Roman and Medieval Sports histort

Document Type:Research Paper

Subject Area:Sports

Document 1

There was also the rise of feudal systems which made the situation for common people even more difficult. During that period, the jobs available were either fighting as a soldier or working as a peasant. Sports offered the peasants and the nobles an opportunity to enjoy and entertain themselves. One major aspect that characterized the medieval sports is that they were essentially designed with an aim to increase the fighting capability of the people as soldiers. The knights, in particular, were expected to have excellent fighting skills and hence, sports offered them an opportunity to have fighting and weapon practice. Sports also acted as a gateway for people to gain reputation as well as gain a higher social rank. Even so, the church generally was against these sports as they were in most cases violent in nature. Whereas a majority of these sports were for adult males, women and children also had their own recreations in which they participated in. This paper focuses on how sports reflected and reinforced three main features i. e. social hierarchy, gender and religion. How sport reflected and reinforced the social hierarchy as one of the key features As earlier mentioned, one of the key features that is reflected and reinforced by sports is the social hierarchy. Henrick (1982) uses Thorstein Veblen’s, The theory of the leisure class, to find out the role played by sport in influencing the social hierarchy in Medieval England. According to him, in feudal systems as was the case for medieval England, the institution of a leisure class is highly observable.

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Veblen’s theory is an economic discourse which provides a social critique of “conspicuous consumption” as a function of social class. In a feudal system, social stratification of people is widespread. This feature is manifested in the economic activities of the social classes as there is a clear distinction that exists between the employments that are considered suitable for any given class. The upper class, for instance, is exempted from industrial occupations and is tasked with more honorable employments such as warfare and priestly services. The control of manor (means of production), according to Hardy (1974), was a very vital element of economic power during that period. Sports, according to Veblen, are a reflection of the predatory skills of the leisure class. A knight named William Marshal, for instance, used his skill in journeying and social contacts to gain “both land and a celebrated position as a guardian to the heir to Henry II” (Henrick, 1982).

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The other social hierarchy aspect that can be gathered from these sporting activities was regarding to land ownership. Hunting sports, for instance, normally took place on land that belonged to a certain group of “landowners”. The landowners then parceled out the land to their socially inferiors but preserved the hunting privileges. At some point, the king in an attempt to stamp his authority extended the ‘king’s forest’ concept. The melee also provided a perfect training ground for fighters. The tactics gained could later on be adapted in warfare. For the nobles, in addition to using melees for military and social functions, they were an opportunity to gain a great name in gallantry. Taking part in the tourneys gave them a huge reputation. For the poor knights such as William Marshal, this was a chance to gain economic elevation.

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The English fencing was to a huge extent dominated by members of the lower social strata (McElroy & Cartwright, 1986). A majority of the fencing provosts and masters were from humble beginnings. Be that as it may, the fencing contests were held everywhere with a majority of the audiences in some cases being aristocratic. There are some people who viewed public fencing contests as events that brought people from diverse cultures together while others were of a contrary opinion. According Burke (as cited in (McElroy & Cartwright, 1986)), for instance, public fencing “represented different groups sharing culture on some occasions as active participants, while others as casual observers and in some cases as critical opponents. John M. Carter (1988) decided to go a step further by analyzing the sports and recreations in 13th century England using the other two legal documents i.

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e. the Eyre and Coroner’s Rolls. There are many ways in which the sports and/or the recreational-related cases found themselves in Eyre and Coroner’s Rolls. This is mainly because a majority of the members of the upper class, nobles, used the courts of peers to litigate their grievances as opposed to royal courts. The other important thing that can be gathered from these records is the fact that the male peasants were forced to form frankpledge groups which made them take the responsibility of the actions of individual members as a community. In the source data, around six ecclesiastics were mentioned which meant they also took part in the sporting activities (Carter, 1988). Religion and gender issues were also inherent in the Medieval England. One of the most notable contributions by the church was in the formalization of the “melee” sport.

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In one case from the 1276 London Eyre for instance, a woman named Juliana who was involved in a Chess match confrontation. There are also other cases that involve women who were “boating, swimming, gaming in a tavern and playing chess” (Carter, 1988). Women also took part in the ball play. Whereas the men preferred more aggressive pursuits such as melees and fencing, the women and children took part in less aggressive sports such as ball games. Further, the changes that were effected in melee tourneys also paved way for women to take part (Henrick, 1982). The formalization of the melee tournaments also led to the discrimination of people from lower classes from taking part. In the Eyre and Coroner’s rolls, one can gather from the records the names and the socioeconomic status of those who were involved in various sporting activities.

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References Carter, J. M. Sports in Thirteenth-Century England: The Evidence of the Eyre and Coroners' Rolls- A Research Note. Cartwright, K. Public Fencing Contests on the Elizabethan Stage. Journal of Sport History , 13 (3), 193-211.

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