Combat Sports in the Ancient World: General Aspects of Ancient Combat Sports

Combat Sports in the Ancient World: General Aspects of Ancient Combat Sports

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Following Poliakoff’s introduction to the ancient combat sports, he proceeds to provide a basic outline to the world of ancient combat sports in a series of sections within the chapter, including: The definition of a ‘combat sport’ and its relation to recreation and training; similarities amongst combat sports, training methods and common practise; the premise of athletic festivals, and the organization of said competition.
The first area that Poliakoff studies is ‘General aspects of the ancient combat sports’ is the definition of a combat sport, which he splits into two explanations. Firstly, the idea of sport or athletics, Poliakoff believes, is an “activity in which a person physically competes against another in contest with established regulations and procedures, with the immediate object of succeeding in that contest under criteria for determining victory that are different from those that mark success in everyday life”. Furthermore, he explains that sport cannot exist without opponents and the measurement of success or failure, and that most forms of physical recreation could become athletic competition when performances begin to be compared. Following on from this line of thought, Poliakoff excludes a number of forms of combat under these conditions: fencing, armed duelling and gladiatorial events.
This stating of terms of the definition of sport is arguably the most prominent of arguments in this chapter. As Donald Kyle, author of Sport and Spectacle, rightly suggests, some may indeed question his approach to the exclusion of fencing, duelling and gladiatorial combat. Whilst other reviewers such as Stephen Instone comment on Poliakoff’s general lack of argument, and some just waive this chapter as satisfactory, All...


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...liakoff. The Journal of Hellenic Studies , 109, 256-257.
Kyle, D. (1989). Review of Combat Sports in the Ancient World: Competition, Violence and Culture by Michael B. Poliakoff. The American Historical Review , 94 (1), 106.
Kyle, D. (2007). Sport and Spectacle in the Ancient World. Blackwell Publishing.
Matthews, V. J. (1988). Review of Combat Sports in the Ancient World: Competition, Violence, and Culture by Michael B. Poliakoff. Phoenix , 42 (3), 270-272.
Pleket, H. W. (1989). Review of Combat Sports in the Ancient World: Competition, Violence, and Culture by Michael B. Poliakoff. The Classical Review , 39 (1), 107-109.
Poliakoff, M. B. (1987). Combat Sports in the Ancient World. Yale University.
Scanlon, T. F. (1989). Review of Combat Sports in the Ancient World: Competition, Violence, and Culture by Michael B. Poliakoff. The Classical World , 82 (6), 482.

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