Marble Statue of Pankratiasts (“The Wrestlers”)
source: Wikimedia Commons
A photograph frames a Greek marble statue of two nude men fighting. One is atop the other, twisting his opponent’s arm behind his back with one arm and preparing to strike with the other. Their tense musculature is carefully detailed, displaying the physical strain of the athletes.
Artifact: unknown (restored 16th century AD)
Photo: April 2016
This marble statue is a Roman copy of a Greek bronze original thought to date to the 3rd century BC. It was rediscovered in Rome in 1583, though without the original heads of the athletes. As new heads were sculpted for them some time later, the heads on this statue and its replicas are more modern than their bodies.
Its given name, The Wrestlers, is a misnomer, as this statue does not depict ancient Greek wrestling – palé. The top fighter is clearly winding his right arm to punch his opponent, which was not legal in this ancient sport. The sport depicted is pankration, a much more violent combat sport with very few rules. It was one of the three combat sports featured at the ancient Olympic Games and other Panhellenic festivals, the other two being palé (wrestling) and pygmachia (boxing).
Arvanitis, J. (2003). Pankration: The traditional Greek combat sport and modern mixed martial art. Boulder, CO: Paladin Press.
Miller, S. G. (2006). Ancient Greek athletics. New Haven: Yale University Press.