, or καββαλική
), wrestling. The word πάλη
is sometimes used in a wider sense, embracing all gymnastic
exercises with the exception of dancing, whence the schools of the athletae
were called palaestrae;
that is, schools in
which the πάλη
in its widest sense was
taught (Plat. Legg.
vii. p. 795). [PALAESTRA
] There are also many passages in ancient
writers in which πάλη
are used to designate any particular
species of athletic games besides wrestling, or a combination of several
games. (See Krause, Gymnastik und Agonistik,
p. 400, note 2.)
The Greeks ascribed the invention of wrestling to mythical personages, such
as Palaestra, the daughter of Hermes (Apollod.
), Antaeus and Cercyon (Plat. Legg.
796), Phorbas of Athens, or Theseus (Schol. ad
Pind. N. 5.49
). Hermes, the god of all
gymnastic exercises, also presided over the πάλη.
Theseus is said by Pausanias (1.39.3
) to have been the first who reduced the game of wrestling
to certain rules, and to have thus raised it to the rank of an art; whereas
before his time it was a rude fight, in which bodily size and strength alone
decided the victory. The most celebrated wrestler in the heroic age was
Heracles. In the Homeric age wrestling was much practised, and a description
of a wrestling match is given in the Iliad (23.710
, &c.; compare Od.
). During this period wrestlers contended naked, with the
exception of the loins, which were covered with the περίζωμα
), and this custom remained throughout Greece until Ol. 15 (=
720 B.C.), from which time the perizoma was no longer used, and wrestlers
fought entirely naked. (Thuc. 1.6
, with the
Schol. and Boeckh's note to C. I. G.
i. p. 554, who shows
that from the time of Orsippus (Paus. l.c.
720 B.C. or 632, runners put off the περίζωμα,
but that it was only a short time before the age of
Thucydides that those who contended in other departments of athletics put it
off.) In the Homeric age the custom of anointing the body for the purpose of
wrestling does not appear to have been known, but in the time of Solon it
was quite general, and was said to have been adopted by the Cretans and
Lacedaemonians at a very early period (Thucyd. l.c.;
Plat. de Re Publ.
v. p. 452). At the festival of the Sthenia
in Argos the πάλη
was accompanied by
The contest in wrestling was divided by the ancients into two parts, viz. the
); that is, the fight of the athletae as long as they
stood upright, and the ἀλίνδησις
), in which the athletae struggled with each other while
lying on the ground. Unless they contrived to rise again, the ἀλίνδησις
was the last stage of the contest,
which continued until one of them acknowledged himself to be conquered
appears to have been the
only one which was fought in the times of Homer, as well as afterwards in
the great national games of the Greeks; and as soon as one athlete fell, the
other allowed him to rise and continue the contest if he still felt inclined
13, 2; Lucian, Lexiph.
5). But if
the same athlete fell thrice, the victory was decided, and he was not
allowed to go on (Senec. de Benef.
5.3; Aeschyl. Eum.
589; Anthol. Gr.
vol. ii. p.
406, ed. Jacobs). As the winner of three falls, the victor was called
(Aesch. Ag. 171
); similarly one who is not conquerable is
338). The ἀλίνδησις
was only fought in
later times, at the smaller games, and especially in the pancratium. The
place where the wrestlers contended was generally soft ground, and covered
with sand (Xen. Anab. 4.8
, § 26;
2). Each of the various tribes of the [p. 2.83]
Greeks seem to have shown its peculiar and national
character in the game of wrestling in some particular trick or stratagem, by
which it excelled the others.
There were certain rules for wrestling (Plat. Legg.
cf. Lucian, Demon.
49), e. g. that striking was
not allowed, though pushing was quite fair (Plut. Symposiac.
2.5; Lucian, Anach.
24; yet cf. Ocyp.
within these laws all kinds of feints and tricks were practised; hence
wrestling is called by Plutarch (op. cit.
τεχνικώτατον καὶ πανουργότατον τῶν
, 32). Well-trained wrestlers were not
satisfied with merely effecting the defeat of their adversary, but always
strove to display grace and elegance in their performances (Cic. Orat.
68, 228). Prior to the contest each combatant
used to anoint the other, and rub him over with fine dust or sand (Ov. Met. 9.35
; Lucian, Anach.
1). The oil was useful to make the wrestlers more flexible and agile
ib. 24), and the dust to
allow the adversary to get a grip, besides being advantageous to the
wrestler himself in that it prevented him from perspiring too diffusely and
from catching cold, as one is likely to do if exposed to the wind with one's
pores open, and also in that it enabled the dirt to be more easily scraped
off after the contest was over (ib. 29). There are a great many technical
terms applied to different kinds of wrestling (Poll. 3.155), which are set
forth by Krause (Gymnastik und Agonistik der Hellenen,
1.400-439, also in his art. Gymnastica,
§ viii. in Pauly's Realencylopädie,
3.1006-1009) and Grasberger (Erziehung und Unterricht,
1.331-373), such as--
This consisted in one of
the wrestlers, if he had very powerful hands, seizing the fingers of the
other, and sometimes breaking them, thus compelling his adversary to give up
1.60; cf. Aristot. Eth. N.
3.1, 17). One athlete, Sostratus of Sicyon, from his success in this, was
). This feature, however,
as well as breaking the toes (Paus. 8.40
), belongs mostly to the Pancratium [PANCRATIUM
--a word for grasping, getting the
“grip” (λαβή, ἅμμα
ordinary method appears to have been this:--The wrestlers used to approach
one another with upraised and extended arms, and take up a firm position of
attack with the right leg advanced and the upper part of the body drawn
somewhat back. Then each advanced his left leg till they were close together
(cum pede pes junctus,
Ov. Met. 9.45
, a position called by Plutarch,
), arched his neck and shoulders, contracted
) his body as much as
possible, and thus standing each tried to get his grip (Heliod.
10.31; Ov. Met. 9.33
ff.; Stat. Theb. 6.850
ff. See also cut
in Guhl and Koner, p. 267). The efforts to get the grip are vividly
described by Statius in his account of the wrestling match between Agylleus
and Tydeus (ib. 860):
Wrestlers getting the “grip” (δράσσοντες). (Krause.)
Et iam alterna manus frontemque humerosque latusque
Collaque pectoraque et vitantia crura lacessit
Interdumque diu pendent per mutua fulti Bracchia,
” &c. In making these efforts to grasp one another, as each
kept his body back as much as possible while he bent forward his head, the
wrestlers often necessarily knocked their heads together (συναράττειν τὰ μέτωπα,
1; “et frontem fronte premebam,”
Ov. Met. 9.45
). Cf. illustration No. 1589 in
“butting” was only incidental, and not, as Guhl and Koner say,
a regular feature of the wrestling. Frequently both wrestlers took
), as in the wrestling-match in the
23.711. In that case, if one fell, the other did too,
he who was uppermost being considered the victor in that fall. This is the
meaning of πίπτει δ᾽ἀσφαλὲς οὐδ᾽ ἐπὶ
in Aesch. Supp. 90
have several illustrations of wrestlers grasping just above the waist, so
as, either by extreme pressure or by dragging his adversary about, to force
him to surrender (Krause in Pauly, p. 1006); or sometimes an arm and a
shoulder are grasped.
3. ἄγχειν, ἀποπνίγειν,
Wrestler--ἄγχων. (Hercules and
choking. This was done either by throwing both arms round the
neck, generally from behind (Theocr. 25.268; Philostr. Imag.
1.6, p. 384, Kayser) or by a very tight pressure in the middle of the body,
as Hercules strangled Antaeus (ἀράμενος τὸν
Ἀνταῖον μετέωρον ἅμμασιν Ἡρακλῆς κλάσας ἀπέκτεινε,
Schol. to Plat. Legg.
796 A; Stat. Theb. 6.897
), or by the elbow pressed up under the chin
1), a method of strangling which is perhaps
meant by ἀγκωνίζειν.
is a general term for the
bending and twisting which is seen in all wrestling: cf. Hesiod,
which refers to wrestling.
was some trick of
“a hook” ) the leg round the leg of the adversary. It differs
according to Hermann [p. 2.84]
(ap. Grasberger, op. cit.
1.355) from ὑποσκελίζειν
in this respect, that in the latter the
tripping foot is not taken off the ground, while in ἀγκυρίζειν
it is. But more probably ὑποσκελίζειν
is a generic term.
6. ἐμβάλλειν, παρεμβάλλειν
2.4; Lucian, Ocyp.
probably making a charge in front or on the side of the opponent: for we
know that pushing was allowed. Cf. ράσσειν
to make a feint of grasping:
cf. Stat. Theb. 6.876
in colla minatus Crura subit.” The word is derived, according to
s. v. παρακρούεται
(652, 48), ἀπατᾲ̂, ἀπὸ
μεταφορᾶς τῶν παλαιστῶν οὐ καταβαλλόντων ἀλλ᾽ ἐν ὥρᾳ
παρακρουόντων ἢ ποδὶ ἢ χειπὶ καὶ οὐ ριπτόντων.
This is a general term for
“tripping up” or “taking the legs from under”
one's opponent: cf. ὑφελὼν τὼ πόδε
(Lucian, Dial. Deor.
special form of this occurs in the wrestling-match in the
), when Ulysses
strikes Ajax, probably with his heel, behind at the hollow of the knee
). This appears to have been also
(cf. LXX. Gen. 27.36).
Another form consisted perhaps in pressing the right leg of the opponent
inwards ἐν δὲ γόνυ γνάμψεν
(Hom. Il. 23.731
). This the Scholiast calls
the general word for
“upsetting,” which was the result of ὑποσκελίζειν
(cf. Plat. Euthyd.
5) speaks of περιτροπαί.
The methods were various, e. g. grasping the
opponent's leg and suddenly pulling
it, lifting him clean off the ground (Lucian,
This consisted in one wrestler
turning his adversary right round by suddenly springing on him. After the
turn was effected, he generally leaped on his adversary's back (Ov. Met. 9.52
ff.), twisting his legs tightly
round his thighs (Hesych. sub voce
); or grasped his adversary's sides
low down round the stomach, raising him off the earth and crushing him with
a violent pressure at the same time; or drove his elbow up under his chin to
choke him (Lucian, Anach.
31). In Statius (l.c.
898), when Tydeus gets his adversary well raised up off the
ground, he turned him obliquely (as in the cut under PANCRATIUM
), let him fall,
and falling along with him had an ἀλίνδησις
on the ground (cf. Lucian, Anach.
The Argives were celebrated for this kind of sudden twist in order to get on
the opponent's back, and were called by Theocritus (24.109
“cross-buttock men.” Cf. τὴν ἕδραν
appears to mean that, after
suddenly turning his opponent round, the wrestler clambered up his back, as
it were up a ladder. This is Hermann's not very satisfactory explanation of
in Soph. Trach. 520
. Krause (in Pauly, 996)
says it is a rapid movement of the thigh, whereby the adversary was thrown
down. But this is far from definite, and does not explain the origin of the
term. The Schol. explains it as ἐπαναβάσεις, παρὰ
ἄνω τε καὶ κάτω αὐτοὺς στρέφεσθαι ἐν τῇ μάχῃ.
this “being turned upside down” means being rolled over and
over. the κλῖμαξ
will be a species of
For further conjectures,
see Grasberger, op. cit.
to seize round the middle
(Aristoph. Kn. 262
; Plut. Ant. 33
); διαλαμβάνων τοὺς νεανίσκους ἐτραχήλισεν
to bend the neck back,
x. (xxvii.): hence in the passive
metaphorically used for “to be conquered,” Plut. de Curios.
In a diaetetic point of view the ἀλίνοδησις
was considered beneficial to the interior parts of the body, the loins, and
the lower parts in general, but injurious to the head; whereas the πάλη ὀρθὴ
was believed to act beneficially
upon the upper parts of the body. It was owing to these salutary effects
that wrestling was practised in all the gymnasia as well as in the
palaestrae, and that in Ol. 37 (=632 B.C.) wrestling for boys was introduced
at the Olympic games, and soon after in the other great games, and at Athens
in the Eleusinia and Thesea also. (Paus. 5.8.9
Pind. O. 8.68
; Plut. Symposiac.
2.5.) The most renowned of
all the Greek wrestlers in the historical age was Milo of Croton, whose name
was known throughout the ancient world (Hdt.
; Strab. vi. p.263
&c.; Diod. 12.9
). Other distinguished
wrestlers are enumerated by Krause (Gymn.
1.434 ff.). (To the
works of Krause and Grasberger referred to, add Hermann-Blümner,
pp. 344, 345, and Iwan Müller's Handbuch,
Die Griech. Privatalterthümer,
§ 97, p.
451 c, where a copious bibliography is to be found.)