Latin Language Blog

Ancient Roman Ball Game Posted by on Jun 16, 2010 in Uncategorized

Everyone by now has probably heard of the World Cup Games in South Africa. However, probably not everyone has heard of how the ancient Romans played ball.

An ancient Roman game called Harpastum was a ball game where the object of the game was to keep the possession of the ball on your own side. In true Roman fashion, this game was of course, violent. Here is a reenactment of how the game might have been played :

If you watch the video, it looks somewhat like modern day rugby. However, as of yet, we really don’t know what kind of a game Harpastum was, or how it was played. We still have some surviving fragments describing the game, and from what we can gather from the descriptions, it was a team sport where the ball could not touch the ground.

The team that won the dice toss would be the team starting with the possession of the ball. The objective of the opposing team was to get the ball away from the other team. It seems that the player in possession of the ball was vulnerable to being tackled.

Despite the roughness of the game, Harpastrum was praised as a good sport for improving one’s health and coordination. Certainly the crowds loved it, and there are records which indicate that this game was played in the mass games.

With games like Harpastum, it just shows, humanity has changed very little, and that perhaps we are not very different from the ancient Romans.

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  1. paula jordan:

    My students will love viewing the modern day interpretation of Harpastrum. Thanks!

  2. Charles Laster:

    I wish they’d bring back this game, looks more fun than football, and rough as rugby.

  3. ester:

    it looks fun ot play