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Medieval Europe’s Sports

Updated August 26, 2021
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Medieval Europe’s Sports essay

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When you think of sports now, usually we think of the top 3, basketball, football and baseball, however there is more, way more. Those three are actually nothing compared to the many that have come before them. Playing sports didnt just begin, and definitely didn’t begin here in America. Like most things we borrowed it, tweaked it and made it our own.

Some activities like, hunting for food, using the spears or when they had to train for a fight turned into “sports” for them during that time. As time progressed more activities were added, and used during their olympics. The most entertaining time period for me would be the Medieval Time Period, after the fall of the Roman Empire, as things had began to be rebuilt and refreshed. Games were played for entertainment during this error, week long festivities that involved food, games and tournaments, enjoyed by all, the upper and lower class citizens.

After the fall of the Rome, the people in Europe dealt with bad times, with the wars and the battle of religion. So when things started to look up for the Europeans, things began to be more stable for the commoners. You either were a peasant that paid taxes or a soldier, and you had to fight and protect families. Peasants had certain games they were allowed to partake in, like folk football, were one village member would challenge another village member. The serfs and peasants were invited to watch the games during the tournaments, but weren’t allowed to participate. The women were allowed to participate in certain games, they were actually encouraged to. Games like the foot races or the ball games were women approved. Women we also allowed to hunt, the noble women were allowed to keep what they killed, but the middle class women were only allowed to watch.

Medieval War games were mainly used for knights, and up and coming knights, they were called tournaments. A professional man of arms, would offer their skills and loyalty to a wealthy Nobleman, that might big for his services(What life was like in the age of chivalry,pg 72) With swords and lances raised, knights would do mock battles, to soften the impact of a direct hit, they placed caps on the ends of their lance. But, before they created the safe route, many men would just charge at each other head one, swinging their swords, trying to knock someone off their horse.

Grand tournaments were expensive to participate in, or even organize. So the ordinary knights would have their own small tournaments, called, “Challenge to Arms”. Doing this they would imitate what the wealthy superiors would do. In doing this later on they would be able to actually challenge them. And if you could achieve this you were able to claim that persons horse, and amour. During these many tournaments, the knights found a way to use a new weapon, where they could attack the enemy from a distance, maybe five feet. These events turned from a life or death match, to somewhat of a pageant.

In the late 1100’s tournaments we planned to celebrate royal weddings and birth. (Alexandria,What life was like in the age of chivalry,pg 73) In fact, even if you were a peasant and you wanted to fight you could, and if you won, you would be rewarded with land. The whole town would be around to watch theses games take place. Jousting tournaments faded away over time , because they said there was no need to do realistic combat training. Being as though new weapons weren’t for the foot soldiers, they were made for the knights and their horses. (Alexandria,What life was like in the age of chivalry,pg 74)

The types of games that were played varied there were games Archery was a main event. Popular in England where even the lowest peasants were given plenty of opportunity to train as archers. Participants in an archery contest are given bows and arrows, and must attempt to hit a target that’s far away from them; the closer to the bull’s eye of the target the arrow lands, the more points the archer scores.

Archers would be supervised by an expert to prevent anyone injuring themselves. Colf, like golf and hockey mixed together. This game was played mostly by the members of nobility. It is one of the many games they played, that were designed to increase physical strength, stamina and fighting skills. Other games like this included shinty, stoolball, game ball, hammer throwing, horseshoe and wrestling. Many games they played used a ball of some sort, games like tennis, or skittles which would be like our modern day bowling, except outdoors. Bocce/Bowls, you throw a ball and it must land at least halfway up the designated field to be in play.

The players then take turns trying to roll their balls closest to the “Jack”. When a player succeeds in getting his ball closest, his turn ends. If a player runs out of balls before getting “Best Ball” then they must wait while the other players attempt to improve their positions. A player can get “best ball” in several ways. First, they can simply roll their ball closest to the jack. He could also use his ball to hit another player’s ball away or one of his own closer. The player can also hit the jack causing it to move away from the other players’ balls. At the end of each round, the player whose balls are closest gets one point for each ball nearer to the jack than any other players’. They also had games to play that made you think, games like tic tac toe, with X’s and O’s.

A game called Nine Men Morris is another one of those strategic games, the object of play is to capture the opponent’s army of nine tokens before he or she captures yours or to deny the opponent’s ability to make a move. Nim is setting up five lines of men decreasing in number from 5 to 1. The two players alternately remove a line or part of a line. The winner or the loser is the last player to remove a man, this being decided before play. This game is supposedly a math theory game. They also had card games like Niddy Noddy ,is a fun card game for kids. Or All fours, which you can play with two or four people. And they had many cards games that are like our modern day bridge, like ruff, whisk and sabbers just to name a few.

There were also events that involved food, on played at the holiday festivities though. Games such as KIng of the Bean, this game was played around christmas. In this game a small bean would be baked inside a cake, and whoever got that piece with the bean in it, they would be crowned king of the feast. Also made in France but instead of a bean being used they used a small ceramic doll that was supposed to resemble baby Jesus. Fast forward to now, KIng Cake is made in mainly New Orleans. Most popular around Mardi Gras time, and instead of a ceramic doll, they use little plastic babies to resemble baby Jesus. (http://castle.eiu.edu/reading/MEDIEVALGAMES.pdf)

As we know, there is nothing new under the sun, so every game that we have learned or played was done before us. The rules or technique may have been adjusted slightly, but the concept for the most part is still the same. The festivities initially started as a practice for knights to show off their skills, making sure they were good a protecting the kings castles and fight in wars. And a few of the outdoor games were used as tools for them to practice fighting. These games were enjoyed during the peaceful times, old pagan games. Great Lords and Princes organized these tournaments for their own entertainment, to show off their wealth to their friends.(Daily LIfe in Medieval Times, Gies & Gies)

To announce of the games they would send Heralds around the countryside to let everyone know. Medieval sports were created to give the city more life. LIfe besides war, the middle ages was a very gloomy era, a lot of fighting and deaths. Religion was important if not the most important thing the people had going on. So, playing sports and was welcomed to make life a little less intense for them. The outdoor games gained attraction from the lower echelons of society, which gradually evolved to the royals. From the military drills training, archery, horseback riding and more various sports. Most of the sports were geared toward increasing their fighting abilities.

Medieval Europe’s Sports essay

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