Marble Relief of Greek Man With Ball
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source: Wikimedia Commons
A Greek marble relief depicts a young man, nude, balancing a ball on his knee. To the left, a young servant watches, holding an aryballos and a strigil, items used for the cleaning and bathing of Greek athletes.
Artifact: 400–375 BC
This image depicts a remaining piece of a marble grave stele, found in Piraeus.
It is a common misconception that this relief depicts a man playing a game similar to football, specifically the Greek sport episkyros. In reality, there is no real connection between the two, as accounts of episkyros indicate the ball was handled only by hand. It is much more likely that this relief depicts some sort of exercise or game, such as those described in Galen’s Exercise with the Small Ball.
Greek Episkyros | History of Soccer
Crowther, N. B. (2007). Sport in ancient times. Westport, CT: Praeger.
Galen, C., & Singer, P. N. (1997). Galen: Selected works. Oxford: Oxford University Press.