) is composed of πᾶν
and accordingly signifies an
athletic game, in which all the powers of the fighter were called into
action. The pancratium was one of the games or gymnastic contests which were
exhibited at all the great festivals of Greece; it consisted of boxing and
: cf. Schol. on Plat. Rep,
338 C, D), and
was reckoned to be one of the heavy or hard exercises (ἀγωνίσματα βαρέα
), on account of the violent exertions and great weight
of body it required, and for this reason it was not much practised in the
gymnasia; and where it was practised, it was probably not without
modifications to render it easier for the boys. According to the ancient
physicians, it had very rarely a beneficial influence upon health (H.
Mercurial. de Art. Gymnast.
At Sparta the regular pancratium was forbidden, but the name was there
applied to a fierce and irregular fight not controlled by any rules, in
which even biting and scratching were not uncommon, and in which, in short,
everything was allowed by which one of the parties might hope to overcome
the other. In Homer we neither find the game nor the name of the pancratium
mentioned; and as it was not introduced at the Olympic games until 01.
33=648 B.C. (Paus. 5.8.8
), we may presume that
the game, though it may have existed long before in a rude state, was not
brought to any degree of perfection until a short time before that event. It
is scarcely possible to speak of an inventor of the pancratium, as it must
have gradually arisen out of a rude mode of fighting, which is customary
among all uncivilised nations, and which was kept up at Sparta in its
original state. But the Greeks regarded Theseus as the inventor of the
pancratium, who for want of a sword was said to have used this mode of
fighting against the Minotaurus (Schol. ad
Pind. N. 5.49
). Other legends represented
Heracles as having been victor in the pancratium (Paus. 5.8.4
), and later writers make other heroes also fight the
pancratium (Lucan, Pharsal.
4.613, &c.); but these
are mere fictions. After the pancratium was once introduced at Olympia, it
soon made its way into the other great games of Greece also, and in the
times of the Roman emperors we also find it practised in Italy. In 01. 145 =
200 B.C. the pancratium for boys was introduced at the Olympic games, and
the first boy who gained the victory was Phaedimus, a native of a town in
Troas (Paus. 5.8
). This innovation had been adopted before in others of the
national games, e.g
in the Nemean (Pind. Nem.
v.); and in the 61st Pythiad (Ol. 108 = 348
B.C.) we find a Theban boy of the name of Iolaidas as victor in the
pancratium at the Pythian games (Paus.
). At the Isthmian games the pancratium for boys is only
mentioned in the mythical age (Paus. 5.2
) till quite late times, but it may have been
practised during the Greek classical period.
2.6) says that the pancratium of men was
the most beautiful of all athletic contests; and the combatants must
certainly have shown to the spectators a variety of beautiful and exciting
manœuvres, as all the arts of boxing and wrestling appeared here
united (Aristot. Rh. 1.5
2.4, p. 638, 27).
The first person who is said to have fought the pancratium artistically was
Leucaros of Acarnania (Schol. to Pind. N.
). It was partly fought standing, partly was a rough and tumble
on the ground (ἁλίνδησις, κύλισις
twofold nature explains why the term παγκρατιάζειν
is used somewhat variously, sometimes for simple
boxing (τὸ παίειν ἀλλήλους ὀρθοστάδην,
8); but the idea of violent
combat seems to be generally associated with it (cf.
§ 26). Boxing was certainly considered
the chief element (Lucian, Anach.
8, 24; Pind. N. 3.17
; Schol. on Pind.
4.75; Schol. on Dem. Mid.
where allusion is specially made to the blows
received in the pancratium. The fact too that the “successors of
Heracles” had to win their victory in wrestling (not boxing) and
the pancratium tends to show that boxing must have been a principal part of
the latter, for we cannot suppose it to have been disregarded. But still the
on the ground was a highly
important feature of the pancratium. It is to be noticed that the fist does
not appear to have been closed; the usual way to hold the hands was with the
fingers curved (see the cuts). The caestus
] were not used,
for Pausanias never mentions them in any of his accounts of the pancratium,
nor are they found on any statues or pictures; further, Paus. 6.15
seems to show that they
were not used, for no wounds
are anticipated from
the pancratium: cf. Artemid. Oneir.
1.64, τὸ δὲ παγκράτιον τὰ αὐτὰ τῇ πυγμῇ σημαίνει πλὴν
Nor were the lighter gloves called μειλίχαι
used, for they would have impeded the
movements of the fingers.
The name of these combatants was παγκρατιασταὶ
(Pollux, 3.150; cf. Plat. Euthyd.
271 D). Other predicates
applied to the pancratium are ἄμαχος, ἄλειπτος,
ἀήττητος, ἀπρόσμαχος, ἀσυνέξωστος, περισθενής,
: cf. Krause, Gymnastik und Agonistik,
536. The combatants fought naked, and had their bodies anointed and covered
with sand, by [p. 2.329]
which they were enabled to take hold
of one another (Philostr. l.c.;
Aristoph. Peace 897
When two pancratiastae began their contest, they stood with outstretched
arms: and the first object which each of them endeavoured to accomplish was
to gain a favourable position and grip, each trying to make the other stand
so that the sun might shine in his face, or that other inconveniences might
prevent his fighting with success (cf. Gel.
, § § 3, 4). This struggle was only the
introduction to the real contest, though in certain cases this preparatory
struggle might terminate the whole game, as one of the parties might wear
out the other by a series of stratagems, and compel him to give up further
). Sostratus of
Sicyon had gained many a victory by such tricks (Paus.
). When the al contest began, each of the fighters might
commence by boxing or by wrestling, accordingly as he thought he should be
more successful in the one than in the other. The using the teeth and
butting with the head were considered unfair fighting (κακομαχεῖν
) and contrary to the law of the games (νόμος ἐναγώνιος
): cf. Lucian, Demon.
49; Philostr. l.c.
The victory was not decided until one of the parties was killed, or lifted
up a finger, thereby declaring that he was unable to continue the contest
either from pain or fatigue (Philostr. l.c.
usually happened that one of the combatants, by some trick or other, made
his antagonist fall to the ground, and the wrestling which then commenced
was called ἀνακλινοπάλη,
until one of the parties declared himself conquered or was strangled, as was
the case at Olympia with Arrhichion or Arrachion of Phigalia, in Ol. 54 (=
564 B.C.), who, however, was declared victor, as his opponent gave up at the
last moment from the pain of a broken toe (Paus.
, &c.; Euseb. Chron.
Scalig.). A lively description of this struggle is given by Philostratus
). Sometimes one of the fighters fell down
on his back on purpose that he might thus ward off the attacks of his
antagonist more easily, and this is perhaps the trick called ὑπτιασμός.
The usual mode of making a person
fall was to put one foot behind his, and then to push him backward, or to
seize him round his body in such a manner that the upper part being the
heavier the person lost his balance and fell. Hence the expression μέσον λαμβάνειν, μεσολαβεῖν, μέσον αἱρεῖν,
τὰ μέσα ἔχειν, διὰ μηρῶν σπᾷν,
Wrestlers in the Pancratium. (Krause.)
&c. (Scalig. ad
p. 48). The above woodcut represents two pairs of
pancratiastae; the one on the right hand is an example of the ἀνακλινοπάλη,
and that on the left of the
They are taken from
Krause's Gymnastik und Agonistik d. Hellen.,
Taf. xii. b,
Fig. 35 b, 31 b, where they are copied respectively from Grivaud,
Rec. d. Mon. Ant.
vol. i. pl. 20, 21, and Krause,
Signorum vet. icones,
As the contest was in a large measure wrestling, many of the tricks of
wrestlers--ἀκροχειρισμός, ἄγχειν, λυγίζεν,
often used. Violently to throw oneself on one's opponent (ἐνάλλεσθαι
) was a common feature (cf. Pollux,
Many of the recognised figures and movements: of the pancratium were
imitated in the gymnopaedic dance (Ath.
). As an essential part of the pancratium was a struggle on the
ground, and as regular battle with an enemy was a standing not a lying
combat, Plato (Legg.
8.832 E, 834 A, B) banished the
pancratium from his State, and substituted the contest of light-armed
The contests of pancratiastae at Olympia took place about mid-day: for in 472
B.C., beginning rather late, they continued on
that occasion into the night (Paus. 6.24
: cf. 5.9, 3; 8.40, 3).
At Rome the pancratium is first mentioned in the games which Caligula gave to
the people (D. C. 59.13
). After this time it seems: to have become extremely popular, and
105.100.1, provided πάγκαρπον
be, as some suppose, a mistake for παγκράτιον
) made it one of the seven solemnities
) which the consuls had to
provide for the amusement of the people.
Several of the Greek pancratiastae have been immortalised in the epinician
odes of Pindar, namely Timodemus of Athens (Nem.
ii.), Melissus and Strepsiades of Thebes
iv. and vii.), Aristoclides, Phylacides and Cleander
of Aegina (Nem.
and vi., viii.), and a boy Pytheas of Aegina (Nem.
v.). But besides these the names of a great many other
victors in the pancratium are known. (Compare Fellows, Discoveries in
p. 313, Lond. 1841.) A victor in both wrestling and the
pancratium on the same day at Olympia was especially honoured, and
considered to be the successor of Heracles. His name was regarded as worthy
of being recorded for
posterity. The first successor of Heracles (Paus. 5.8
) was Caprus of Elea, in
204 B.C. (ib. 5.21, 10, where a long list of similar victors in after-times
is given). They appear to have been sometimes called παραδοξονῖκαι
(Plut. Comp. Cim. et Lucull.
2), For a distinguished pancratiast to win a victory in one of the races was
almost unheard of, the training required in either case being so [p. 2.330]
very special (cf. Epictet. 3.1; Diod. 4.14
), yet the pancratiast Theagenes won the
long race at Phthia (Paus. 6.11
). Other celebrated pancratiastae were Polydamas
(6.5, 4-8), Promachus, Timasitheus (6.8, 6-7), Clitomachus (6.15, 3-5),
The diet and training of the pancratiastae were the same as those of other
generally wore their hair in a bunch (cirrus,
Suet. Nero 45
) on the top of the head; see
the preceding cut taken from Krause (op. cit.
xviii. Fig. 68).
(Compare Hieron. Mercurialis, de Arte
J. H. Krause, Die Gymnastik und Agonistik der
vol. i. pp. 534-556; also in Pauly, 3.1019-1021, s. v.