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Pottery: Greek Boxers
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Pottery: Greek Boxers

Painting of Greek Boxers on Amphora

Painting of Greek Boxers on Amphora

license: Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic
source: Wikimedia Commons
author: Marie-Lan Nguyen

A painting on a Greek terracotta amphora depicts a pygmachia (boxing) match. Two bearded fighters, both nude, meet in the middle with their fists raised. To the right, another nude man stands by with an backup pair of himantes (leather hand wraps). To the left, a robed judge watches while holding a long rod.


Artifact: c. 520 BC

Photo: February 2011


This Greek painting depicts a typical pygmachia (boxing) match in ancient Greece. The fighters depicted here are both nude, as was common practice in Panhellenic festivals such as the Olympic Games, as well as during training in both the palaestra (fighting school) and gymnasium.

The bystander on the far right holds a backup pair of himantes, the standard piece of Greek boxing equipment before the 5th century BC. Fighters would wrap their hands and wrists with these leather straps for protection and support. The robed man on the left is a judge, as evidence by the long rod he holds. Judges would use rods or whips to strike fighters who violated the rules.

At the time of photograph, this amphora was housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

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Phillips, D. J., & Pritchard, D. (2011). Sport and festival in the ancient Greek world. Swansea: The Classical Press of Wales.

Miller, S. G. (2006). Ancient Greek athletics. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Swaddling, J. (2015). The ancient Olympic games. Austin: University of Texas Press.