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LUCTA, LUCTA´TIO (πάλη, πάλαισμα, παλαισμοσύνη, 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 and παλαίειν 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. 2.4.9), Antaeus and Cercyon (Plat. Legg. vii. p. 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. 8.103, 126, 246). During this period wrestlers contended naked, with the exception of the loins, which were covered with the περίζωμα (Paus. 1.44, 1) or

Wrestlers with περίζωμα. (Krause.)

ζῶμα (Il. 23.683), 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.), i.e. 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 flute-music. [STHENIA]

The contest in wrestling was divided by the ancients into two parts, viz. the πάλη ὀρθὴ or ὀρθία (ὀρθοστάδην παλαίειν); that is, the fight of the athletae as long as they stood upright, and the ἀλίνδησις or κύλισις (lucta volutatoria), 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 (ἀπαγορεύειν, ἀπειπεῖν). The πάλη ὀρθὴ 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 (Senec. Ep. 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 τριακτήρ (Aesch. Ag. 171); similarly one who is not conquerable is ἀτρίακτος (Choeph. 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; Lucian, Anach, 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.

Wrestlers--ἀλίνδησις. (Krause.)

There were certain rules for wrestling (Plat. Legg. 8.833 E; 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. 86). But within these laws all kinds of feints and tricks were practised; hence wrestling is called by Plutarch (op. cit. 2.4) τεχνικώτατον καὶ πανουργότατον τῶν ἀθλημάτων (cf. Xen. Cyr. 1.6, 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 (εὐτονώτερα, 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--

1. ἀκροχειρισμός. 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 (Artemid. Oneir. 1.60; cf. Aristot. Eth. N. 3.1, 17). One athlete, Sostratus of Sicyon, from his success in this, was called ἀκροχειριστής (Paus. 6.4, 1). This feature, however, as well as breaking the toes (Paus. 8.40, 2), belongs mostly to the Pancratium [PANCRATIUM].

2. δράσσειν or δράσσεσθαι--a word for grasping, getting the “grip” (λαβή, ἅμμα). The 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, l.c., σύστασις or παράθεσις), arched his neck and shoulders, contracted (σφηκώσας) his body as much as possible, and thus standing each tried to get his grip (Heliod. Aeth. 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, Lucian, Anach. 1; “et frontem fronte premebam,” Ov. Met. 9.45). Cf. illustration No. 1589 in Baumeister's Denkmäler: but such “butting” was only incidental, and not, as Guhl and Koner say, a regular feature of the wrestling. Frequently both wrestlers took “body-grips” (διαλαμβάνειν), as in the wrestling-match in the Iliad, 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 νώτῳ in Aesch. Supp. 90. We 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 Antaeus.) (Krause.)

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 (Lucian, Anach. 1), a method of strangling which is perhaps meant by ἀγκωνίζειν.

4. λυγίζειν is a general term for the bending and twisting which is seen in all wrestling: cf. Hesiod, Scut. 302, μάχεσθαι ἑλκηδόν, which refers to wrestling.

5. ἀγκυρίζειν was some trick of “hooking” (ἄγκυρα, “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 (Plut. Symposiac. 2.4; Lucian, Ocyp. 60) was probably making a charge in front or on the side of the opponent: for we know that pushing was allowed. Cf. ράσσειν ἀράσσειν.

7. παρακρούειν, to make a feint of grasping: cf. Stat. Theb. 6.876, “fictumque in colla minatus Crura subit.” The word is derived, according to Etym. Magnum, s. v. παρακρούεται (652, 48), ἀπατᾲ̂, ἀπὸ μεταφορᾶς τῶν παλαιστῶν οὐ καταβαλλόντων ἀλλ᾽ ἐν ὥρᾳ παρακρουόντων ποδὶ χειπὶ καὶ οὐ ριπτόντων.

8. ὑποσκελίζειν, supplantare. This is a general term for “tripping up” or “taking the legs from under” one's opponent: cf. ὑφελὼν τὼ πόδε (Lucian, Dial. Deor. 7.3), ὑπέσυρε τὰ σκέλη (Diod. 17.100). A special form of this occurs in the wrestling-match in the Iliad (23.726), when Ulysses strikes Ajax, probably with his heel, behind at the hollow of the knee (κώληψ). This appears to have been also called πτερνίζειν (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 παρακαταγωγή.

9. ἀνατρέπειν, the general word for “upsetting,” which was the result of ὑποσκελίζειν (cf. Plat. Euthyd. 278 B). Plutarch (l.c. 5) speaks of περιτροπαί. The methods were various, e. g. grasping the opponent's leg and suddenly pulling

Wrestlers--ἀνατρέπων. (Krause.)

it, lifting him clean off the ground (Lucian, Anach. 24).

10. στρέφειν. 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 πλίγμα); 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. 1). 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) ἑδροστρόφοι= “cross-buttock men.” Cf. τὴν ἕδραν στρέφειν, Theophr. Char. x. (xxvii.).

11. κλιμακίζειν 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 ἀμφίπλεκτοι κλίμακες 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. If this “being turned upside down” means being rolled over and over. the κλῖμαξ will be a species of ἀλίνδησις. For further conjectures, see Grasberger, op. cit. 1.367-369.

12. διαλαμβάνειν, to seize round the middle (Aristoph. Kn. 262; Plut. Ant. 33); διαλαμβάνων τοὺς νεανίσκους ἐτραχήλισεν (cf. Grasberger, op. cit. 3.465).

13. τραχηλίζειν, to bend the neck back, Theophr. Char. x. (xxvii.): hence in the passive metaphorically used for “to be conquered,” Plut. de Curios. 521, 6.

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; Gel. 15.20; 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. 3.137; 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, Griech. Privatalterthümer,3 pp. 344, 345, and Iwan Müller's Handbuch, vol. iv. Die Griech. Privatalterthümer, § 97, p. 451 c, where a copious bibliography is to be found.)

[L.S] [L.C.P]

hide References (33 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (33):
    • Aeschylus, Agamemnon, 171
    • Aeschylus, Suppliant Maidens, 90
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 2.4.9
    • Aristophanes, Knights, 262
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 12.9
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 17.100
    • Herodotus, Histories, 3.137
    • Homer, Iliad, 23.726
    • Homer, Iliad, 23.731
    • Homer, Odyssey, 8.103
    • Homer, Odyssey, 8.126
    • Homer, Odyssey, 8.246
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.1
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5.8.9
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 6.4
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.39.3
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.44
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 6.1
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 8.2
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 8.40
    • Sophocles, Trachiniae, 520
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.6
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 4.8
    • Xenophon, Cyropaedia, 1.6
    • Homer, Iliad, 23.683
    • Homer, Iliad, 23.710
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 9.33
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 9.35
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 9.45
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 9.52
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 15.20
    • Plutarch, Antonius, 33
    • Statius, Thebias, 6
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