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Headword: *pagkra/tion
Adler number: pi,11
Translated headword: pankration
Vetting Status: high
[Meaning] boxing, contest, athletic event.
Greek Original:
*pagkra/tion: pugmh/, a)gw/n, a)/qlhsis.
Likewise or similarly in other lexica (references at Photius pi6 Theodoridis); cf. already pi 10, and see generally OCD4 s.v. pankration. Note also pi 121.
The pankration, literally "all-power" or "all-victory," united the striking of boxing and the locks, throws, take downs, and escapes of wrestling with its own particular features, kicking and falling to the ground. Pankration is, as Plutarch says, "a mixture of boxing and wrestling" (Moralia 638D), and as Philostratus says, "a concoction from imperfect wrestling and imperfect boxing" (Gymnastic 11), and then some. Strangling was allowed in pankration as it was in wrestling. Excluded specifically at Olympia were biting and gouging of eyes, mouth, and other tender spots (Philostratus, Pictures in a Gallery 2.6; Aristophanes, Birds 438-443). Among the Lacedaemonians who were always in training for war, both tactics were permitted (Pictures in a Gallery 2.6) and probably occurred at Olympia and elsewhere.
According to Bacchylides (Ode 13.44-66), the pankration was founded to commemorate Herakles' struggle against the Nemean Lion, whose hide, impenetrable by weapons, forced him to strangle it to death (Apollodorus, Library 2.5.1). Others claim that Theseus invented the pankration "when he was in the labyrinth matching strength with the Minotaur, since he did not have a knife" (scholion on Pindar, Nemean Ode 5.89). Aristotle attributed its discovery to Leukaros of Akarnania (scholion on Pindar, Nemean Ode 3.27). Quintus Smyrnaeus portrays Ajax as a pankratiast in having him desire to contend "with hands and feet" (Posthomerica 4.479-480) -- but anachronistically, since Homer does not include pankration among the competitions held during Patroklos' funeral. It is a relatively late event, added to the Olympic program in the thirty-third Olympiad (648 BCE) where it was won by Lydamis of Syracuse, a big man, reputedly the size of Herakles (Pausanias 5.8.8). The Eleans did not sanction boys' pankration until the 145th Olympiad (200 BCE) (Philostratus, Gymnastic 13).
Michael B. Poliakoff, Combat Sports in the Ancient World: Competition, Violence, and Culture (New Haven and London: Yale University Press 1987) 54-63
Keywords: aetiology; athletics; chronology; definition; mythology
Translated by: Wm. Blake Tyrrell on 25 February 2002@20:27:39.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (added note and keywords; cosmetics) on 22 November 2002@10:19:29.
David Whitehead (another x-ref; cosmetics) on 28 January 2007@06:32:37.
David Whitehead (expanded primary note; cosmetics) on 8 August 2013@08:33:36.
David Whitehead (updated a re3f) on 10 August 2014@03:43:44.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 27 February 2015@00:17:02.


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