Sports to 1600

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Boxer of Quirinal resting after a contest (Bronze sculpture, 3rd century BC)

Sports to 1600 describes the period's events in world sport.

The main sporting activity recorded in ancient times is the original Olympic Games held at Olympia in Greece.

By 1300, rural folk in Great Britain have begun to play early versions of cricket, football and golf. Early in the 16th century, English public houses are showing interest in bowls and real tennis, as well as dice and cards, all of which the government tries to eliminate forcefully. Late in the 16th century, "licensing began to replace prohibition ... a public house might be licensed to allow men of substance to engage in dice, cards, tables, bowls, and tennis on condition that there was no blaspheming or swearing, and no play before noon on working days or during hours of religious worship on Sundays."[1]



  • c.901–c.1100 — games that are accepted as direct predecessors to bandy have been recorded in Russian monastery records dating back to this period.



  • ~3000–1000 BC — fist fighting is depicted in Sumerian relief carvings from the 3rd millennium BC, while an ancient Egyptian relief from the 2nd millennium BC depicts both fist-fighters and spectators; these are examples of bare-fisted contests.
  • ~1500–900 BC — the earliest evidence for fist fighting with gloves or other forms of hand protection occurs in Minoan Crete
  • ~675 BC — Homer's Iliad (Book XXIII) contains the first detailed account of a boxing contest.[2]
  • In ancient Rome, boxing is primarily a gladiatorial contest. Gladiators wear lead "cestae" over their knuckles and heavy leather straps on their forearms to protect against blows.
  • 400 AD — boxing is banned by Theodoric the Great as an "insult to God" because it disfigures the face, held to be "the image of God". But his edict has little effect outside the major cities of the Eastern Empire.[3]



  • 10 March 1301[4] — an expenses paid item in the English royal accounts confirms that the Prince of Wales, then aged 15, is playing a game called creag at Newenden, Kent. Despite speculation that creag is an early form of cricket, there is no supportive evidence and it is much more likely that the word is an early spelling of craic, meaning "fun and games" in general. But it does confirm that games are being played, if only among aristocrats, at the end of the 13th century.



  • 11th to 13th centuries — the most widely accepted theory about the origin of cricket is its invention by children in south-east England sometime before 1300
  • 17 January 1598[5] — the earliest definite reference to cricket (given as creckett at the time) is in a deposition to a court case in Guildford and confirms the game being played by local children c.1550



  • 1511 — the game of curling exists in Scotland in the early 16th century, as evidenced by a curling stone, inscribed with the date 1511, which is uncovered along with another bearing the date 1551 when an old pond is drained at Dunblane
  • February 1541 — curling is thought to have been invented in late medieval Scotland, with the first written reference to a contest using stones on ice coming from the records of Paisley Abbey, Renfrewshire
  • 1565 — two paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder depict Dutch peasants curling




Theory of origin

  • 12th century — the most widely accepted theory is that golf (as practiced today) originates from Scotland in the 12th century with shepherds knocking stones into rabbit holes on the site now occupied by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.[6] However, the origin of golf is unclear and open to debate.

Horse racing[edit]


Mesoamerican Ballgame[edit]


  • 1531 — A team drawn out from players of what is now México was taken with Hernán Cortés to be exhibited to Louis XVI and Pope Clement VI under the modality of ullamaliztli or ulama. This is considered to be the first sports team from America to travel abroad.[7]

Olympic Games[edit]


  • 776 BC — First recorded Olympic games held, consisting of one race, the stadion
  • 664 BC, 660 BC and 656 BC — Chionis of Sparta is an outstanding athlete in jumping events
  • 6th century BC — Milo of Croton wins victory in six Olympic Games
  • 488 BC, 484 BC and 480 BC — Astylos of Croton is an outstanding athlete in running events
  • 396 BC and 392 BC — Cynisca, a Spartan princess, is the first woman to win an event at the Ancient Olympic Games, although she is not allowed to enter the stadium. She is the owner of a successful four-horse chariot racing team that wins at successive Olympics.
  • 393 — Theodosius I outlaws the Olympic Games




  1. ^ Derek Birley, A Social History of Cricket, London: Aurum Press, 1999, pages 4-5. Keepers of public houses did not show interest in cricket until the next century (see 1668).
  2. ^ Homer, Iliad, 23.655-696
  3. ^ BBC. The origins of Boxing, BBC History
  4. ^ Leach, John (2007). "From Lads to Lord's – 1300". Stumpsite. Archived from the original on October 10, 2012. Retrieved 31 January 2009.  Quotes the precise date of the accounting entry as Thursday, 10 March 1300 (Julian date), which is in the Gregorian year of 1301.
  5. ^ Leach, John (2007). "From Lads to Lord's – 1597". Stumpsite. Archived from the original on October 10, 2012. Retrieved 31 January 2009.  Quotes the precise date of the court case as Monday, 17 January 1597 (Julian date), which is in the Gregorian year of 1598.
  6. ^ "Golf History @ ABC-of-Golf". Retrieved 2007-11-07. 
  7. ^ "Histórica presentación del juego de pelota maya en Europa @ CONADE". Retrieved 2011-10-07.