Sports of the Byzantine Empire
By Barbara Schrodt
Journal of Sport History, Vol.8:3 (1981)
Introduction: From the fourth century A.D. until the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the people of the Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire participated in a wide range of sports and physical recreations. Most of these activities were inherited from Greek and Roman civilizations, or were introduced through contacts with Asia Minor and Crusading Europe. Some sport forms disappeared after a few centuries, while others remained a part of the sporting culture during most of the lifetime of this civilization. However, in spite of the longevity of the Byzantine Empire, and the importance attached to sport by its inhabitants, little has been written about that period in sport history references. Much of the information that is available gives the impression that sport in Byzantium consisted of nothing more that Roman activities transplanted to the shore of the Bosporus, while other sources simply refer to Byzantium in sections devoted to the final period of Greek athletics. This paper attempts to alter that situation by presenting a fuller description and interpretation of this topic, for close study reveals a period of sport history that was uniquely Byzantine— one that warrants more attention than it is usually given in English-language sport histories.