(Prehistory, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Wrestling in the Bible, Minoan Crete)
Questions to ask about ancient spectacle and the limitations of the available evidence:
Might there have been an ECONOMIC/PRACTICAL function for such events?
Might there have been a RELIGIOUS/RITUALISTIC purpose for such events?
Might there have been an ENTERTAINMENT motivation for such events?
Might there have been POLITICAL DYNAMICS associated with such events?
What SOCIAL FUNCTION(S) might these events have fulfilled in each culture?
Prehistoric Cave paintings of animals and hunting scenes
Lascaux Cave painting c. 15000 BC
General Map of Ancient Regions for Lecture 2
Clay Tablets recording the Epic of Gilgamesh
“Enkidu barred the gate with his foot
They seized each other, they bent down like experts [wrestlers],
They destroyed the doorpost, the wall shook. Gilgamesh and Enkidu were holding each other, like expert [wrestlers] they bent down, they destroyed the doorpost, the wall shook, Gilgamesh bent [his one knee] with his other foot on the ground”
Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet II
[(trans. Sjöberg) in Poliakoff, p. 135]
“Thy head is exalted above [all other] men;
The kingship over the people
Enlil has decreed for thee”
After the wrestling struggle with Enkidu, even though Gilgamesh seems to have prevailed and acknowledged sovereign,
Gilgamesh’s personal character undergoes transformation and he emerges from the contest ‘a more serious and determined leader.’ (See Poliakoff, Combat Sports in the Ancient World, p. 136)
Cylinder Seal Impressions of Gilgamesh and Enkidu Slaying the
‘Bull of Heaven’
"Gilgamesh, like an able slaughterer, strikes with his sword the Bull of Heaven forcefully and precisely between shoulders and neck.“ Tablet VI
Sumerian Wrestlers gripping Belts (stand for dual vase)
Wrestling in the Bible as a sort of Rite of Passage:
Wrestling victory served as a symbol of power and leadership
“Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he wrenched Jacob’s hip at its socket, so that the socket of the hip was strained as he wrestled with him. Then he said ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.’ But he answered, ‘I will not let you go,