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Combat Sports in the Ancient World: Competition, Violence, and Culture (Sports and History Series) Paperback – April 26, 1995
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In addition to describing the sports, Poliakoff gives biographies of some of the more famous practitioners and voices some opinions about the usefulness of combat sports to the body politic, especially in the field of athletics.
In his exposition, Poliakoff sometimes dismisses as fantastical legend some feats which are achievable by well trained athletes. For example, he expresses grave doubts about the tradition that the wrestler Milo of Kroton could lift and carry a bull. In the mid-20th century there was a carnival performer, H.E. Mann, who lifted and carried a bull as a part of his act. Mann's act was inspired by Milo. Poliakoff neglects to mention that Milo is credited as the father of "progressive resistance" weight training. Milo began with a calf and lifted it daily until it became full grown. H.E. Mann trained for his carnival act exactly as Milo did, beginning with a calf and lifting it daily until it became full grown. One of the USA's earliests vendors of weight training equipment was the Milo Barbell Company.
Poliakoff takes a dim view of the savagery involved in ancient combat sports and sees no correlation between the combat sports and actual military service. Although Poliakoff seeks to show that excellent combat athletes make poor soldiers, he does cite numerous counter examples to his position. It seems ancient Greek history is full of individuals who distinguished themselves both in the games and on the battlefield.
Notwithstanding Poliakoff's anti-combat-sports agenda, the book is an informative and enjoyable reading experience.
also about the rough and tumble and agony, as well
as the skill, courage, and cleverness. The book
is a complete survey including information about
ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, but primarily focuses
on Greek and Roman sports and venues.
As the author, Michael Poliakoff, says in Chapter
I, "General Aspects of the Ancient Combat Sports,"
"Boxing, wrestling, and pankration, a sport that
allowed a variety of unarmed fighting tactics, were
the three important forms of combat sport in the
ancient world. *** The element of fighting makes
combat sports easy to mark off as a group; more
difficult is settling on a definition of sport in
general. I define sport and athletics in this book
as activity in which a person physically competes
against another in a contest with established
regulations and procedures, with the immediate
object of succeeding in that contest under criteria
for determining victory that are different from those
that mark success in everyday life."
The chapters of the book are: General Aspects of
the Ancient Combat Sports/ Wrestling/ Pankration/
Stick Fighting/ Boxing/ The Nature and Purpose of
Combat Sport/ The Participants in Greek Combat
Sport/ Metaphor, Myth, and Reality/ as well as
an Appendix titled "Combat Sport, Funeral Cult,
and Human Sacrifice."
The book is very well illustrated throughout
the text with photographs from vases, drinking
cups, statues, Egyptian wall paintings and
sculptures, a photo of a Greek wrestling
manuscript, and a modern photo of Nuba wrestlers
in the Sudan.Read more ›
More important perhaps is what is revealed regarding the importance and effectiveness of combat sports outside the competitive arena. Poliakoff quotes Homer, Alexander and others to make the point that boxing, wrestling and pankration may not be so effective in producing an effective warrior. Alexander, for instance, didn't approve of boxing and wrestling but did favor stick fighting. Champion athletes in the Iliad are cowardly in battle. The Romans blame the Greek love of "games" on their decline.
Scholarly, readable, relevant.
The description of Olympic and other combat events and techniques make it feel as if you could be there watching it.
A few of the most interesting parts were:
-the mention of Theogenes of Thasos (an ancient Greek Olympian), who was the subject of an excellent novel by E.S. Kraay, titled "The Olympian: A Tale of Ancient Hellas".
-the numerous anecdotes and biographies of Olympian fighters
-the duel between Dioxippos (a Greek pankrationist) and Koragos (of the Macedonian army), which was fascinating enough to warrant further reading elsewhere
-List of Illustrations
-I. General Aspects of the Ancient Combat Sports (Definitions, Similarities Among the Combat Sports, Training, The Athletic Festivals, Organization of Competition)
-II. Wrestling (The Fall, Rules, Belt Wrestling, Wrestling Techniques)
-III.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Wäre Poliakoff ein Kampfkünstler, sein Buch hätte stellenweise mehr "Insider-Lebendigkeit". Aber auch ohne diesen Punkt ist das Werk einfach hervorragend. Read morePublished on September 10, 2010 by El viejo lobo
Ok, that's a little severe... In truth an erudite academic overview, interesting, but lacking in charisma. Read morePublished on July 27, 2010 by Jeremy
Well to start off im 18 and HATE READING (as does everyone in my generation) and from the way that this book was layed out I thought it was the average encyclopidia style book that... Read morePublished on September 23, 2007 by Christopher Hunter