WRESTLING, a sport in which two persons strive to throw each other to the ground. It is one of the most primitive and universal of sports. Upon the walls of the temple-tombs of Beni Hasan, near the Nile, are sculptured many hundreds of scenes from wrestling matches, depicting practically all the "holds" and "falls" known at the present day, thus proving that wrestling was a highly developed sport at least 3,00o years before the Christian era. The description of the bout between Odysseus and Ajax in the 23rd book of the Iliad, and the evolutions of the classic Greek wrestlers, tally with the sculptures of Beni Hasan and Nineveh. The sport, in an organised and scientific form, may have been introduced into Greece from Egypt or Asia, though Greek tradition ascribed its invention and original rules to the legendary hero, Theseus. In Homer's celebrated description of the match between Ajax and Odysseus the two champions wore only a girdle, which was, however, not used in the classic Greek games. Neither Homer nor Eustathius, who also minutely de picted the battle between Ajax and Odysseus, mentions the use of oil, which, however, was invariably used at the Olympic games, where wrestling was introduced during the 18th Olympiad (about 704 B.c.). Wrestling contests for boys were added later. The Greek wrestlers, after the application of the oil, were rubbed with fine sand, to afford a better hold.
Wrestling was a very important branch of athletics in the Greek games, since it formed the chief event of the pentathlon, or quintuple games. (See GAMES, CLASSICAL.) All holds were al lowed, even strangling, butting, and kicking. Crushing of the fingers was used, especially in the pancration, a combination of boxing and wrestling. Wrestlers were taught to be graceful in all their movements, in accordance with the Greek ideas of aesthetics. There were two varieties of Greek wrestling, the rItXn 6p017, or upright wrestling and the aXivbnats (Ki)Xcats, lucks volutatoria) which included ground wrestling after the contestants had fallen, the struggle continuing until one acknowledged defeat. This was the variety employed in the pancration, and was an "all in" struggle, no "fouls" being recognised. The upright wrestling was very similar to the catch-as-catch-can style, though leg holds were infrequent. In this, three falls out of five decided a contest; a
variation of this style was that in which one of the contestants stood within a small ring and resisted the efforts of his adversary to pull or push him out of it. Other local varieties existed in the different Greek states. The most celebrated wrestler of ancient times was Milo of Croton (c. 520 B.C.), who scored thirty-two victories in the different national games, six of them at Olympia. Greek athletic sports were introduced into Rome in the last quarter of the 2nd century B.C., but they never attained to the popularity they had enjoyed in Greece.
Among the Teutonic peoples wrestling, as a method of fighting as well as a form of athletic recreation, was always practised; how popular it had become as a sport during the middle ages is proved by the frequent references to the historic personages notable for their skill in the art, and still more so by the volumi nous literature on the subject which appeared after the invention of printing, the most celebrated work being the Ringer-Kunst of Fabian von Auerswald (1539). Albrecht Diirer made 119 draw ings illustrating the different holds and falls in vogue in the 15th and I 6th centuries ; while Romeyn de Hooge provided 71 similar illustrations for Nicolas Petter's Worstel-Kunst (1674). The holds and throws shown singularly resemble those used in the Greek games, even to certain brutal tricks, practically identical with grips and locks included in modern Ju-Jutsu.
In Switzerland and some of the Tirolese valleys a style of wrestling flourishes under the name of schwingen (swinging). The wrestlers wear schwinghosen or wrestling breeches, with stout belts, on which the holds are taken. Lifting and tripping are prevalent, and the first man down loses the bout. In Styria wrestlers stand firmly on both feet with right hands clasped. When the word is given, each tries to pull or push the other from his stance, the slightest movement of a foot sufficing to lose. In Russia, belt wrestling, and in Iceland, the glima, are popular styles. Both require the wearing of a kind of harness about the loins and thighs, and otherwise are similar to schwingen. In the Balkan states, the favourite style is catch-as-catch-can.