JUMPING ¹²⁴ was not a military exercise, and in Homer it is only mentioned as one of the recreations of the Phaeacians. In later times it was one of the events of the pentathlon, but there were as far as we know no separate competitions in it, at all events at the great festivals. Yet it must always have been a popular recreation. It was regarded as a very strenuous exercise and as the most typical event of the pentathlon. In the gymnasium it occupied a very important place, owing perhaps to the value which the jumping-weights acquired for physical training.

The jump in the pentathlon was, it seems, a running long jump with weights. Other forms of jump were, doubtless, practised in the gymnasia. We know that the Greeks practised a standing jump with and without weights (Figs. 99, 110). For a high jump there is no evidence: the pillar represented in Fig. 99 is not an object to be jumped over but one of the pillars familiar in palaestra scenes where they often mark the start, or take-off. Nor is there any evidence for the pole jump. The poles so frequently represented on the vases are merely blunt spears used for practice. A pole or spear was used, as we have seen, in vaulting on horseback (Fig. 58), but not as far as we know for jumping. A recent writer has stated that the Greeks practised hurdling, but the evidence on which he bases this attractive statement is unfortunately worthless.¹²⁵ Greece was no land of fences and hedges: the chief obstacles were streams and ditches. Hence comes the preeminence of the long jump.

For the long jump a firm hard take-off was provided called the Threshold (βατ ρ).¹²⁶ We do not know whether it was of wood or stone. In vase paintings the take-off is marked by spears stuck in the ground or by pillars similar to those used to mark the start of a race. Possibly the stone sills of the stadium were used for this purpose.

The ground in front of the take-off was dug up and levelled to a certain distance. This was called the Skamma ( κ μμα, or τ καμμ να). ‘To jump beyond the skamma or the dug-up’ was a proverbial expression for an extraordinary feat. Phayllus, the hero of the fabulous jump of 55 feet, is said to have jumped five feet beyond the skamma, and we are not surprised to learn from one commentator that he broke his leg in the performance.

The ground of the skamma was soft so as to take the impress of the feet. The jump was measured by rods (κανóνες), and the individual jumps were marked by pegs placed in the ground. Three such pegs marking the jumps of previous performers are clearly shown underneath the jumper in Fig. 106. They were formerly interpreted as sharp spikes placed in the ground to add zest and danger to the competition!


99. Standing jump without weights. Attic r.-f. krater, about 400 B. c. Louvre, G. 502, Dar.-Sag., Fig. 7451. The position of the feet suggests a standing jump, probably a long jump. From the figure of Victory bringing in her hands the fillet of victory, it seems probable that there was a competition for a standing jump without weights, of which we know nothing. [See also Beazley, Cypr. pp. 47–8.]

The Greeks always used jumping-weights, halteres, in the long jump.¹²⁷ These jumping-weights, which somewhat resemble and were probably the origin of our dumb-bells, were made of metal or stone and varied in weight from to more than 10 lb. though the latter weight is exceptional. The simplest form is that of a sixth-century halter from Eleusis. It is a rectangular slab of lead with slightly concave sides (Fig. 100 a). A more usual type is a semicircular piece of metal with a deep recess on the straight side serving as a grip for the hand (Fig. 100 b). The stone halteres are usually heavier than the metal. They are made of hemispherical blocks of stone, pointed or rounded at the ends, the upper side being pierced or cut away so as to provide a grip (Figs. 100 c, d, e).




101. Youth running with halteres. Attic r.-f. kylix. About 520 B. C. Klein, Euphronios, p. 306.

A later cylindrical type (Fig. 100f) seems to have been common in Roman times.

The modern long-jumper depends for his impetus on his pace, and tries to reach his maximum speed at the take-off. The jumper with weights depends for his impetus partly on the swing of the weights, partly on the run. The run is shorter and not so fast. He begins with a few short springy steps, holding the weights by his side or swinging them slightly as we see in Fig. 101. As he nears the take-off he checks his run and takes two or more long slow strides, swinging the weights once or twice vigorously forwards and backwards, taking off with his last forward swing.

This swing of the weights backwards and forwards is almost the same in a running jump and in a standing jump, but in the latter the feet are usually close together and the jumper takes off from both feet. In the running jump he takes off from one foot, and this is what we see constantly represented on vases. The position most commonly depicted is the top of the upward swing when the body is usually leaning slightly backwards and the front foot is slightly raised from the ground (Figs. 102, 104). The downward swing seems somewhat exaggerated for a running jump (Fig. 103). But our illustrations probably represent not the actual jump so much as practice for the jump. A long jump with weights involves most carefully timed movements, and we cannot doubt that the various movements were taught as a sort of drill. It is perhaps for this reason that the long jump was practised to the accompaniment of the flute (Fig. 104).


102. Swinging the halteres upwards. Attic r.-f. kotyle. About 480 B. C. Boston,. Am. Journal of Arch., xix, p. 129, Figs. 1, 2 ; pl. VII, VIII. Youth practising in palaestra. Behind him a slave boy holds his stick, clothes, oil-flask and sponge. The position of the body inclined backwards suggests the final upward swing at the end of the run.

As the jumper takes off he swings the weights forward, so that in mid-air arms and legs are almost parallel, as we see in Fig. 105. Before landing he swings them backwards, a movement which shoots the legs to the front and so lengthens the jump (Figs. 106, 107). Some modern jumpers for the same purpose make two or more piston-like movements of the arms backwards and forwards in mid-air. These two drawings represent absolutely perfect style; they correspond exactly to the positions of a modern jumper as we see them in photographs (Figs. 108, 109).

At the moment of landing the weights must have been swung forward again to preserve the balance and prevent the jumper from falling backwards. The Greeks, according to Philostratus, did not allow the jump to be measured unless the impress of the feet was regular. From which we may conclude that if a jumper stumbled or fell, or landed with one foot in advance of the other, the jump did not count. Some such regulation would not be out of place to-day. We should then be spared the unedifying spectacle of a high jumper landing on all fours. The Greek paid more attention to style than to records.


103. Swinging the halteres downwards. R.-f. kylix. Bologna. Zannoni, Scavi della Certosa, lxxvii. 1. A similar scene occurs on other vases, e. g. New York, Met. Mus. No. 06. 1133. Here we have clearly an exercise in swinging the halteres. For the swing before the actual jump the position is too low. About 480 B. C.

The positions represented on the vases prove that the Greek long jump with weights was generally a running jump. But the vigorous little athlete shown in Fig. 22 seems to be an exception. He has raised the bells straight above his head, a position unintelligible for a running jump, but quite natural in the swing for a standing jump. The size of the halteres and the position of the feet close together point to the same conclusion. The bronze belongs to the early part of the fifth century, and at this date the artist is not likely to have represented a mere dumb-bell exercise.

The standing jump without weights is clearly represented in Fig. 110 and on several other vases, where we see a youth standing with both feet together, knees bent, and hands straight forward preparing to jump. The pillar placed sometimes before him, sometimes behind, marks the take-off. That it is a standing jump is certain, but it is impossible to determine whether it is a high jump or a long jump: the position of the feet seems to me in favour of a long jump. In Fig. 99 we see a figure of Victory flying towards the jumper holding a fillet in her hands. This certainly suggests some form of competition different from that in the pentathlon, but of this we have no further evidence.



104. JUMPER AND FLUTE PLAYER. Attic r.-f. pelike. About 440 B.C. British Museum, E. 427. J.H.S. xxiv, p. 185. The position seems to follow that of Fig. 102. The jumper is swinging the halteres down. A further stage is depicted on a r.-f. column krater in the Villa Giulia, 1796, Corpus Vasorum V. G. III. i, pl. XVI 1.


These two photographs are selected from the collection of the Sport and General Agency. It is seldom that we get a photograph representing the very top of the jump when both arms are parallel as in Fig. 108. Usually we see the jumper still rising with one arm higher than the other. Nor do we often catch the moment just before landing in Fig. 109.

105. JUMPER IN MID-AIR. Attic r.-f. kylix. About 500 B. C. Boston, 01.8020. Beazley, Attic r.-f. Vases, p. 83, Fig. 51. To the left a youth exercising with halteres in a way that has no connexion with the jump. For the position cp. Fig. 108.


106. THE FINISH OF THE JUMP. Attic b.-f. neck-amphora. Second quarter of the sixth century B. c. British Museum, B. 48. New photograph.


107. THE FINISH OF THE JUMP. Attic b.-f. lekythos. End of the sixth century. New York, Metropolitan Museum, 08.258.30. Photograph from Miss Richter. For the positions 106, 107 cp. Fig. 109.



108. PHOTOGRAPH OF THE WINNER OF THE LONG JUMP in a match between Aldenham School and Mill Hill School



We do not know how the Greeks came to discover the use of weights for jumping. They are not of course used in any modern competitions, but during the latter half of the last century they were frequently used by professionals in music-hall displays of trick jumping. They were used both for the high jump and the long jump, with a run and without. As a recent German writer has declared a running jump with weights to be incredible, it may be of interest if I quote a few records of jumping with weights which were given me by Mr. G. Rowdon, who once held the amateur championship for the high jump and afterwards gave displays as a professional.


110. Standing jump without weights. Attic r.-f. pelike, in Leipsic, T. 642, about 420 B.C. Jahrb. x (1895), p. 185.

In the running long jump J. Howard jumped 29 ft. 7 in. at Chester in 1854. He used 5-lb. dumb-bells and took off from a board 2 ft. long and 3 in. thick. Rowdon estimates that the use of the weights and the board, which can hardly be described as a spring-board, added at least 8 ft. to his jump. In the high jump R. H. Baker cleared 6 ft. in. at Leeds, July 14, 1900, taking off with one leg. K. Darby jumped 6 ft. in. at Wolverhampton, February 5, 1892. He used 8-lb. weights and took off with both feet after taking three hops, and threw the bells away in mid-air. He also did a standing long jump of 14 ft. 9 in., using 8-lb. weights at Liverpool, September 19, 1900. Rowdon, who never used weights himself, challenged Darby to jump 5 fit. 6 in. without weights, but the challenge was not accepted.

These figures are sufficient proof of the advantage obtained by the use of weights. The following quotation from Rowdon’s account of the method of jumping with weights shows the close similarity between the style of the modern jumper and the Greek. Of the high jump he says: ‘The jumper starts about 14 yards from the posts taking two thirds of the distance with short quick steps hardly swinging the weights at all, after which he takes one or two comparatively long slow strides, swinging the bells together twice and at the second swing taking off the ground as the bells come to the front.’ The run for the long jump is very similar, the chief difference being that while in the high jump the weights are thrown away backwards at the moment of jumping, in the long jump they are retained.

The use of weights cannot explain however the extraordinary feats ascribed to the Greeks. Till recently it was asserted and perhaps believed that the Greeks jumped more than 50 feet. Such a jump, which is twice the record distance of the modern athlete, is a physical impossibility. Two explanations are possible. Either the Greek jump was not a single jump or the record is pure fiction.

It has been suggested that the Greek jump was a hop, skip, and jump, and on the strength of this suggestion this event was introduced into the revived Olympic Games. Another conjecture is that the Greek jump was a triple jump, an exercise known to-day in parts of northern Greece. But apart from the fact that there is not a particle of ancient evidence to support these guesses, it is hard to understand how the Greek jumper could after landing in the soft sand of the skamma take two more jumps, or a skip and jump.

It is much more probable that the record is pure fiction. It rests almost entirely on an epigram on one Phayllus which states that he jumped five and fifty feet and threw the diskos ninety-five feet. This Phayllus was a noted athlete of Croton who early in the fifth century won two victories in the pentathlon and one in the foot-race at Delphi. Herodotus, Aristophanes, Plutarch, and Pausanias all mention him but know nothing of his fabulous jump. The epigram is said to have been inscribed on his statue at Delphi. But though the base of this statue has been found there is no trace on it of the epigram. Nor is there any evidence that the epigram was contemporary with the event. Indeed we cannot trace it further back than the second century A.D. But whatever its date there is no reason for taking it seriously. The sporting story is notorious: still more so is the sporting epigram; and this epigram is merely an alliterative jingle. The pages of the Anthology are full of epigrams on famous athletes such as Milo and Ladas. Milo, we are told, picked up a four-year-old heifer at Olympia and after carrying it round the Altis killed it and ate it at a single meal! This extraordinary gastronomic feat rests on quite as good evidence as the 55-foot jump of Phayllus.¹²⁸

The halteres were the origin of our dumb-bells. We have seen that swinging the halteres for the jump was probably practised in classes to the accompaniment of the flute. Here we have at once a familiar dumb-bell exercise, though in the fifth century it was probably regarded merely as an exercise for jumping. But we have many pictures of athletes swinging the halteres sideways in a style which can have no connexion with the jump (Fig. 105). In fact their value for training the muscles for other exercises must have been recognized at an early period. In the medical writings of the second century A. D. this ‘halter-throwing’ ( λτηρoβoλ α) has developed into a regular system of dumb-bell exercises.¹²⁹ Antyllos describes three kinds of halter-throwing. The first consists in bending and straightening the arms, an exercise which strengthens the arms and shoulders. In the other two exercises the athlete with his arms extended lunges as in boxing, or alternately bends and straightens the trunk. These exercises strengthen the legs and trunk. Galen describes another exercise for strengthening the side muscles of the body. The performer places the halteres six feet apart, and taking his stand between them picks up first the left-hand halter with his right hand, next the right-hand halter with his left hand, and then replaces them, repeating the movement.

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