Cestus

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Boxing scene from Virgil's Aeneid, book 5, when the aging Sicilian champion Entellus defeats the young Trojan, Dares. Blood spurts from Dares' injured head. Each wears a pair of cesti. After his victory, Entellus sacrifices his prize, a bull, by landing a great blow to its head. (Mosaic floor from a Gallo-Roman villa in Villelaure, France, ca. 175 AD)

A cestus or caestus (Classical Latin[ˈkae̯stʊs]) is a battle glove that was sometimes used in Roman gladiatorial events. It was worn like a modern boxing glove, but was made from hard leather strips that enclosed and protected the fist and lower arm, and was sometimes fitted with studs or spikes to inflict potentially lethal injuries. Contemporary depictions show them worn in pairs.

Terminology[edit]

Drawing of a cestus

Latin Caestus or cestus translates as "striker". Its plural is caestus. More rarely, plural cesti is used; this translates as "thongs". English language plural "cestuses" is also used.[1][2][3]

Roman cestuses[edit]

The basic Roman cestus was made of hard leather straps, which enclosed and protected the fighter's lower arm and fist. The straps could be studded, or more extremely, spiked. [4] Caestūs were usually worn in pairs. They were sometimes used in Roman gladiatorial bouts, and could be effective both as protection and weaponry against other cestus fighters, and armoured gladiators equipped with other weapons.[5] Apart from the cestus itself, the cestus-fighter would probably have had no body armour.[6]

Like all arena personnel (arenarii), cestus fighters were either slaves or infames, "infamous ones" who held a very low level of citizenship, their status and privileges severely restricted because of their professional association with blood-pollution and death. Most were probably pitted against other cestus fighters, and had a very limited life-expectancy. As a potentially lethal, pagan blood sport, Cestus boxing is usually assumed to have been included in the banning of punitive gladiator contests under legislation of the emperor Constantine I, in 325.[7] All gladiator games were banned by Theodosius I, in 393.[8][9] The reasons for these bans are disputed, and their effectiveness is questionable, as similar legislation was enacted by later Roman emperors.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Charlton Lewis and Charles Short (1966). A Latin Dictionary. Oxford University Press.
  2. ^ "Latin Word Study Tool". tufts.edu.
  3. ^ Stefano De Caro The National Archaeological Museum of Naples 1996 "119971 This statue, found in 1899 among the remains of a gymnasium, represents a boxer (note the cesti or thongs armed with metal studs, on his hands)."
  4. ^  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Caestus". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 944.
  5. ^ Green, Thomas A. (2001). Martial Arts of the World: R-Z. google.ca. ISBN 9781576071502.
  6. ^ Travis, Hilary John (15 December 2014). Roman Helmets. google.ca. ISBN 9781445638478.
  7. ^ David Potter, "Constantine and the Gladiators", The Classical Quarterly, Vol. 60, No. 2 (December 2010), p. 602
  8. ^ See Codex Theodosianus, 2.8.19 and 2.8.22
  9. ^ Pharr, Clyde; Davidson, Theresa Sherrer; Pharr, Mary Brown (2001) [1952]. The Theodosian Code and Novels, and the Sirmondian Constitutions. The Lawbook Exchange. ISBN 978-1-58477-146-3.