PILAPILA, PILA LUSORTA (σφαῖρα), a ball. In this article it is proposed to include an account, not merely of the different kinds of balls, but of the exercises and also the games for which they were used by the Greeks and Romans. The subject has been somewhat complicated in modern treatises by regarding as games what what were merely gymnastic or medico-gymnastic exercises. It will be more convenient to keep them apart. Exercise merely for the sake of bodily health and vigour and grace of movement was more commonly sought at all times of life among these nations than exercise primarily for the sake of amusement, whereas the converse is now the case: and there can be no doubt that the majority of Greeks and Romans who indulged in so-called “games” at ball were practising and exercising their muscles, not, as we should say, “playing” : still, there were some notable exceptions, which will be classed as games. As regards the historical view of these exercises and games, we find the earliest mention in two passages of the Odyssey (6.100); 8.370). In the former, where Nausicaa is playing with her attendant maidens, the ball is merely tossed from one to the other, as a graceful and [p. 2.422]healthy exercise, while (probably) they danced in measured time (Athen. 1.14 d): in the passage of Apollonius (4.952), who no doubt had this scene in his mind, he speaks of maidens playing σφαίρᾳ περιηγέϊ, where Becq de Fouquières is certainly right in taking the adjective to mean, not round, but circulating from hand to hand. In the other passage of the Odyssey we have two performers dancing rhythmically, throwing up a ball, and catching it as they danced: in fact, they may be classed as jugglers. As far as we can trace the earliest Greek ballplay, it seems to have been of the nature above described, a sort of adjunct to the dance and music, forming, in fact, part of what we may call the figures of the dance. According to Athenaeus, the practice long remained; for he cites (1.24 b) Carystius of Pergamum as saying that it was still in vogue among the women of Corcyra. It seems likely that the name βαλλαχράδαι, applied to Argive boys keeping festival, had something to do with this choric ball-play (see Krause, Gymnastik, i. p. 300; Grasberger, Erziehuung, i. p. 89). It is useless to discuss the question whence came these amusements or exercises to the Greeks: various opinions are given in Hdt. 1.68, Ath. 1.14 d. Without, however, accepting as better than any other the theory that the Spartans invented it (Athen. l.c.), we may notice that it early had a strong hold, with other gymnastic exercises, at Sparta. This is also indicated by the term σφαιρεῖς applied to Spartan youths, i. e. those who were passing out of the stage of ἔφηβοι, and were not yet reckoned as ἄνδρες. The name was, no doubt, applied to them because the ball-play formed an important element in the gymnastic training at that precise age, probably accompanied with music, as part of the choric exercise of the Spartans (Paus. 3.14; C. I. G. 1386, 1432; Gilbert, Staatsalt. 1.68; Schömann, Antiq. 264). From whatever country it was introduced the exercise was highly regarded by the Athenians, who recognised the value for general bodily health and development, afterwards elaborately insisted upon by Galen and other medical authorities. The gymnasia had therefore a special room (σφαιριστήριον) for the purpose [GYMNASIUM]; and Athenaeus (1.19 a) tells of the distinction given to Aristonicus of Carystus, the συσφαιριστὴς of Alexander, who was made a citizen of Athens and honoured with a statue. The fondness of Dionysius of Syracuse for the exercise is noticed by Cicero (Tusc. 5.20, 60). That it took root quite as strongly at Rome is abundantly shown in Latin literature. It was, as Krause, Becker, and many others particularly notice, played by all ages: men, and even old men, as well as boys, “without loss of dignity.” This fact cannot, however, at any rate now, be made, as even recent writers make it, a point of distinction between ancient and modern customs. Among notable instances we may mention Augustus, who took exercise with the pila and folliculus, until he was too old for anything but the litter or a gentle walk (Suet. Aug. 83). (For similar record of other emperors cf. Suet. Vesp. 20; [Capitol.] M. Ant. 4; Lamprid. Alex. Sev. 30.) Pliny (Plin. Ep. 3.1, 8) tells us of Spurinna, who made this exercise one of his careful methods for preserving a green old age: Seneca (de brev. Vit. 13) complains that many made such exercises the main object of their life. In the well-known line of Horace (Sat. 1.5), when Maecenas goes to play at ball, Horace and Virgil do not join him, on the ground that “pila lippis inimicum et ludere crudis.” It is a curious comment on this passage, that Galen specially notes that those who use other gymnastic exercises become, “like the Litae of Homer, χωλοί τε ῥυσοί τε παραβλῶπές τ᾽ ὀφθαλμώ, while those who play judiciously at ball escape such maladies.” It is necessary to point out that the exercise was not indigenous at Rome. The old Roman followed the severer exercises of hunting and riding: the pila came in with Greek customs (Hor. Sat. 2.2, 10). The Byzantine emperors combined the two in a sort of “polo,” which will be described below. The Thermae at Rome had their sphaeristerium for games at ball [BALNEAE Vol. I. p. 283 a]: this exercise was taken before the bath (Hor. Sat. 1.6, 125; Mart. 7.32, 14.163). Attached to large country-houses there was a similar court (cf. Plin. Ep. 2.17, 5.6; VILLA). Where greater space was wanted, the play was in the Campus Martins. The Apparatus for playing.--In Oribasius, i. p. 529, we find five kinds of balls mentioned, μικρά, μέση, μεγάλη, εὐμεγεθής, κενή. Mistakes have been made in the endeavour to construe the description which is there given of the uses of these balls as though they were games, whereas they are merely medical gymnastics: in many cases something like extension exercises with dumb-bells, since the ball does not leave the hand at all. It is probable, however, that we may assume the five sizes of balls to have been used in different games as well as for exercises, and may possibly take five Roman names for balls--(i.) harpastum, (ii.) pila trigonalis or trigon, the pila par excellence, (iii.) arenaria, (iv.) paganica, (v.) follis to correspond; but it is more probable that areaaria is only another name for the harpastum, the name being given because the rules of the game permitted taking it at the rebound, which was not allowed in trigon. Martial, in the Apophoreta, mentions only the other four without naming the arenaria. The ordinary ball was stuffed with hair; see Anth. Pal. 4.291: λίην ἔντριχός εἰμι: τὰ φύλλα δ᾽ἐμοῦ κατακρύπτει
τὰς τρίχας: ὴ δὲ τρύπη φαίνεται οὐδαμόθεν.
πολλοῖς παιδαρίοις ἐμπαίζομαι: εἰ δέ τίς ἐστιν
εἰς τὸ βαλεῖν ἀφυὴς ἵσταται ὥσπερ ὄνος. The last line does not, as some writers state refer to a term belonging especially to σφαιριστική: the word ὄνος is used of the vanquished in many trials of skill. [BASILINDA OSTRAKINDA.] The “quarters” or lappets (here called φύλλα) were often coloured (Ov. Met. x. 262, pictae; Petron. 27, prasina). Seneca uses the word commissurae for the seams where they were sewn together (Q. N. 4.11). The hair-stuffed ball was no doubt either of the two smallest sizes: the μικρὰ σφαῖρα was the smallest and hardest of the balls, and is in Latin the harpastum (Pollux, 9.105); and the pila arenaria probably = the “pulverulentum harpastum.” The next in size, also a hard ball, is the especial pila, the pila trigonalis; and then follows the paganica (probably the μαλάκη of Pollux), which was stuffed with feathers, and [p. 2.423]according to Martial (14.45) was “tighter” (i. e. harder as well as smaller) “than the follis and less so than the pila.” Its name was probably, as Marquardt thinks, derived from its being used at games between the country pagani, though it was not confined to them (Mart. 7.32). Lastly we have the follis, the κενή, or air-blown ball, in its construction like our football, but not so used; for there is no trace of football among the Romans.1 Beyond the balls and the court, or the measured space out of doors, and perhaps armguards for the follis, neither Greeks nor Romans had any apparatus for ball-play, as far as we know, until the late Byzantine age. There is no trace of any sort of racquet or bat; for in the passage of Ovid, Art. Am. 3.361, the reticulum is a network bag holding balls. Galen in his treatise περὶ τῆς σμικρᾶς σφαίρας makes a special point of its economy as needing nothing πλὴν σφαίρας μόνης, and in contrasting the amusements which require more apparatus he does not mention any game at ball: all our accounts speak of striking with the hand or arm; and Martial, if any sort of bat had existed, would have mentioned it in the Apophoreta. It may also be noticed that the game of tennis was called “lusus pilae cum palma” in 1356 (Littré, s. v. paume), whence our deduction would be that the use of the racquet is later, and that the name (cum palma) was given to the game when “fiving,” or striking with the palm, was the only stroke, to distinguish it from those in which catching was allowed. Possibly the arm-guards, before referred to, may have been the genesis of a bat in later times; but whether the “polo” which existed at Byzantium before the 11th century (see below) was the first game in which the ball was struck with any implement, it is impossible to say. Technical Words.--It is necessary to explain shortly certain words used technically of these exercises in Greek and Latin, and the more so because many writers have imagined separate games in words which are merely descriptive of the method in which the ball was thrown, whatever game might be played. Many terms also which are distinguished should really be taken as synonymous. Thus, to throw a ball to another is διδοναι, βάλλειν, ἀφιέναι, dare, mittere, jactare: to catch it, λαμβάνειν, δέχεσθαι, accipere, excipere, captare: and so datatim ludere means “to play at catch,” i. e. merely toss backwards and forwards (Plaut. Curc. 2.13, 17; Naev. ap. Non. 96, 15). The words remittere and reddere (ἀντιπέμπειν, ἀνταφιέναι) mean to throw the ball back to the sender. But there is a totally different stroke when the ball is “fived;” that is, is struck with the palm of the hand and either returned or sent sideways, without being first caught and then thrown: in Latin this is expressed by repercutere (Sen. de Ben. 2.17); when the ball is “fived” back to the sender--(Marquardt in the Privatleben wrongly, we think, renders it zurückwerfen)--and when the ball is struck sideways to a fresh player, by the words expulsare (Mart. 14.56) or expellere (Petron. 27). One would naturally suppose that the Greek word ἀπόρραξις had the same meaning; and though Pollux (9.105) and Eustathius (ad Od. 9.376) limit its use to making the ball rebound from the floor, it seems to us that there can be little doubt that the primary technical sense was striking with the hand instead of throwing, and that it belonged to that sort of stroke applied variously in various games or exercises, whether making the ball rebound against floor or wall, or “flying” it to other players. We must also differ from other writers who limit the words expulsim ludere to this striking against a wall. (Johann Marquardt is still further from the truth in making it=the βαλεῖν εὐτόνως of Galen, for that is simply a strong throw.) Expulsim ludere expresses the stroke with the palm or the fore-arm: in its simplest form it is the hitting repeatedly against a wall (one sort of ἀπόρραξις); as in the picture given by Varro (ap. Non. 104, 27), “videbis Romae in foro ante lanienas pueros pila expulsim ludere” : but it refers to the method of the stroke, not to the game, and it means therefore to strike the ball in that way of which the words expulsare or expellere and also repercutere are used. Similarly “raptim ludere” merely expresses the method of play adopted by one who (like the medicurrens in harpastum) rapit or ἁρπάξει: that is, catches the ball while it is flying between two other players. Lastly, the feint of pretending to throw the ball to one person and actually throwing it to another is probably expressed by the word φενίνδα (which also gave one name to a game: see below), and also by ἐκκρούειν (Athen. 1.15 a), and in Latin by fallere (Prop. 3.4, 5). In the lines of Saleius Bassus (?), de laud. Pis. 172 (Poet. Lat. Min. 1.233), “volantem aut geminare pilam juvat aut revocare cadentem, Et non sperato fugientem reddere gestu,” the geminare must = repercutere, to return to the sender by a stroke with the hand (cf. Ter. Ad. 2.1, 19); the “revocare cadentem” to catch it near the ground, and the last line to throw it back after a difficult catch when the return had not been expected (not = φενίνδα, where mittere rather than reddere would be used). Ball-exercises.--Here we must class (i.) οὐρανία, datatim ludere, which is the simple practice of “catch,” and has its name because the ball is usually thrown high in the air (Pollux, 9.106; Eustath. l.c.; Phot. s. v.), just as a high throw is now sometimes called a “skier” : it might or might not be made a rhythmical exercise by accompanying music and dance, as often is the Greek οὐρανία; (ii.) various forms of making the ball rebound against a floor or wall, as described above; (iii.) various kinds of posturing with the ball or throwing it forward with no object, except muscular exercise and extension, which Antyllus describes (ap. Oribas. i. p. 528: see Becq de Fouquières, Jeux des Anciens, 195.) Spthaeromachiae or games at ball: i.e. those in [p. 2.424]which there are sides which win or lose. (i.) The game called ἐπίσκυρος (also ἐφηβικὴ and ἐπίκοινος: Poll. 9.104, Eustath. l.c.). In this game the ground was marked by two base lines (γραμμαὶ κατόπιν） and another line drawn parallel to them through the middle of the ground, presumably more than a stone's throw from them, which was called σκυ-ρος or λατύπη, because it was marked with finely-broken stones. The ball was placed upon this line (whence the name ἐπίσκυρος), and the players started at the same moment from their respective base lines. The player who could first seize the ball threw it as far as he could towards the enemy's base line2 the object was to force the line of enemies back by constantly returning the ball further and further over their heads until they were driven over their own base line. Clearly, getting the first throw by fast running at the start must have been an enormous advantage (cf. Schol. ad Plat. Legg. i. p. 633 C). It is not improbable, though there is no proof of it, that the contest of the pagani (whence the name paganica for the third-sized Roman ball) was a game of this kind. It seems to have been regarded as a game for the young (ἐφηβική), and for large numbers (ἐπίκοινος). Nothing can have been less like golf, to which Becq de Fouquieres (p. 203) seems to compare it, when he says, “on le retrouve encore en Écosse.” (ii.) Harpastum (or, by the older name, Pheninda; in Athen. and Eustath. (φαινίνδα; in Clem. Alex. φενίνδα; in Etym. Mag. (φεννίς, φενίνδα, φενακίνδα).--This game cannot with certainty be reconstructed, but the following seems to us an outline most consistent with our authorities. (Galen, περὶ τῆς σμικρᾶς σφαίρας: Sidon. Apoll. 5.17; Mart. 4.19, 7.32, 14.48; Athen. 1.25; Eustath. l.c.; Poll. 9.105.) We have clearly two sides (i. e. it was a sphaeromachia), for Galen lays stress on the fact that there is emulation (φιλοτιμία), which exercises the ψυχή, as well as movements which exercise the limbs and the eye: there are presumably base lines as goals, without which it is hard to understand what he says about generalship (στρατηγία), and positions won and lost (φυλάττειν τὸ κτηθὲν ἢ ἀνασώζειν τὸ μεθεθέν). The ground was then probably rectangular, the two ends being base lines, and it was divided by a line in the centre (the trames of Sidonius) into two equal camps. There was always one “middle player,” a special feature of the game, called mcdicurrens (Sidon.), or ὁ μεταξύ (Galen: cf. vagus, Mart. 7.32), each side being probably so represented in turn: how the “innings” of the medicurrens ended, we do not know, but perhaps he gave up his place to one of the other side whenever a point was scored against his side. One would fain imagine two “middle players,” one for each side, but the persistent use of the singular both in Greek and Latin authorities would seem to preclude this, and to necessitate some such explanation as is here attempted It is probable that (as also in the quite distinct modern pallone) a ball dropping dead (i. e. falling again after the first rebound) was a point against that side in whose camp it dropped, and that a point was scored by that side which could send it so as to drop over the base line of the enemy: whether a certain number of points, or the highest score in a given time, decided the victory, we do not know. That the ball could be caught, either as a volley or at the first rebound, is clear from Mart. 14.48, and agrees with the epithets pulverulenta and arenaria. The ball was, no doubt, started from one of the base lines, and the object of the medicurrens was to catch it as it went past ( “praetervolantem ant superjectam,” Sidon.), in which case he would have a great advantage in either throwing it over the enemies' line or into some unguarded spot of their camp, where it would fall dead, or throwing it to some friend who was advantageously posted. The feint of throwing, expressed by φενίνδα, would clearly often be employed, as also the φυγὴ (Eustath.) or καταστροφὴ (Antiphanes and Sidon.), i. e. turning hastily back after an advance, so as to defend an unguarded spot; for, as seems clear from Galen, the rest of the players could post themselves forward or back as seemed best. They were also permitted to rush upon the medicurrens, and úgrapple or wrestle with him, or one another, in any way they chose, one side trying to spoil his catch, the other to protect him and foil his assailants (cf. Galen, ὅταν συνιστάμενοι πρὸς ἀλλήλους καὶ ἀποκωλύοντες ὑφαρπάσαι τὸν μεταξύ, κ.τ.λ. For this purpose they may use ταρχηλισμός, ἀντιλήψεις παλαιστρικαί, &c. The τραχηλισμὸς [LUCTATIO, p. 84] explains Martial's description of the game, “grandia qui vano colla labore facit.” The view here proposed will explain Galen's words when he eulogises this game for all ages, on the ground that you can choose what sort of muscles, and to what amount, you wish to exert:--“It exercises one set of muscles in the advance, another in the retreat, another in the spring sideways . . . also the hands when they try in various postures to catch the balls . . . it also practises the eye, for if one does not accurately mark the course of the ball one must miss the catch . . . while in the wrestling part of it the θώραξ, ὀσφύς, &c., are exerted, or you can take running . . . but if you are old and want milder exercise (τὸ πρᾷον) you may exercise your arms and rest your legs by throwing from a distance” (i. e. by playing back), “and you can take as little of the wrestling as you please.” The σφοδρότατον, which involves throwing, running and wrestling, is the place of medicurrens; the wrestling alone is the part of those who try to thwart him: for the rest of the players the advance and the καταστροφὴ supply the running, without much throwing, while others can stand almost at rest near their base and merely throw when the ball comes to them. It is illustrated by the description of Sidonius, where a bystander at the side is jostled into the middle of [p. 2.425]the game, “medicurrentis impulsu,” and then knocked over by a rush in the catastropha. We have ventured to differ altogether on this point from Johann Marquardt, who imagines three distinct games for three ages and strengths: Galen's language points to one game in which different parts are taken; and it is clear from Pollux 9.105 and from Clem. Alex. Paed. 3.10, 50, that ἡ μικρὰ σφαῖρα is regarded as a finite well-known game, not several games. As to the identity of pheninda with harpastum we have the positive statement of Athenaeus that it was the old name of harpastum, the belief of Pollux that it was, and the fact that in some places (Clem. Alex., l.c.) it still went by that name; and, moreover, no writer mentions both games as distinct. It is no doubt possible that the harpastum which Athenaeus played may have been more elaborate in its rules than the pheninda, of which he quotes a description from Antiphanes. It seems sometimes to be forgotten that the interval between these two writers was as long as between Chaucer and our own time. The play in Antiphanes seems to be as follows:-- There are several players; A (possibly = medicurrens) has caught the ball and intends to throw it to B, which he eventually does, but meantime he slips away from C (τὸν δ᾽ἔφευγε), misleads D (τὸν δ᾽ἐξέκρουσε), and calls E´s name as a feint (πλαγκταῖσι φωναῖς), though he has no intention of throwing it to him: the last two lines express the flight of the ball passing over and beside the medicurrens, and the verbs should probably be imperatives, giving the actual cries of the players. It gives only a fragmentary view of the game, but so far as it goes might be describing a portion of the harpastum of later authors. For the spelling φενίνδα and its connexion with (φενακίξω, see Johann Marquardt, p. 15, note; Hermes, iii. p. 455; Grasberger. (iii.) The Trigon.--This favourite Roman game was not strictly a sphaeromachia (cf. Stat. Silv. praef.), since there were not sides, but each played for himself; still it was a legitimate game, played for winning and losing. The following description may, as it seems to us, best meet the accounts which we have. There were three players standing in the form of an equilateral triangle: each player had one ball to start with, and played for his own score; he would wish both his fellow-players to miss their strokes, and drop the ball as often as possible. He might send his ball to either player (presumably there was some rule about sending it fairly within their reach), and he might do so either by catching the ball which came to him and throwing it, or by “fiving” it, so as either to strike it back to the sender (repercutere) or sideways to the third player (expulsare). Obviously the most disastrous position would be receiving three balls nearly at the same time--if; for instance, his own ball is smartly “fived” back to him, and almost simultaneously the two others have been sent to him; obviously, also, C his easiest position was to receive only one ball at a time with a fair interval before the next. p This may explain the vexed passage of Mart. p 12.82 about the flatterer Menogenes-- Mart. 7.72, 14.46, that the stroke in the trigon was necessarily left-handed. The left-handed strokes are merely the test of a good player. Probably all players who can make a good stroke left-handed, can do so also with the right hand, but the converse does not hold good. In this game the pilicrepus, or juggler (see below), was employed somewhat like a marker at tennis or racquets, to count the won and lost strokes at the end of a “rest” or “rally” ( “non quidem eas quae inter manus lusu expellente vibrabant, sed eas quae in terrain decidebant,” Petron. 27). The inference is that the catches had not a positive value, but the winner was he who least often allowed the ball to drop. As is the case with our markers, the pilicrepus, whose profession led him to exhibit in the Thermae, often gave instruction to the inexperienced; and in games he was probably the umpire of doubtful strokes. This is, we think, the true explanation of the cut from the baths of Titus, which represents four players and six balls. It is not a game at all, but the pilicrepus, who alone is a bearded man, is teaching the art of playing trigon to three young players, throwing in balls in succession, to practise hand and eye; one of his pupils is learning to catch two balls “dextra laevaque.” The game would be much faster than this lesson to tirones, and the pilicrepus would stand aside, and count the failures aloud. Seneca, complaining of the noise of ball-play at the baths, says, “Si vero pilicrepus supervenit et numerare coepit, actum est.”
|Lesson in Trigon. (From the Baths of Titus.)|