Pyx is the ancient Greek form of boxing. It is one of the three main combative sports (wrestling, pyx, pankration) featured in the ancient Olympic festivals, and does not vary too greatly from modern boxing. Subtle differences separate it as a contest of more sheer strength rather than the agiliity of modern boxing. Pyx evolved over the years as different hand coverings were used to suit larger and more powerful fighters rather than the more nimble technical fighters.

Different from modern boxing, body-blows were looked down upon. Each contestant strived to strike their opponent's head rather than any other part of the body (unlike pankration where a blow to any point on the body was encouraged.) A further difference from the modern sport of boxing is the victory condition. Victory was determined once one fighter raised a single finger in order to admit defeat. Since this eliminated the "fall" from the victory, it was legal to strike an opponent while down. This eliminates a strategy commonly used in modern boxing, the paced fight. Needless to say, an unconscious fighter was also determined to be defeated.

The earliest findings of pyx show soft thongs used to protect the knuckles of the boxer. The soft thong was analagous to the modern boxing glove, yet simply oiled strips of ox-hide. At this early time, pyx most closely resembled modern boxing. The more agile fighter was more often the victor. These were seen as far back as Homeric times (in c.700 bc) and by Homer's (and other ancient writers for that matter) detailed writings about matches, we can determine that pyx was a widely accepted sport.

As one of the main events practiced at the palaestra, there were only two weight classes: boy's and men's pyx. Naturally, as time wore on and the sharp thong was introduced, heavier and heavier fighters had the advantage as it became an offense and power oriented sport. The aforementioned sharp thong was much like the soft thong, but more of a weapon than a padded instrument of protection. Not nearly as damaging as the Roman caestus, the sharp thong was designed to inflict as much pain as possible on your opponent. The sharp thong also covered the forearms of each fighter, as it would be brutally uncivilized for the forearms of a contestant to get cut up.

Though there was never any evidence in ancient Greek pyx of caestus being used, the Romans were rather fond of the caestus. The caestus was the Roman equivalent of the brass knuckles, with the fist usually enclosed in a metal ball with two or three spikes protruding. The caestus protected the entire arm to the shoulder, often in leather or lambskin. Needless to say, Roman pyx often resulted in death, and often was decided in one blow.

Both Roman and Greek pyx were long matches however, since each contender was aware that a single blow could decide a match. Matches were often drawn out dances, each fighter vying for position to strike a blow on their opponent and knock him silly.

It seems to me that pyx was the least popular of the three main combative sports. There was less strategy and balance than wrestling, yet less brutality than pankration.


  • Gardiner, E. Norman - Athletics of the Ancient World
  • Miller, Stephen G. - Arete
  • Pyx (?), )pyxis a box, Gr. a box, especially of boxwood, fr. the box tree or boxwood. See Box a receptacle.] [Written also pix.]

    1. R. C. Ch.

    The box, case, vase, or tabernacle, in which the host is reserved.


    A box used in the British mint as a place of deposit for certain sample coins taken for a trial of the weight and fineness of metal before it is sent from the mint.


    3. Naut.

    The box in which the compass is suspended; the binnacle.


    4. Anat.

    Same as Pyxis.

    Pyx cloth (R. C. Ch.d>, a veil of silk or lace covering the pyx. Trial of the pyx, the annual testing, in the English mint, of the standard of gold and silver coins.

    Encyc. Brit.


    © Webster 1913.

    Pyx, v. t.

    To test as to weight and fineness, as the coins deposited in the pyx.




    © Webster 1913.

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