25 Most Intense Sports of the Ancient World

It’s safe to say few people today could stomach the most intense sports of the ancient world. Although these days we have our fair share of intense sports, in the past 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). Nonetheless, it’s good to know your history. These are the 25 Most Intense Sports of the Ancient World.

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Gladiatorial Games


If you’ve seen Russel Crowe in the Gladiator, then you know how blood thirsty the crowd in the Colosseum could be. Often the organizers of these games would come up with new and unusual ways for the gladiators to kill themselves, one of which we’ll see in a moment.


Papa Holua


It seems as though Hawaii has always been know for surfing. While today it mostly involves waves, in the past, ancient Hawaiians used mountains. In fact, the name of this pastime means “slide into the pit.” For thousands of years, the islanders would essentially “surf” down the side of volcanos. However, the sport was stopped for being dangerous. Recently, there have been several attempts to revive it.




Once again taking place in the colosseum, the name of this event roughly translates to “naval warfare.” The Romans would fill the arena with water, add a bunch of war ships and recreate famous naval battles. It has been said that the spectacle was so violent that by the end of it, the unsunken ships seemed as though they had been painted red.




Although modern soccer has plenty of shin kicking and ankle twisting, its ancient Greek predecessor was just downright brutal. In fact, sources indicate that even spectators would often emerge with broken bones and injuries.




Played by Native Americans, this game wasn’t nearly as violent as the others, although losers were sometimes known to commit suicide. The game itself was relatively simple and involved rolling a large stone across the ground as participants threw spears at it.

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