Sports are among the fun activities most people in the present time are engaged in. For sports enthusiasts, it’s kind of difficult to imagine how life would be without these activities. Some of the most popular sports in the present time are basketball, baseball, volleyball, soccer, and more. They are activities wherein the whole family can join. However, back in the ancient times, there are some sporting events that you wouldn’t imagine playing today.
People in the ancient times used to play sports which pitted teams against each other and usually end up with bloody results. If you’re curious about them, here are some of the really scary ancient sporting events.
1. He’e Hölua
This is a really dangerous sporting event that came from the Hawaiian culture. It is a sport that originated over 2,000 years ago on the Hawaiian Islands. He’e Hölua is a Hawaiian term for “sled surfing”. It includes a dangerous trek up the side of a volcano where people would ride a large sled made of wood and coconut fibers. The riders would then race down the slope either on their stomachs or in a typical surfing pose.
These races stood as tributes to Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire and volcanoes. Up to 80 kilometers per hour were the common speeds in this race. This sporting event was stopped by 19th century Christian missionaries because they saw it as dangerous and a waste of time. But recently, it has been revived by native Hawaiians who are trying to reconnect with their culture.
This sport was played by the Mayan culture and is believed to have originated as early as 2,500 BC. This game was originally much like racquetball but they added hoops to it that served as goals. Then, a number of different variations for the sport existed. Some of them were the rules on ball size and what was used to hit it changing to fit the context of the game.
Pitz was played by every town in the Mayan empire as a proxy for war. It was their way of settling their arguments without bloodshed. The Mayan kings would also often stage dramatic reenactments of their myths on the ball court. The scary part of this sporting event back in the ancient times was that a human sacrifice was involved. The captured kings or the captains of the losing team would be executed after the game.
3. Pelota Purépecha
This sport came from the Mexican culture. It is a pre-Hispanic game that is similar to field hockey, but the difference is, it involves fire. The sport was invented by the indigenous Purépecha people of what is now the Mexican state of Michoacán.
It involved a ball called zapanduka, which was normally made up of interwoven cloth and twine. It had been smeared with pine resin and lit on fire. It would be batted around by the players who were armed with wooden sticks. The aim of the sport was to knock the ball across the line going to the goals that were set up on either side of the field.
This sporting event was usually held at night because the ball looked more amazing under the light of the moon. This game has been largely forgotten, but the Mexican government are helping to raise awareness for it.
Harpastum was an ancient Roman sport which is an early predecessor to the modern sport of rugby. It is played with a small, hard ball and had a variety of goals but each version included two teams. One of the variations involved a single player in the middle of a scrum. That player would attempt to grasp the ball or harpastum and escape. The opponents on the other hand, would try to keep him inside and away from the ball.
Another version includes two evenly match teams squaring off on a field with goals on either side. Some of the common moves were passes and feints for each team to get the ball to the opposite end of the field. The scary part was that a lot of players were always getting injuries because there were no rules on grappling. The team with the most points at the end of the game would be the winner.
This sport came from the ancient Roman culture. It was a mock naval battle that was played in front of a crowd of viewers. It was played by pitting condemned criminals against each other. It often took place in man-made basins which were created specifically for the sport.
There were two ships placed on either side and were filled with willing participants who would be fighting against one another. The game would end until one side was completely killed.
The earliest recorded example of this sport was in 46 BC which was started by Julius Caesar. He used it as a celebration for his military accomplishments in a Roman ritual known as a triumph. The biggest recorded Naumachia on the other hand, was in 52 AD. It was set up by Emperor Claudius. It involved 100 ships with over 19,000 men who participated.
6. Fisherman Jousting
This sporting event came from the ancient Egyptians. It was considered as a game for the poor and lower-class fisherman of the Nile River. It involved two teams of boatmen who would square off using their hands or feet to knock off the other team off balance from their boat and into the water.
It was a very violent sport and a lot of fishermen have died from participating in it. It was because there were hippos and crocodiles that roamed the waters, ready to harm the participants who fell overboard. Also, swimming was not practiced that much during those times unlike today, that’s why many fishermen died because of drowning.
According to some scholars, there may have been a religious part to some of the fights because there were murals depicting competing boats filled with offerings. The fishermen appeared to be racing to be the first to honor the gods. Then a combat would come to play during a close race.
This is a 300-year-old sport that came from the Irish culture and is still being played today. It is sort of like hockey mixed with lacrosse. Two teams would play the game. The goal is to hit a small ball called a sliotar into a goal. It is considered as the fasted field sport in the world and since the ball speeds can reach up to 145km per hour, the players of this sport are usually left bruised and bloodied after the game.
If you think that is dangerous, well, that is nothing compared to how it was played in the ancient times. This sport back in those years was more like warfare. It has only few rules and matches that could last for days. There were also teams numbering in the hundreds of squaring off against one another making the sport more violent. Hurling has tales of mythological heroes playing which dates back to the 12th century BC.
This sport was played between the 10th and 15th centuries by the Turkic culture. It is still being played today and is considered as the national sport of Afghanistan. The sport involves two teams riding on horseback. Their goal is the drag a headless goat carcass across the field and drop it inside a predetermined area. Aside from a goat, a sheep or calf can also be used.
Buzkashi is a violent sport and it was banned under the Taliban’s rule. It was because the riders were equipped with whips which they use to beat the other riders’ horses and not on the riders themselves. However, that rule is often ignored.
The origins of this violent sport can no longer be traced, but according to stories, it was about Genghis Khan and his Mongols who would steal livestock from Turkic people. The people would then brave death to get the livestock back from them on horseback.
This was one of the earliest sports played by the Native Americans. It was developed by the Mississippian culture and was held around the ancient city of Cahokia. It involved two teams were any number of people could participate, but it was usually just one-on-one. There’s a small stone disk that would be rolled from the starting point. The opposing teams would throw spears at the area where they thought the disk would end up.
This sport was believed to have joined different tribes together. Each tribe had unique rules for Chunkey but the game had the same spirit. The scary part was that this sport was taken too seriously that losers would even commit suicide in some cases, because gambling was also deep-seated to it and some had risked all of their belongings.
The name of this sport was derived from the Spanish word for duck. It is a wide-ranging mix of polo and basketball and is the official sport of Argentina. The earliest game of this sport was in the 1500’s and it was originally played with a duck on a basket rather than a ball that is used by today’s players.
Pato is considered as a violent sport because riders would often attack each other to win, plus, a large amount of money was at stake. In fact, it has been banned numerous times throughout its history because of the growing violence that lead to deaths of a lot of its participants.
In the 17th century, the Catholic church would excommunicate anyone found playing this sport. It remained underground until the 20th century until its rule changed and became much safer.
These ancient sporting events are indeed really scary. To think that there are people in the present time who are scared to play sports because they may get injured, what more if these are the major sports being played today?