Minoan Sport

To be ignorant of history is to remain always a child - Cicero
Featured in Macworld - one of the
best history sites on the web

previous slide
exhibit menu
next slide

The Minoans engaged in boxing, wrestling, and a remarkable athletic activity, bull leaping. Bull leaping was a strenous physical activity, more like gymnastics than bull fighting and both women and men were athletes. The bull was not harmed as part of the activity, though it is possible that it was sacrificed afterwards as part of a religious ritual.

bull leaping fresco

Bull leaper
Ivory figurine from the palace at Knossos
the bull leaper

In this wall fresco from the palace at Knossos, we see women on either end of the bull with a male leaper vaulting the bull. J.C.Younger has studied a sample of fifty-four bull-leaping scenes and classified them on the basis of three different jumping techniques. In one type, the leaper approaches the bull from the front, grabs the horns and somersaults backwards. In the second variety the leaper approaches the bull from the front, dives over the horns without touching them and pushes himself with his hands from the bull's back into a backward somersault. The third type shows the leaper in mid-air over the bull's back, facing the same way as the bull.

Boxing Boys
Boys engaged in boxing

Note that boys wear a girdle and a glove on the right hand only




Physical training of boys and girls began at a young age.

Seal ring
gold seal depicting bull leaping







Boxers and wrestlers wore sandals and necklaces. Wrestlers wore a helmet with cheekpieces, but boxers left their head uncovered, with an elaborate hairstyle. The winner is portrayed with raised left handand the loser is shown on his knees or avoiding the blows.



boxer rhyton shows wrestlers, boxers and bull leapers









Part of The Minoans a HistoryWiz exhibit

copyright HistoryWiz 1999-2008

Through Amazon.com
HistoryWiz Books

Your purchase of books or other items through links on this site helps keep this free educational site on the web.

Contact Us