Academic journal article Akroterion

Understanding Ancient Combatives: How Did Dioxippus Take Coragus Down?

Academic journal article Akroterion

Understanding Ancient Combatives: How Did Dioxippus Take Coragus Down?

Article excerpt

Accounts of a remarkable duel between the Athenian athlete Dioxippus (1) and the Macedonian warrior Coragus 2 are related by both Diodorus of Sicily (17.100.1-8) and Q. Curtius Rufus (9.7.16-22). Although there are some differences in the accounts, both essentially agree: during a banquet at which Alexander's favorites were in attendance, Coragus--having liberally partaken of drink--challenged Dioxippus to single combat. At the appointed time and place, Coragus arrived fully armed, his gear including sword, shield, javelin, and sarissa, (3) while Dioxippus arrived naked and armed with only a club. (4) Dioxippus dodged his opponent's javelin, shattered his sarissa with the club, (5) and then took him down and subdued him before he could draw his sword. This paper presents a fresh analysis of the method by which Dioxippus took Coragus down, correcting the misconceptions inherent in previous interpretations. Diodorus' account of the takedown and its aftermath (17.100.6-8) is treated first: (6)


Welles' well-known Loeb edition translation reads as follows:

   but as he reached for [his sword], the other leaped upon him and
   seized his swordhand with his left, while with his right hand the
   Greek upset the Macedonian's balance and made him lose his footing.
   As he fell to the earth, Dioxippus placed his foot upon his neck
   and, holding his club aloft, looked to the spectators.

Miller's translation is very similar, except that Coragus' feet are knocked from under him:

   but as he went to draw [his sword], Dioxippus leaped upon him,
   grabbed his swordhand in his own left hand, and with his other hand
   he upset his opponent's balance and knocked his feet from under
   him. As Koragos fell to the ground, Dioxippus placed his foot on
   the other's neck and, holding his club in the air, looked to the

And finally, Poliakoffs paraphrase closely follows Miller, except that instead of Coragus' feet being knocked from under him, his legs are kicked from under him:

   Koragos reached for his dagger; Dioxippos, in the best Olympic
   form, grabbed Koragos' right hand with his left, and with his other
   hand pushed him slightly off his feet, then kicked his legs out
   from under him. Dioxippos completed his triumph by putting his foot
   on his opponent's throat while raising his club and looking to the

Immediately prior to this scenario, Dioxippus--club in right hand--had shattered Coragus' sarissa. Coragus was reaching with his right hand across to his left side to draw his sword, his left arm probably holding his shield up high in front of him for protection. According to the interpretations cited above, Dioxippus grabbed Coragus' right hand in his own left hand, and then with his right hand--the hand holding the club--he pushed or somehow otherwise managed to make Coragus lose his balance. The off-balance Coragus then fell or was made to fall by having his feet or legs knocked or kicked from beneath him.

A closer analysis of the text, however, suggests a different kind of takedown altogether. The clearly delineated actions of Dioxippus' left hand and right hand--properly understood--will be seen to lend themselves particularly well to a specific kind of takedown. His left hand laid hold of ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) the hand or arm ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) that was drawing the sword, while his right hand--the hand holding the club--tripped up the other's legs ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). (7) Embedded within the clause describing the tripping up of Coragus' legs by Dioxippus' right hand is the participial construction [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], citing the attendant circumstance that Dioxippus had already gotten his opponent off balance when he tripped up his legs with his right hand. The other interpretations, however, mistakenly take the getting of the opponent off balance as a direct result of the action of Dioxippus' right hand and take the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] as some kind of subsequent loss of footing instead of a direct tripping up of the legs by Dioxippus' right hand. …

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