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Roman Football?
A friend of mine sent me this question and I thought maybe someone here might know more. I've never seen a reference for this myself:

>>I've been doing some reseach for an A&S project that
I'm working on. It didn't really start out like this,
but I'm looking at the origins of football. Or, if
you must, medieval/ancient football. I've found
reference to a Roman game and you since you're my
closest Roman expert I thought I would ask you.

The game was called Harpastum, Harpastu, or Harpaston.
Although the last might be Greek. My research so far
has found that this might have originally been a Greek
game (you know all the Romans had was really Greek in
origin ;]), but I'm still looking for some good

Anyone know anything about this game?


Gaius Aquilius Britannicus
aka. Todd Searls
Jean-Paul Thuillier describes the game in 'Sport im antiken Rom' (translation of: le sport dans la Rome antique), p. 92, as a kind of dodgeball. One player stands inside a circle of the others. They throw a ball to each other. He has to catch it, but not be hit by it. If he catches it, the thrower has to take his plasce in the circle. This description is reconstructed from a letter by Sidonius Apollinaris to Eriphius that contains data on other ball games as well (Epistulae V, 17, 5-7)

Doesn't sound like the football I know and hate
Der Kessel ist voll Bärks!

Volker Bach
The ancestor of Rugby football and its lesser form, soccer, or what rugbymen used to call "Penguin Football" (they don't use their hands..) was apparently a very, very old game called the Soule, in France, where it was still practiced about a century ago, albeit in a more civilized form than earlier on, due to the existence of laws dealing with assault and battery..
It goes on like this: Teams are formed by two neighbouring villages, each led by a "Champion".. The average distance is 6/10 miles between two villages, in France.
The ball is halfway between the two villages and is thrown in the air by a "notable" (the mayor, the local priest..) After moments of unspeakable violence, someone eventually gets the ball and attempts to bring it back to his own village with the help of his team.
The rules are simple: firearms, combat planes, artillery and other war implements are forbidden; besides that, it's a free for all...
That includes ambushes pre-set before the game begins... Good military training. I fancy the idea that the Gauls used to play that game with the head of one of their revered enemies..
Incidentally, it is also very useful as an excuse for settling old scores..
Pascal Sabas

Sounds like a family reunion I once attended!

Gaius Aquilius Britannicus
aka. Todd Searls
Gaius, do we have the same family? Big Grin
Come to think of it, the soule would make a pretty good TV show..
Drawing official rules coud turn that game into a form of football played on a field several miles across, with trees, rivers, hillocks and such.
That could be nice.. Smile
Pascal Sabas
Carlton you explanation of (Harpaston) stands valid.
The game has also another variation.
It is called (TA MILA=the apples). A group stand in line in the center and two people throw tha ball at them from opposing sides. The line in center has to doge the ball. Any one being hit goes out. If someone catches the ball can bring him back in. The object is to eliminate the line in a given time frame.
It still survives as achildrens game in Greece.
Marble plaques survivng in Olympia depict a type of handball and a game that looks like hokey on on grass!!!!
If these games were not indroduced by the Greek colonists in Italy then they might became known to Rome after 146 B.C.
For some reason hockey might have been popular with the Celts!
Kind regards

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