Wrestling’s Grip on the Past: A Comprehensive Study of Ancient Greek Wrestling

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Bols, Bjorn
Classical Studies , Ancient , Athletics , Sport , Anthropology , Ancient Greece , Roman , Wrestling , Grappling , Experimental Archaeology
Wrestling was the first non-running event added to the ancient Olympics in the 18th Olympiad in 708 BC. Wrestling continued to appear in Greek and Roman art and literature all the way until the end of antiquity, leaving behind a large cultural legacy over a period of a thousand years. This long history reflects a level of importance and prestige associated with the sport that is deserving of further study. By applying a modern and practical understanding of grappling sports to the descriptions and images from the ancient world, this research aims to illuminate further details about the ancient sport and its cultural function in Greco-Roman art and literature. Due to the similar general rule-sets and lack of equipment, modern knowledge of wrestling can help inform details about ancient images and texts, and correct misunderstandings and confusion between the modern and ancient sports. With its proven pervasiveness in Greco-Roman culture, wrestling can serve as a valuable nexus point to examine many aspects of ancient life, from art and entertainment, healthcare and philosophy, politics and class, and religion and war. This thesis will present its information in sections to discuss wrestling as it relates to a variety of different topics and artistic mediums. Through the analysis of wrestling in the context of myth, literature, art and other modern interpretations, this work will aim to prove the importance of wrestling to Greek culture and identity in the ancient world and how a practical knowledge of wrestling techniques can help inform these subjects overall.
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