Pankration and Wrestling.” JSTOR. Web. 27 September 2010.

Glueck, Grace. “The Olympics As They Were.” 23 July 2004. Gale World History in Context. Web. 27 September 2010.

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Games of the Colosseum (Russ)

The Colosseum

The Colosseum took nine years to build and was inaugurated in AD 80 by Titus. In AD 438 Valentinian III abolished the gladiatorial games and in 523 the last staged hunt was held in the Colosseum. At this point the Colosseum had been badly damaged by two earthquakes and been hit by lightning and set on fire twice, and thus fell into further decay by centuries of abuse and neglect. During the 443 years of glory the Colosseum experienced during Rome’s reign, it was home to some of the fiercest sporting events known to man. The earliest of the spectacles were the gladiatorial games, in which gladiators would fight to the death. An event that became extremely popular in the later years of the empire was the hunts, in which a staged hunt of a variety of animals would take place. Arguably the most spectacular of all the events that took place at the Colosseum was the naumachiae, an event in which the Colosseum would be flooded and naval battles would take place.


The gladiators were typically slaves, prisoners of war, or criminals that had been condemned to death. On rare occasion free men could enlist as gladiators because of a love for danger and excitement or because they needed the enlistment bonus that was given to pay off debts. The gladiatorial fights were the most popular of all the games and went on in Rome for over 500 years. The fights could be between as little as two gladiators fighting one on one, or they could be as big as a few hundred men reenacting famous historical battles.

The Hunts

The “Hunts” as they are known, were battle between man and beast.  This was an opportunity to show off the wild animals from all the corners of the Roman Empire.  They brought in lions, tigers, bulls, beers, deer, elephants and many other species all for the sake of entertainment. The would stage the Colosseum as a scene depicting some region of the empire and then have the hunters chase down and kill the beasts before them.  In earlier times it was common practice to chain the animals up making it easier for the hunters to win, however, by the time the Colosseum was reaching the pinnacle of its popularity the animals were left unchained and the hunts became much bloodier and deadly for the men involved, which were also slaves, criminals, and prisoners of war.


The naumachiae were reproductions of famous naval battles that were held in the Colosseum for only the first five years of its existence. The reenactments would be of battles such as the Greeks defeating the Persians at Salamina, or the Corcyreans destroying the Corinthian fleet.  Flooding the entire basin of the Colosseum took a lot of time, manpower, and money, which is why the naumachiae was not a very common event. The basin of the Colosseum had to be flooded to at least 5 feet deep in order to float the full size naval boats that were used in the battles.  The crews of the boats, which were also the warriors in the battles, were once again slaves, criminals, and prisoners of war.  These battles could last as long as 2-3 days and end up leaving hundreds dead.

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Josh-Nile River Sports

The Nile River saw plenty of action from the Egyptians in the form of sport-like activities. The Egyptians were one of the first civilizations to regard hunting and fishing as both a sport and a source of food. Just as people enjoy leaving their towns to go on fishing expenditures today, Egyptian recreational fishers adventured to regions of the Nile preserved by the Pharaoh’s for hunting and fishing. Rather than using nets, these fishermen often used harpoons so that they could target good-tasting fish. There was a modest variety of options on the Nile including Tilapia, Elephantfish, Nile Perch, Catfish, Eel, Shark, and Dolphin. Once a fish was harpooned, it was then clubbed to death and kept in shade to keep the stank from spreading.

Swimming was another pastime that the Ancient Egyptians thoroughly enjoyed. The Nile was used by many to learn how to swim. Calm regions in the Nile allowed competitions to be held so that young competitors could prove their skills against one another. Also, many hieroglyphs depict the Egyptians using the “front crawl” style.

However, the most interesting and brutal of all the Nile River Sports is “Fishermen’s Jousting”. A team consisted of four men in one papyrus boat, and each man was armed with a paddle. Two teams would paddle out into the middle of the Nile where they would then proceed to beat the shit out of each other. It was a last man standing type of deal where opponents tried to knock each other off  their boats. Unlike the Dragon Boat Racing, these guys were not hardcore water-men. Often times they would drown as a result of not knowing how to swim, however it didn’t really matter because with blood splattered everywhere from the heavy blows, crocodiles and hippos were attracted by the excitement. If you fell off, there wasn’t really much you could do, you pretty much blew it. These guys would drown or get chomped.

There is not too much information on this sport, however there is some stipulation that it involved ritualistic and spiritual components. The Pharaoh’s really got a kick out of it, and some argue that if you did eventually make it ashore after repelling a water beast, that a priest would be there waiting to kill you because the croc’s and hippo’s were considered to contain sacred spirits.

In relating this to today, we do not really have a sport that can be compared to Fishermen’s Jousting, but swimming is an Olympic Sport, and there are several TV shows such as “River Monsters” on animal planet hosted by Jeremy Wade that depict the rewarding adventures of exploring different fishing regions.

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Roman Sports Kevin

The Romans had athletic contest and were very concerned with physical fitness. Being ready for war was a big reason that they were interested in strength, endurance, and agility.  They had fields where they could use for all kinds of events.

The Romans were involved in a lot of different activities. They used fields for racing horses and chariots, playing ball games, foot races, and wrestling matches. They lifted weights and had weights that looked similar to dumbbells.

They had many games which involved a ball. There were different kinds of balls and they came in different sizes. They didn’t bounce good like the rubber Mesoamerican balls but some could bounce more than others. There were balls made from pig bladder, ones filled with feathers, and even some made of glass. A ball game that they played involved hitting the ball with a curved stick kind of like golf. Other Games involved throwing a ball in the air and two teams would fight for it.

Hunting was another popular activity which they considered a sport. There were also violent sports such as exotic animals fighting each other or slaves or prisoners in a open area while people watched.


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