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Types of Greek Sports | Seeing Spectacles

Types of Greek Sports

Apene: A mule cart race, briefly an Olympic sport. It was often thought to be undignified and its inclusion in the Olympics was strange, given that the people of Elis (who ran the Olympics) were forbidden from breeding mules by religious sanction.

A coin from Bruttium, Rhegion, in the South of Italy shows a mule cart and its driver. Anaxilas, tyrant of Bruttium, won the apene in the Olympic Games in 484 or 480 BCE and this coin.  commemorates that
A coin from Bruttium, Rhegion, in the South of Italy shows a mule cart and its driver. Anaxilas, tyrant of Bruttium, won the apene in the Olympic Games in 484 or 480 BCE and this coin commemorates that achievemen.

Boxing: Much more violent than modern boxing. It had no rounds or breaks, unless both fighters agreed, and boxers wore himantes, leather strips (c.4 metres in length), wrapped around their hands and wrists. These were made of ox-hide; pigskin was forbidden because it left wounds that would not close easily and were too painful. Eventually this turned into the caestus.

Dolichos: a long distance race, it was added to the Olympics in 720 BCE. It was anything from 7-24 laps of the stadium. In no case was it more than 4,800 metres.

Diaulos: a race consisting of a lap of the stadium. It was the second event added to the Olympics in 724 BCE.

These bronze halteres were found in Olympia; they were offerings by a grateful victor. (Photo is by MatthiasKabel. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons )
These bronze halteres were found in Olympia; they were offerings by a grateful victor. (Photo is by MatthiasKabel. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons )

Halma: the Greek long jump. Weights called halteres were used to increase the distance a jumper could reach, while a flute player played to help them get their rhythm before they jumped. Jumpers also leapt from a high platform.

Three runners in the hoplitodromos on aPanathenaic amphora, 323–322 BCE. (Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons)
Three runners in the hoplitodromos on aPanathenaic amphora, 323–322 BCE. (Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons)

Hoplitodromos: A race in armour. At first the runners ran with helmets, shields and greaves, but gradually athletes stopped wearing greaves (leg guards).

Kalpe: A race for mares, it involved the riders leaping down from their horses to run along side them in the last length.

Lampadedromia: a relay torch carrying race, where letting the torch go out resulted in instant disqualification.

Detail of a vase, showing a foul in the pankration (notice the eye-gouging and the referee about to whip the offender).
Detail of a vase, showing a foul in the pankration (notice the eye-gouging and the referee about to whip the offender).

Pankration: ‘All powerful’ a particularly violent sport which was a combination of boxing and wrestling. The only illegal moves were eye gouging and biting; in Sparta there were no illegal moves.

Stadion: a race of one length of the stadium. The only event at the first Olympics in 776 BCE. Each Olympiad was named after the winner of the stadion at the Olympics and this dating system was common to all Greek states and cities.

 


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