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The Caestus In Ancient Greek Boxing

 
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 Posted 12/01/2020  7:30 pm Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add Novicius to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
Sharing an interesting find relating to boxing.

The portrait of Apollo on this coin from Smyrna is not in good shape, but on the reverse, the hand in the caestus (early version of a boxing glove) is quite clear.

Fist fighting contests most likely go back to prehistory, but boxing first appeared as an Olympic event in the 23rd Olympiad in 688 BC. The earliest visual evidence for boxing appears in Sumerian relief carvings from the 3rd millennium BC. A sculpture from Egyptian Thebes dated around 1350 BC shows both boxers and spectators, though the boxers were bare fisted. The earliest use of hand coverings is seen on a Minoan carved vase dating to around 1,500 BC, and shows helmeted boxers wearing a stiff plate strapped to the fist.

Boxing was considered to be the most injurious of sports, and there is much evidence in literature that the sport caused disfigurement, and occasionally death. The earliest rules appear in ancient Greece. The contests were held outdoors in the heat, which added to the challenge, and there were no rounds. Clinching was strictly forbidden. The fights went on till one competitor gave up by raising a finger, or was unable to continue. In the early years contestants came from all social classes, and many came from wealthy and distinguished backgrounds.

The glove called the caestus was actually developed by the Romans, and often had lumps of metal or spikes sewn into the leather.

Ionia Smyrna. 75-50 BC.
Obverse: Laurete head of Apollo right. Reverse: Hand in caestus; palm-branch to right. Reverse Inscription: ΣΜΥΡΝΑΙΩΝ. Bronze. Diameter: 14 mm. Weight: 3.1 gr.
Reference: BMC 60
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 Posted 12/01/2020  8:52 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Bob L to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
The origins of boxing...another very interesting history lesson, Jim. Thanks for sharing.
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 Posted 12/01/2020  9:28 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Novicius to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks Bob. An amazingly short bout is recounted by Homer in the Iliad (c. 675 BC):

"Sons of Atreus, and all you other strong-greaved Achaians, we invite two men, the best among you, to contend for these prizes with their hands up for the blows of boxing. He whom Apollo grants to outlast the other, and all the Achaians witness it, let him lead away the hard-working jenny [female donkey] to his own shelter. The beaten man shall take away the two-handled goblet."

He spoke, and a man huge and powerful, well skilled in boxing, rose up among them; the son of Panopeus, Epeios. He laid his hand on the hard-working jenny, and spoke out: "Let the man come up who will carry off the two-handled goblet. I say no other of the Achaians will beat me at boxing and lead off the jenny. I claim I am the champion. Is it not enough that I fall short in battle? Since it could not be ever, that a man could be a master in every endeavour. For I tell you this straight out, and it will be a thing accomplished. I will smash his skin apart and break his bones on each other. Let those who care for him wait nearby in a huddle about him to carry him out, after my fists have beaten him under."

So he spoke, and all of them stayed stricken to silence. Alone Euryalos stood up to face him, a godlike man, son of lord Mekisteus of the seed of Talaos; of him who came once to Thebes and the tomb of Oidipous after his downfall, and there in boxing defeated all the Kadmeians. The spear-famed son of Tydeus was his second, and talked to him in encouragement, and much desired the victory for him. First he pulled on the boxing belt about his waist, and then gave him the thongs carefully cut from the hide of a ranging ox. The two men, girt up, strode into the midst of the circle and faced each other, and put up their ponderous hands at the same time and closed, so that their heavy arms were crossing each other, and there was a fierce grinding of teeth, the sweat began to run everywhere from their bodies. Great Epeios came in, and hit him as he peered out from his guard, on the cheek, and he could no longer keep his feet, but where he stood the glorious limbs gave. As in the water roughened by the north wind a fish jumps in the weed of the beach-break, then the dark water closes above him, so Euryalos left the ground from the blow, but great-hearted Epeios took him in his arms and set him upright, and his true companions stood about him, and led him out of the circle, feet dragging as he spat up the thick blood and rolled his head over on one side. He was dizzy when they brought him back and set him among them. But they themselves went and carried off the two-handled goblet.

(From Book XXIII of Homer's Iliad, translated by Richmond Lattimore.)
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 Posted 12/02/2020  02:55 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Palouche to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
What an interesting coin Jim! Not seen this type before.
The reverse has got good detail, that glove looks mean! Wouldn't want to get hit by that!
Nice write up and enjoyed Homer's ringside account.
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 Posted 12/02/2020  11:47 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Novicius to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I hadn't seen a reverse like that before either, Paul. For the cost of two cups of coffee I couldn't resist.

Quote:
The reverse has got good detail, that glove looks mean! Wouldn't want to get hit by that!

No, I would not like to be on the receiving end either.

There is a similar one on Wildwinds:
https://www.wildwinds.com/coins/gre...ilne_393.jpg
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 Posted 12/03/2020  02:21 am  Show Profile   Check ancient67's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add ancient67 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Not seen this type before. What a fascinating story...
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