Monday, July 8, 2019
I found primary sources reference to Constantine enjoying the view of a boxing match in my initial reading for The Broken Dance back in 1998. The early Church had worldly and ascetic aspects and there was a real dilemma in the separation from institutional paganism which had many specific masculine rites as part of the faithful religious man’s life journey. On one hand the Church had the warrior kings like Constantine, who wanted to see old-fashioned boxing matches with only leather hand-straps, without the gauntlet, and on the other the intellectuals, who were, well, not real men by most measures of manhood across the span of our race.
The Church also inherited the civic burden of the empire as available manpower shortages called for internal masculine rituals like sports to be replaced by external adventurism among the small landholding class, with equestrian sports overtaking combat sports as a method for preparing for the new kind of horse warfare initiated by the introduction of the stirrup. At the very same time Church leaders are persecuting combat athletes—primarily via the closing of sacred venues and training centers—so there was no surprise that the tradition of the duel, recounted from the days of the Iliad and the Old Testament, the practice of lethal settlements of honor, came to replace the Hellenic ideal of civic, sub-lethal combat rites for building honor among men. So, the Church, having thrown the Homeric in-group combat ideals of wrestling and boxing out with the pagan bathwater, was then stuck with the Germanic disagreement to the death we now know as the duel.
The Church would eventually overtake the dueling brought in with horse warfare and the reduction of pagan honor cults, with some Church fathers trying in spots to resurrect the tradition of ancient boxing to limit the plague of dueling. A Father Bartholomew in the early to mid-1200s in northern Italy [Lombardi or Venice] encourage boxing of the kind in the Iliad as a way of extinguishing the lethal duel among citizens. So, all along there is a masculine counter-current within the church, up until at least the early 1900s, which has finally given way. In 1727, a fighter of this northern Italian boxing tradition, Tito de Carini, came to London to try his fists on the prize stage and was beaten by one of James Figg’s sparring partners. Tito was, no doubt, a Catholic.
We must understand, as we see classical pagan athletics, in the form of boxing, resurrected by Catholics and Anglicans alike to help suppress dueling, that come the late 1800s, when our secular world finally took form, that the forces of Christian Civilization, which was beginning to teeter under its own weight, had still not entirely eradicated the Universal Heathen Duel of Honor, and that classic pagan athletics were making a mighty strong come back with gloved boxing in 1892 and the first modern Olympiad in 1908, I think. The only part of classic civic paganism that outlasted Christian Civilization was prizefighting, resurrected on the very deathbed of its oppressor and that the last lethal duel was fought after Christian Civilization died in 1919. I think that Christian Resurrectionists people trying to bring back the high point of our grandfather’s recently deceased civilization, would be best served not to pursue the eradication of those two human pageants that outlasted Christianity as the primary civic force in civilizing men, boxing and the duel.
(c) 2019 James LaFond