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Play with ball

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Playing with the ball of the ancient Romans
Playing with the ball of the ancient Romans

In most people, when talking about games and entertainment of the Romans, they pay attention, among others for gladiators’ fights, libraries, theater etc. without going deeper into this subject. The above-mentioned pastimes were undoubtedly of great value to the ancient Romans, but they were held once in a while. So how did they meet this waiting time?

Some say that for the Romans the most important activity in life was labor – work, so they didn’t have much time for themselves. This is not true. The Romans in various ways made this (sometimes very long) waiting period more enjoyable. Starting from children’s games (i.e. today) in hide and seek and ending with… playing football. This is!

The basic games, everyday activities, Roman society also included ball games (Latin pilus “hair”), which was very diverse, which translates into a huge number of specialized terms, including .:

  • aporraksis – the winner of the game was a player who was able to bounce the ball with one hand the largest number of times among the participants of the game;
  • episkyros – the game consisted of throwing the ball over the heads of the opposing team players in such a way as to force it to go back and cross the end line of the designated field of play, at the beginning of the game the ball was placed in the middle and the players being on the extreme lines of the field had to catch her as soon as possible and make a throw;
  • ephetinda – consists in deceiving opponents, simulating a throw that is directed to another person;
  • phaininda (harpastum being the most popular variation of the ball game) – a game in which two (or more) players try to tear the ball also by two opponents giving each other
  • trigon – is a mutual bounce between three players;
  • urania – a game of tossing the ball high up to make it difficult for players to catch it.

In the whole of antiquity it was the most democratic type of game. Even the greatest antique doctor after Hippocrates – Galen called her “a happy companion of people”. Everyone practiced this sport regardless of their social status. Children and adults played football, strong and weak, rich and poor, women and men, free and slaves, intellectuals and poorly educated.

From the above examples it is clear that ball games were (as in modern times) everyday life for the Romans. It may not have been the “national sport” for the Romans today (such sport can be called gladiatorial fights), however, this indicates the ingenuity of the Romans, who many centuries before the spread of football in the world came up with such an idea.

Author: Adam Zawojak
  • Dariusz Słapek. Sport i widowiska w świecie antycznym: kompendium, Warszawa 2010

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