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CAESTUS

CAESTUS (from caedo, not to be confounded with cestus, from Gr. κεστός), the thongs or bands of leather which were tied round the hands of boxers, in order to render their blows more powerful. These bands of leather were also frequently tied round the arm as high as the elbow, as is shown in the following statue of a boxer, the original of which is in the Louvre at Paris. (See Clarac, Musée d. Sculpt. Ant. et Mod. vol. iii. pl. 327, No. 2042.)

The caestus was used by boxers from the earliest times. The ordinary boxing--gloves were called in Greek ἱμάντες or ἱμάντες πυκτικό. When Epeius and Euryalus in the Iliad (23.684) prepare themselves for boxing, they put on their hands thongs made of ox-hide (ἱμάντας ἐϋτμήτους βοὸς ἀγραύλοιο). (Cf. Theocr. 22.81; Apollon. 2.53.) But it should be recollected that the caestus in heroic times appears to have consisted merely of thongs of leather, and differed materially from the frightful weapons loaded with lead and iron which were used in later times. The

Statue of a boxer with the Caestus. (From the Louvre.)

different kinds of caestus were called by the Greeks in later times μειλίχαι, σπεῖραι βόειαι, σφαῖραι, and μύρμηκες: of which the μειλίχαι gave the softest blows, and the μύρμηκες the most μειλίχαι, which were the most ancient, are described by Pausanias (8.40.3) as made of raw ox-hide cut into thin pieces, and joined in an ancient manner; they were tied under the [p. 1.329]hollow or palm of the hand, leaving the fingers uncovered. The athletae in the palaestrae at Olympia used the μειλίχαι in practising for the public games (ἱμάντων τῶν μαλακωτέρων, Paus. 6.23.3); but in the games themselves, they used those which gave the severest blows.

The caestus, used in later times in the public games, was, as has been already remarked, a most formidable weapon. It was frequently covered with knots and nails, and loaded with lead and iron; whence Virgil (Aen. 5.405), in speaking of it, says: “ Ingentia septem
Terga boum plumbo insuto ferroque rigebant.

(Cf. Aen. 5.69; Georg. 3.20.) Statius (Stat. Theb. 6.732) also speaks of nigrantia plumbo tegmina cruda boum. Such weapons, in the hands of a trained boxer, must have frequently occasioned death. The σφαῖραι were, as the name denotes, circular in form, supposed by some to be an iron ball, worn with padded covers (Liddell and Scott, s. v.); and fighting with them was called σφαιρομαχία (Pollux, 3.150). Plato (Leg. viii. p. 830 B) recommends the use of them instead of the ordinary boxing-gloves (ἱμάντες), in order to train boxers for the coming conflicts. But the most formidable of all these weapons were the μύρμηκες, covered with metal studs or nails, and hence called the “limb-breakers” (γυιοτόροι). Lucillius, in an epigram (Anth. Pal. 11.78, vol. ii. p. 344, ed. Jac.), speaks of a boxer whose head had been so battered by the μύρμηκες as to resemble a sieve. Figures with the caestus frequently occur in ancient monuments. They were of various forms, as appears from the following specimens, taken from ancient monuments, of

Caestus. (Fabretti.)

which drawings are given by Fabretti (de Column. Traj. p. 261 ; see Krause, Gymnastik und Agonistik der Hellenen, p. 502 foll.).

[W.S]

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