Combat Sports in the Ancient World


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Competition, Violence, and Culture

Michael B. Poliakoff

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A leading authority on classical games here provides a comprehensive study of the practice of combat sports in the ancient civilizations of Greece, Rome, and the Near East. Describing and analyzing the sports of boxing, wrestling, stick-fighting, and pankration, Michael B. Poliakoff discusses such topics as the function of competition and violent games in ancient society; on the social background of the participants, showing the broad spectrum of Greek athletic personnel; on the significance of the appearance of combat sport in myth and literature; and on the alleged cultic functions of the ancient combat sports. The book is copiously illustrated with photographs of numerous objects rarely or never before published.

"A major contribution to the history of ancient sport, offering a new perspective to our understanding of classical civilizations."—Erich Segal









"The book is valuable for the numerous illustrations of ancient athletic technique, and for the author's explanations of the surviving literature on such things as injuries and illegal moves."—Choice

"In his delightfully readable book, Poliakoff writes primarily about the ancient Greeks, who even in athletics made a contribution that marked them out from other peoples."—John E. Rexine, Greek Accent

"The book is a well-researched contribution to the sport history literature. It is well-documented and makes for enjoyable reading."—Kendall Blanchard, American Anthropologist

"A significant advance toward understanding ancient sport, and Greek civilization generally, from a unique and valuable perspective."—Thomas F. Scanlon, Classical World

"In his delightfully readable book Poliakoff writes primarily about the ancient Greeks, who even in athletics made a contribution and marked them out from other peoples. . . . A delightful exploration of one part of the Greek heritage that has made itself felt in the American experience. Sports lovers as well as those not athletically inclined will derive pleasure and profit from reading it."—John E. Rexine, Hellenic Chronicle

"A very useful addition to bibliographies on ancient sport."—Victor J. Matthews, Phoenix

"This is a well-written, well-designed and handsomely-printed volume, which, within the limits it sets itself, is a valuable contribution to the literature of ancient sport."—F.A. Beck, Classical Views

"Sports historians—no matter what their field of expertise—will want to read Combat Sports In The Ancient World and to recommend it to their students as a fine introduction to an awesomely complex topic."—Allen Guttmann, Journal of Sport History

"The book provides an excellent view of ancient societies through their principal combat sports—boxing, wrestling, and the pankration, a combination of the two plus kicking. . . . Poliakoff. . . gives us a clear and accurate picture of the nature, use, and meaning of combat sports in ancient times. . . . A valuable addition to the literature on ancient sport because it not only expands our knowledge of ancient times but it also refines our thinking about the needs and behaviors of our forebears. . . . I welcome Poliakoff's book. His analysis of ancient combat sports has given me a clearer picture of their purpose and meaning. . . . This book is not just for students of ancient sport and culture but for anyone interested in the nature of competition and violence in sport."—J. Thomas Jable, Sociology of Sport Journal

"Provocative but not pedantic, Poliakoff's work is essential reading for anyone interested in sport and antiquity."—Donald G. Kyle, American Historical Review

"Classicists as well as students of the history of sport will be grateful for this perceptive, lucid and provocative work."—Anthony J. Papalas, International Journal of the History of Sport
ISBN: 9780300063127
Publication Date: April 26, 1995
220 pages, 6 x 9
96 b/w illus.