The Renaissance: A Brief History of Popular Sports

Sports (or sports) refers to any types of usually strenuous physical activity that, through organised or casual competition, attempt to employ, improve or maintain certain physical skill and ability while offering enjoyment to participants, and sometimes, spectators. Sports can be individual undertakings or organized tournaments; the latter are generally called games or competitions. The object of a game is to beat the opponent; for example, a baseball or soccer match. The term sport is also used in a broader sense to refer to any outdoor activity that exercises the human body.

Throughout history, sports have been a major source of social interaction and have often been a means of revenue for those who participate. Ancient Greece was a country with a highly developed athletic tradition and, much like ancient Rome, was obsessed with competitive sports, especially wrestling. Ancient Greece was the first country to introduce the idea of regulated sports; it was the competitive element that made it such a popular activity, though, that would later influence other countries to introduce similar legal regulation. Ancient Roman society, for example, was greatly influenced by Roman gladiators and both the concept and the sport of Roman wrestling can be seen throughout the modern world.

Ancient Greece supported several different sports: The Olympic Games, which was similar to modern Olympics, was similar to the Greek sports that they were a form of competition; however, their purpose was not merely as a competition but as a way of testing the strength and stamina of the Greek populace. Ancient Greece also supported a number of extra-sport activities, many of which have become the foundations of modern sports; these activities included horse riding, the theatrical sports, and various games of skill (including basketball). Ancient Greece did not rely entirely on physical exertion: it was a culture that valued mental exertion, as well. This, in turn, gave rise to another important aspect of ancient Greek sport – the theater.

Ancient Rome, also known as the Roman Empire, was a massive political entity that spanned vast areas of Europe. As a result, Rome had access to a wide variety of sports, some of which are still practiced to this day. Because Rome was a large island with an ocean surrounding it, there was no lack of water or land for Roman athletes to train in. While other countries’ borders may limit the amount of space and resources available for physical activities, the Roman Empire had no problems providing its citizens with sports that required both physical and mental exertion. Many of the games that were regularly played were a form of competition, as the Romans were able to claim victory over neighbors and fellow Romans who controlled their local region.

The Renaissance Period marked the beginning of a new period in Italian society, one that would eventually claim nearly every geographic area of Europe, except the ancient Greek cities of Athens and Sparta. Unlike classical Greece, which had a tradition of athletic prowess that went unrivaled for centuries, Italy was a country that had only a few true sports for people to practice. However, even these few sporting events did not offer the kind of physical training that would help develop any country’s athletic abilities. As a result, Italy was often times used as a testing ground for new athletes, allowing them to develop their skills in an environment that was as intense as the Renaissance. Unfortunately, much of the physical training that went on in Italy was actually done by peasant farmers who lacked access to proper equipment, which limited their training options and force them into using the training methods of the time for the most part.

As a result, much of the physical education that went on in Italy during the renaissance was lost, mostly because the sport that most benefited from it was a contact sport that did not involve a great deal of equipment or training, such as wrestling, boxing, and horseback riding. However, even if there were no professional sports in Italy during the renaissance, there is evidence of how that culture understood the importance of sports to its citizenry. There are many pieces of evidence that show that Italian men and women understood the physical benefits of various sports, and even if they never participated in competitive sports themselves, they were quite happy to have something to do on a daily basis. Today, many people still appreciate the efforts that Italian scientists and doctors put forth during the renaissance, and it can be enjoyed just as much today as it was centuries ago.