P012Pankration, which literary means ‘all force’, is a combination of wrestling and boxing. It was a dangerous sport, in which everything was permitted except biting, gouging (stabbing with your finger in your opponent’s eye, nose or mouth) and attacking the genitals. Just as in the other combat sports, umpires stood ready to punish offenders. All holds from wrestling and all blows from boxing could be used. The danger of getting wounded was nevertheless smaller than with boxing, because pankratiasts normally didn’t wear hard gloves.

As with wrestling, there were two forms: upright pankration in which you lost upon touching the ground three times and ground pankration in which you could fight on the ground and lost only by submission. The first form was mostly used in training, the second form in the games.

P013Pankration was the favourite sport of the spectators. At those games where money could be won, the winning pankratiast received the highest prize-money of all the winners, except for the winners of the equestrian events. The Greeks regarded it as the ultimate test in strength and technique. So it was clearly more than brute force. In 648 BC, the pankration was introduced at Olympia, but only four centuries later, in 200 BC, it was extended to boys.

Famous pankratiasts :

* Arrichion of Phigalia
* Kallias of Athens
* Kleitomachos of Thebes
* Diagoras of Rhodes & family
* Dorieus of Rhodes
* Theagenes of Thasos
* Poulydamas of Scotussa
* Marcus Aurelius Asklepiades
* Marcus Aurelius Demostratos Damas

© KU Leuven, 2012