Preserving the Ancient Greek Martial Art form- Pankration

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By Stamatina Mylonas

Many people may not know this, but in ancient Greece there was a widely popular and respected form of martial arts called Pankration.  The name stems from the Greek words ‘Pan’ meaning all, and ‘Kratos’ meaning strength.

Pankration was performed during the ancient Olympic games for over eight hundred years and allowed participants to display their honor and strength. However it is believed that this sport is much older than the records attest, possibly from the beginning of the 2nd century B.C., as it is widely mentioned in mythology and shown in paintings on ancient pottery and artifacts.  Historical figures such as Heracles and Theseus are believed to have used Pankration fighting techniques in their battles against monsters like the Minotaur and Nemean Lion.

In 330 A.D. as the Byzantine empire and the popularity of Christianity began to grow, Pankration was strictly banned because of its connection to a pagan or polytheistic culture.  This threatened to completely erase Pankration from history, as it was no longer practiced and celebrated.

A young Athenian, Athanasios Bonas is making it his mission to bring back and preserve the memory of Pankration forever. He wants to create a documentary and gain the attention of the United Nations organisation UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), who are responsible for protecting and documenting World Heritage Sites, artifacts, and intangible history.

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A documentary on Pankration has never been attempted before, and that’s why this is a golden opportunity!  A requirement for submitting a World Heritage Site request to UNESCO is to create a 10-minute film or documentary on the subject.

Athanasios needs the help of the Greek community in order to fund the creation of this short film.  He hopes this will lead to more developments featuring Pankration in the media and major sporting events like the Olympics where the sport originally gained its popularity.

The young man is also organising to make a longer version of the film titled Pankration: Resurrecting an Ancient Art, with the aim to educate people on Pankration and introduce it in a way that have never been done before.  In this film, there are plans to include interviews and features of prominent figures in the fields of ancient history and martial arts.

This martial art form may have been unknown to us, but if we commit to its revival, future generations of Greeks will see and learn about it in their history books!  Whenever possible, we should always commit to preserving pieces of our Greek and ancient history!

Athanasios Bonas has created a GoFundMe page to help handle some of the expenses with producing this documentary/film.

*Photos are courtesy of Athanasios Bonas

Guest Contributor

This piece was written for Greek City Times by a Guest Contributor