Pankration is an martial art which mixes wrestling và boxing. The sport can be traced as far baông chồng as the second millennium BCE in the territory of Greece. Its name derives from the Greek words pan (all) và kratos (strength, might, power) and literally means “all of the might.” In 648 BCE, the Pankration was introduced as a sporting event in the 33rd Olympic Games where it joined boxing and wrestling in a category called “heavy events.” That special group of sports was reserved for the best athletes with the greademo strength và stamina.

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The Pankration event was the crowd"s favorite sport. It was believed that a military training based on this formerly unarmed combat system helped the Spartans khổng lồ excel in hand-to-hvà fighting. Soldiers trained in Pankration were highly appreciated in the famous Macedonian Phalanxes as Alexander the Great was said to lớn have sầu given them priority in the recruitment of his army. 

The Pankration in Mythology Greek mythology appoints illustrious mythological figures as the first pankratiasts. Theseus, the founder-king of Athens, allegedly used techniques from that martial art to lớn defeat the Minotaur (the half-human half-bull creature locked in the Labyrinth of Minos). Hercules is said lớn have won in Pankration condemo in Olympia, as well as in another sự kiện organized by the Argonauts (the heroes that went on a quest for the Golden Fleece in Colchis). He reputedly used Pankration skills in one of his twelve sầu labors too. Many Greek vases depict images of the anh hùng defeating the Nemean lion with a specific strong lock believed to be part of the Pankration fighting methods.

The rules of Pankration 

The sources represent the Pankration as a full-contact combat sport that allows the use of various techniques such as striking, grappling, và wrestling. In fact, Pankration was a combination of boxing, wrestling, & other fighting arts with the only difference that there were virtually no rules. To bite and to gouge an opponent"s eyes, nose, or mouth with fingers were the only off-limits once in the ring. Anything else - such as kicking in the belly & the genitals - was permitted & even expected.

Pankration was a combination of boxing, wrestling, và other fighting arts with the only difference that there were virtually no rules. 

The athletic event started after pulling lots and forming fighting pairs. At the end of every match, the lot drawing was repeated aước ao the winners of the previous fights, và so on until one final winner has left. A sparring ended either by submission (the opponent would raise his index finger as a sign of being defeated) or by death. According khổng lồ one story, the fighter Arrhichion of Phigalia won a Pankration competition at the Olympic Games literally dying in the ring. He was locked in a tight chokehold and had lớn break the ankle of his opponent in order to lớn loosen the deadly clutch. At the same moment, though, when his competitor raised a finger for submission, Arrichion fell dead. Nevertheless, he was honored as a winner.

The sport had two main phases. During the first, called Ano Pankration (Upper Pankration), contestants had lớn fight upright. As the main goal was khổng lồ knochồng down the opponent, punches, kicks & all kind of lethal blows were usually performed. The second phase, known as Kalớn Pankration (Lower Pankration) started with the first falling on the ground of some of the competitors. Here grappling, joint locking, and even strangulation were used as more effective methods of fighting on the floor.

Pankratiasts had the liberty lớn build their own fighting style. At the beginning of a sparring, some preferred to lớn use short hooking blows called krocheirismos. A technique known as klimakismos (ladder trick) was often used to lớn climb on an opponent"s bachồng, to lock legs tightly around his toàn thân và khổng lồ strangle hyên ổn from behind. That was probably the one that turned lethal for Arrhichion of Phigalia. 

Very often the Pankration fighters got nicknames according to their preferred technique of defeating opponents. One pankratiast from the đô thị of Sikyon was called “Fingertips” because of his habit to lớn break his adversary"s fingers at the start of a bout. Special local features also existed. The Spartans, for example, were famous for their heavy foot sweeps used lớn knochồng down their rivals. The Eleans, on the other h&, were quick on strangleholds.

Initially, the pankratiasts fought nude, with oiled bodies và bare hands. Later, they wore thong wrappings around their hands và forearms. When Pankration was adopted in Rome, fighters covered their genitals with loincloths & were even equipped with battle gloves (caesti) made with leather strips & filled with iron plates, blades, or spikes. 

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Agias, Son of Aknonios
by James Lloyd (CC BY-NC-SA)

a training for the Spartans và army of Alexander

Developed out of an existing combat system, Pankration was part of the army training of many Greek city-states. It was the core of the military instruction of the hoplites (the famous Greek infantry). The Spartans were particularly well-trained và excelled in that art. In their last stand at Thermopylae, they allegedly used Pankration skills as their final weapon. Once the 300 lost their armaments, they fought with bare hands, feet, & teeth, relying on their abilities lớn use unarmed fighting techniques.

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Alexander the Great also highly appreciated such military proficiency. He often sought khổng lồ attract pankratiasts in his famous Macedonian Phalanxes as he regarded soldiers trained in Pankration as a valuable army asmix. One Athenian Pankration champion from the Olympic Games in 336 BCE was quite popular among the Macedonian army where he was on a service. His name was Dioxippus, and the historian Curtius Rufus in his “Histories of Alexander the Great” informs us that one day he was challenged to lớn a one-to-one combat. His adversary was one of Alexander"s best soldiers, known as Coragus. The Macedonian ruler appointed a match between them in one of his banquets organized in Persia. In the bout, Dioxippus showed up naked and armed only with a club. Coragus presented himself in full armor. After а short fight, the Athenian champion defeated his armed & skilled opponent using only Pankration techniques. He could have killed him if it had not been for Alexander"s intercession.

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The Macedonian Phalanxes reportedly contributed to the spreading of Pankration to the East. It is suggested that following Alexander"s conquests over Europe and Persia, the Greek unarmed fighting system eventually reached the Indus Valley. Some researchers even speculate that by practising their military art along their route, Macedonian soldiers influenced the Indian combative sầu art “Vajra Musti” &, ultimately, had an impact on the martial arts in Đài Loan Trung Quốc. According to lớn Eastern tradition, the Chinese fighting systems evolved from Indian Buddhist doctrines that taught early Indian combative sầu arts.

Editorial ReviewThis article has been reviewed for accuracy, reliability và adherence khổng lồ academic standards prior to publication.


Arvanitis, J. Pankration: The Traditional Greek Combat Sport và Modern Mixed Martial Art. Paladin Press, 2003Georgiou, A.V. Pankration: An Olympic Combat Thể Thao, Vol. I. Xlibris Corporation, 2005Liddell, H.G. và Scott, R. A Greek-English Lexibé. Oxford. Clarendon Press, 1940Quintus Curtius Rufus. Life và Exploits of Alexander the Great. New York, London, D. Appleton and company, 1860Smith, William, D.C.L., LL.D. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, “Pancratium”. John Murray, London,, 1875, pp. 857 - 858.
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I have sầu a degree in Classics và Ph.D. in History. I have sầu taught Latin và Greek at university for five sầu years. Every subject of the Greek & Roman civilizations passionates me, và I write a blog about that on