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Young Man Training For The Ancient Game Of Episkyros

What Was Episkyros? When And Where It Was Played

The game Episkyros is the mother of modern-day soccer.  Played between two teams and a ball, Episkyros was an ancient Greek game that has transformed into the modern version we watch today. Two teams would have an equal number of 12 to 14 participants. The rules of the game allowed using your hands. They would draw three lines. One straight line was between the two teams, and the other two lines were behind each team. The ball was quite large and light. Picture a soft plastic ball that you see children play with on the beach.

Make sure to check our cornerstone article on the history of modern soccer.

The aim of Episkyros was to get the ball while in possession over the opponent’s defending line. Then, the team in control would attempt to kick or throw the ball between or over the head of their opponents to each other. If you dropped the ball or your opponent intercepted, the other team takes possession and aims to get the ball down the other end of the field.

When Was Episkyros Played?

Episkyros games were part of a young boy’s early military training. Serious greek athletes would not play this game. It was something to be played by children, women, or the elderly.

Each year in Sparta, during the annual city festival, teams would play to represent their region.

When Was It Created?

Although there is minimal history found on the game of Episkyros, it seems that Episkyros peaked before the Roman control of Greece. The best evidence of the game is displayed in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. On the side of the marble vase is a young male keeping the ball up with his thigh. Archaeologists estimate that this vase was manufactured in 400-375 BC. (2400 years ago) You see an identical image on the current UEFA Euro Cup trophy.

The Romans transformed this game into their version called Harpastum. Harpastum is a word of Greek origin meaning ‘snatch’ or ‘snatching the ball.’ The term Episkyros was also a word of Greek origin meaning ‘team game.’

Footballs Coming Home

The next time you hear an English person singing ‘football’s coming home,’ remind them that Ancient Greece and Episkyros was the mother of modern soccer that we watch and play today.

Main Image: Greek Reporter

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