The most popular sports in Antiquity were the combat sports. They could be very rough. Boxing was considered the most dangerous sport. During the match the athletes wore no soft boxing gloves as protection, but they wound hard straps of leather around their hands to make the punches even harder. Professional boxers were recognisable from the scars, especially on their face, for most punches were aimed at the face. Another typical characteristic of boxers were cauliflower-ears: formless ears full of lumps because of the many blows. Some satirical epigrams mock their battered looks.

The combat sports could certainly be dangerous. There are even some cases of athletes who died during a match.

Wounds are sometimes depicted on vase paintings from the late sixth century and on realistic statues and mosaics from the hellenistic period onwards. Panathenaic amphoras, which celebrate the glorious victory, will never show such violent scenes.

© KU Leuven, 2012