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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