Leather straps, torn ears and trash-talking: how boxing developed in antiquity

The attraction for mixed martial arts (MMA) – the discipline has been authorized in France since 2020 and Paris hosted an evening of its flagship tournament, the UFC, for the first time a few weeks ago – will it cause a renewed interest in the history of combat sports? We find in any case, in this new school year, several books on boxing and its origins. The sociologist Loïc Wacquant, close to Bourdieu, known for having exemplified the famous phrase “sociology is a combat sport”, publishes a “Journey to the land of boxers” (La Découverte), a sort of volume II of his famous “Body and Soul. Ethnographic notebooks of an apprentice boxer”, published at the beginning of the 2000s. On the History side, the PUF publishes a fascinating study by Jean-Manuel Roubineau, who has endeavored to describe very precisely the daily life of the pugilists of Antiquity. Maintenance.

Why this desire to work on ancient boxing?

Jean-Manuel Roubineau. I practiced boxing myself, in different forms, for about twenty years, between the ages of 19 and 39. Chance then made that, for courses at the university, I became interested in ancient sport, and I found that there was considerable documentation on boxing, which had been little exploited. Generally, historians approach ancient sports as an indivisible whole, I found it interesting to focus on a particular discipline, in order to better understand what it revealed

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