Tag Archives: Pancratium

Beating the Air — 1 Corinthians 9:26

A new archaeological discovery—Rare Roman boxing gloves were found near Hadrian’s Wall in England. [see below for link]  The Greeks were especially fond of “competition” and engaged in a contest known as pancratium (a combination of boxing and wrestling that allowed such tactics as kicking and strangling).

The Apostle Paul uses athletic imagery in 4 different places in his writings.  And in 1 Corinthians 9 he wrote:

1 Cor. 9:26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

View of the “Terme Boxer” (Pugile delle Terme). This contestant participated in pancratium (a combination of boxing and wrestling that allowed such tactics as kicking and strangling)

This bronze statue of a boxer, a pugilist, is signed by Apollonius. He is seated, weary, and battered. The realism of this statute is characteristic of the Hellenistic period. It was found in Rome. It is a first century A.D. copy of a third or second century B.C. original.

The leather gloves that the boxers wore—sometimes with metal bands, as in this case—are clearly visible.

Recently it was announced that a pair of such “gloves” were found in a Roman cavalry barrack near Hadrian’s Wall in the United Kingdom (“Rare Roman boxing gloves found near Hadrian’s Wall“).  These artifacts are dated to 120 A.D.

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