25 Most Intense Sports of the Ancient World

Posted by on July 23, 2012

Although these days we have our fair share of strange and crazy sports, in the past its seems as though people really didn’t hold back. As a matter of fact, many of the sports we have today find their roots somewhere on this list. Of course these days people don’t generally lose their life playing soccer and most of these events would be banned in a heartbeat (so don’t try these at home) but nonetheless, its good to know your history. These are the 25 most intense sports of the ancient world.



While today we have MMA, the Greeks had something known as Pankration. The goal of this bloody, one-on-one, anything goes fist fight was to bring your opponent as close to death without actually killing them. If you did happen to accidently kill them then you would automatically forfeit the match as any dead fighter was instantly declared the victor.


Fisherman’s Joust

Imagine two groups of guys each hopping into their boats, rowing out into the nile, and proceeding to beat the crap out of each other with their oars. Like the Roman gladiatorial games this often took place before the Pharoah and many times the bloody mess would entice crocodiles and hippos to enter the fray.



It’s hard to say whether this ancient death match was worse for the slaves or the animals recruited to fight them. In fact, the Romans were so intrigued with pitting humans against animals that on the inauguration of the colloseum over 9,000 beasts were killed. Very often, however, the humans met a similar fate.


Chariot Races

Although NASCAR certainly has its dangers, chariot racing was little more than a death match with a finish line. In fact, it was almost impossible to win without being seriously injured and the life expectancy of most racers was increcibly low.


Nguni Stick Fighting

One of the few sports on this list that is actually still practiced today, the name of this game just about sums things up. The Zulus would essentially beat the crap out of each other with sticks. Although people seldom died, the participants would often walk away with numerous scars that they would wear like badges of honor.