Diameter: 30.500 cm
GR 1850.3-2.2 (Vases E 78)
Room 69: Greek and Roman life
Red-figured cup, attributed to the Foundry Painter
Greek, about 500-475 BC
Made in Athens, Greece; found at Vulci (now in Lazio, Italy)
Pankratiasts, boxers and other athletes
Athletic achievement was highly valued in ancient Greek society. Physical fitness was important, as all adult males had to be prepared to serve in the army if required. Sports of all types were a major part of Greek education, and athletic competitions took place at many of the major festivals. The most famous games were held at Olympia, and the pankration, illustrated here, was an Olympic sport. It was a type of all-in wrestling in which practically anything, including kicking or trying to strangle your opponent, was allowed. The only activities that were banned were biting and trying to gouge out your opponent's eyes. The right-hand pankratiast in this group appears to be committing both kinds of foul, and the trainer behind him is about to bring his stick down hard upon the his back.
To the left of the pankratiasts are a pair of boxers, while on the other side of the cup are a youth preparing to race in armour, more boxers and a trainer, and a youth stretching a thong of the type boxers wrapped around their hands and wrists.
J. Boardman, Athenian red figure vases: the (London, Thames and Hudson, 1975)
J. Swaddling, The ancient Olympic Games, 3rd edition (London, The British Museum Press, 2004)