Was Boxing Popular in Ancient Greece?

Boxing is a sport that has been around for centuries, but was it popular in ancient Greece? Let’s take a closer look at the history of boxing in Greece to find out.

The Origins of Boxing

Boxing as a sport has roots that date back to ancient civilizations. In ancient Greece, boxing was considered a combat sport that involved two fighters wearing gloves made of leather straps wrapped around their hands. The goal of the fight was to knock out the opponent or force them to submit.

Ancient Greek Boxing

In ancient Greece, boxing was known as pygmachia, which means “fist-fighting”. This sport was introduced to the Olympic Games in 688 BC and remained an Olympic event until 393 AD when Theodosius I banned all pagan festivals and events.

During its time as an Olympic event, boxing was one of the most popular sports. Fighters were divided into weight categories, and matches were held in front of large crowds who eagerly cheered on their favorite fighter.

Rules of Ancient Greek Boxing

Boxers had their fists bound with leather straps called himantes. These straps provided some protection for the hands but were not padded like modern boxing gloves. Fighters would also wear a soft leather thong around their wrist called a sestos.

The rules of ancient Greek boxing were quite different from modern-day rules. Fighters were allowed to punch with either hand and could strike any part of their opponent’s body above the waist. There were no rounds or time limits, and fights continued until one fighter either gave up or was knocked unconscious.

The Decline of Ancient Greek Boxing

After Theodosius I banned pagan festivals in 393 AD, including the Olympic Games where boxing was an event, the popularity of the sport waned. Boxing disappeared from public view for centuries until it re-emerged during the Renaissance in Europe.


Boxing was undoubtedly popular in ancient Greece. It was a sport that was enjoyed by many and was an important part of the Olympic Games. While the rules and equipment used in ancient Greek boxing were different from modern-day boxing, the essence of the sport remains the same: two fighters battling it out to see who is the best.