Entertainment to Die For!!!
Though dangerous forms of entertainment are still widely practiced in modern times, many events that were highly popular in the past regularly resulted in serious injury or even death.
Pankration: Introduced in the Olympic Games of 648 BC. It was an extremely violent and it means ‘all of the force’. It is a form of a martial art that combined features of boxing, wrestling, kicking and chokeholds. Since there were hardly any rules, except those barring eye-gouging or biting, it was not uncommon for both the opponents to be severely injured during a match. There were also cases of competitions decided by the death of one of the opponents. This sport was a favorite in Sparta, where it was considered very effective training in hand-to-hand combat.
Venatio: This form of bloody entertainment caused the near extinction of many animal species. It involved the hunting and killing of wild animals in the arena. The bigger and fiercer the better. Hundreds of animals could be killed in a single day. It was estimated that over 10,000 animals were killed in the first 100 days after the Colosseum was officially opened.
Bull-Leaping: Unlike the various forms of bullfighting still practiced around the world, Bull-Leaping did not involve harming the animal, though of course it could prove dangerous to the person who performed it.
Mesoamerican ballgame: Known as “Ollamalitzli” in Classical Maya, this game may have originated as early as 1650 BC in the tropical areas of Mexico, both on the Pacific and the Atlantic coast. In these regions, the climate is favorable to the growth of rubber trees, whose latex was used to make the balls. This sport involved hitting the ball with the hips and forearms. The intriguing aspect was its association with human sacrifice. Over 1300 ballcourts have been identified in Mexico and Central America along with the same size and shape. The ballcourt at the Mayan site of Chichen Itza is the largest with the length of 100 meters.
Lacrosse: Canada’s official national summer sport, has its roots in a tribal game played by Native American Communities. Earlier days traditional Lacrosse was not just played for recreation, but also to settle scores between opposing villages. It was played with hundreds of people who met on a large, open plains between the two settlements involved in a dispute. It lasted several days and players wore no protective clothing and that led to severe injuries and even death.
Chariot Racing: was added to Olympic Games in 680 BC, and soon became the most important equestrian event. It was a highly dangerous pursuit right from its beginnings, as the chariot used for the races were made of wood, lightweight and open at the back and they were pulled by four or six horses. Unlike most other athletes, charioteers did not perform in the nude, but wore a sleeved garment that afforded some protection in the likelihood of a crash.
Jousting: A game in which two armoured knights on horseback charged at each other, replicating the clashes of heavy cavalry that occurred in real life-battles. Each participant’s goal was to unhorse his opponent or break his shield. It was also a way for the royals to showcase their courage, military skills and to attract the attention of fair ladies.
Calcio Fiorentino: This violent rugby-like ball game was popular in the 16th century. It was a sport practiced mainly by the nobles and high-ranking clergy. This sport faded in the 18th century, revived in 1930 by Bento Mussolini when a tournament was organized. It is played today and has not changed much from its beginnings. It is still a brutal unforgiving game, and every year number of players are hospitalized.
Chovgan: Known as the “King of Sports”, is an early form of Polo that developed around 2nd century AD in the Sasanian Empire of Iran. It was played mostly by nobility and women It was a dangerous activity because of the speed and the unpredictability of the horses.
Palio of Siena: Known for its stunning pageantry, this breakneck horse race of medieval origin can put the life of the horses and jockeys in serious jeopardy. The race originated in the 13th century, though many of the rules in force today date from the mid-18th century.
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