1Sports and games have always been a part and parcel in our lives, right from the day we played our first game of hide-and-seek. It is a source of fun and entertainment, and coupled with the fact that it is also healthy and beneficial for our bodies, sports has been played for as long as we can remember. Even more so now, with the Monash Cup bringing in that game spirit in many of us, along with the highly publicised Rio Olympics.

Ancient civilizations, right from the Romans to the Aztecs, have played sports and games as a form of entertainment and leisure. However, with each generation coming along, we’re slowly losing and forgetting some of the games and sports played by our ancestors.

Here we’ll take a look at the various sports and games that have been long forgotten as the years went by, some for their violence and some just because they weren’t that popular. Right from the Olympic events to small, little games played by kids, sports has prevailed over the years, and it is from these ancient sports that some of our modern sports have evolved.

Also, each sport comes with its own cultural background, some highlighting the pride of the civilization. Though many of them may seem pretty violent and barbaric, some containing bloodshed, these sports and games were still known to be a form of amusement for the ancient times.

  • Tug Of Hoop

Though ancient sports are glorified to be violent and brutal, not all of them followed this principle. A game known as2 Tug Of Hoop was played in ancient Egypt as a competitive event.

The purpose of the game was to secure a hoop from the opponent using a stick, making sure the hoop never fell to the floor. It required concentration and quick reflexes, and while they played it in competition, it was also used to hone their skills. This not only made the game enjoyable but also helped them during actual fights.

  • Knuckle Bones

An unofficial name used by the children of ancient Greece, this game involved collecting preserved animal bones such as goats and deer. A form of treasure hunting, the children kept and cherished their finds, and used them to play a multitude of other games as well, such as building small structures with the bones.

  • Chariot Racing

While this sport was one of the most popular back in the days in Ancient Rome and Greece, it has not been played in the modern world. This sport was often called the rich man’s sport, mainly because it was a show of wealth while the chariots raced against each other.

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Though slaves did play it as well, they mostly rode chariots owned by wealthy merchants. The chariots and horses were greatly adorned, and were used with pride and integrity. The sport highlighted the power and success of the horse and soldier, and the economic wealth of the Roman Empire. However, even-though we do partake in horse-racing today, Chariot races faded away with the Empire.

  • Cauldron Lifting

A highly unusual competitive sport that focused on both the physical and spiritual aspect, this sport was played in Ancient China and is still seen as a traditional Chinese event. Soldiers were made to carry steaming hot cauldrons, and as a result were branded with the symbol for achievement.

It was an ultimate test of physical prowess and mental capabilities, being both difficult and dangerous. With modern form of weight-lifting now dominant, this ancient Chinese sport has lost its popularity.

  • Naumachia

Another sport from the Ancient Rome, Naumachia involved the battling of naval fleets for victory. It was a form of mass entertainment, and was often considered to be a salute to their ruling emperor.

Special basins were created especially for the event, with the water being quickly drained once the victor was announced. Amphitheaters were also used to stage these battles, with stage props and mechanisms adding to the enjoyment.

  • Jereed

A favorite sport for the Ottoman Empire, this was introduced in the 11th century and was an equestrian event. The main objective was for the horsemen to throw blunt javelins at the opposing team’s horsemen to gain points.

4It was a means of improving equestrian skills and was known to be highly competitive and slightly violent as well. Tournaments and grand ceremonies were also held in honor of the sport. Today, Jereed is not as popular as it once was, yet is still played in small, rural towns of Turkey.

  • Chunkey

Chunkey is known to be a Native American sport, originating in early 600 CE. Played by rolling disc shaped stones on the ground, the objective was to throw a spear as close as possible to where the disc had landed.

The circular stones were seen as prized possessions and were owned by tribes and not individuals. There was great competition between players, with gambling involved and losers committing suicide.

  • Apple Feat

A game involving apples and stone, this was created by the Irish people. The aim was to throw stones as big as apples, and whoever threw it the farthest won. First used as military training, the sport then grew into a competitive event, with the stone being replaced by apples to avoid injury. 5

With the discovery of iron, it is also known that Irish rulers used iron balls for practicing. During Celtic ceremonies, these balls were also used to demonstrate one tribe’s superiority over the other by throwing the iron balls at their foes.

  • Venatio

Ancient Rome is known for its brutality in sports, and Venatio, also known as The Hunt, is a perfect example. In this game, the players were supposed to face a herd of twenty or so starved, irritated elephants that suffered from separation anxiety. Venatio was known to be one of the most brutal games in Ancient Rome. There was a slim rate of survival, and it is really no wonder why this game didn’t make it into the modern world.


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