Exercises Consisted in Warlike Games…

Before the introduction of fire-arms and gunpowder, almost all the men were taught to use the various weapons employed in battle, and frequently engaged in martial exercises or warlike games. One of the exercises consisted in slinging stones at a mark. They threw their stones with great force and precision, and are supposed to have been able to strike a small stick at fifty yards’ distance, four times out of five. They also practised throwing the javelin, and catching and returning those thrown at them, or warding them off so as to avoid receiving any injury. In this latter exercise, they excelled to an astonishing degree. We know some men who have stood and allowed six men to throw their javelins at them, which they would either catch, and return on their assailants, or so dexterously turn aside, that they fell harmless to the ground. Wrestling was also practised by the more athletic youth, as a preparation to the single combats usual in almost every battle. Sometimes they had sham fights, when large numbers engaged, and each party advanced and retreated, attacked and defended, and exercised all the manoeuvres employed in actual engagement. Admirably constituted by nature with fine-formed bodies, supple joints, strong and active limbs, accustomed also to a light and cumberless dress, they took great delight in these gymnastic and warlike exercises, and in the practice of them spent no inconsiderable portion of their time. (Ellis)

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 (These are excerpts from a book by William Ellis that has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired.)

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