While the Ancient Greeks are often credited with inventing Western Civilization, they were also responsible for a brutal sport called Pankration, which was basically the first mixed-martial art and was totally not gay.
As you can see, there is absolutely nothing gay about Pankration.
Pankration was a lot like modern MMA, except there were no rules, no rounds, no rests and--in an interesting twist on Mortal Kombat--killing your opponent resulted in an instant loss.
Congratulations on the victory, Jax.
How is that "Insane"?
The idea was to get as close as you could to killing a guy without actually killing him, using an arsenal of strikes, takedowns, grapples, chokeholds, hyperextensions and movies starring Nia Vardalos.
However, if the person you were fighting died, it meant he had bigger balls than you because he refused to quit. Also, in the true spirit of Ancient Greece, both you and your opponent were naked, which presumably led to some unfortunate submission techniques.
"Wait, what are you... SWEET JESUS, I SUBMIT! I SUBMIT!"
Imagine if the final scene in Jaws was instead fought between two Robert Shaws piloting two Orcas made entirely out of papyrus in Crocodile-infested waters in front of the mayor of Amity, if the mayor of Amity was a pharaoh and therefore presumed to be the bridge between the god Osiris and human beings. That's kind of what this game was like.
Eight guys would hop inside their fishing boats, row out into the Nile, and then use their oars to beat the ever-loving shit out of each other like American Gladiators. If you died, you lost.
How is that "Insane"?
Well, for several reasons... One, the hippopotamus, which as we mentioned earlier, is not too friendly to begin with, let alone when you're making a shit ton of noise beating on each other with big wooden paddles.
These guys aren't even jousting.
Also, there's blood. LOTS of blood, only this time it's attracting crocodiles. Since these were sacred animals in Ancient Egypt, you'd be better off just letting them eat you, because even if you managed to repel the bastards with your oar, you'd probably get bludgeoned to death by high priests once you swam your inglorious ass ashore.
Oh, and as a bonus, most of the ladies in attendance sported the latest women's fashions, which included transparent clothes and full bikini-waxes. So not only did Ancient Egypt boast one of the most brutal sports known to man, they also fielded some of the hottest cheerleaders in history.
We'd get eaten by the crocodiles if this was happening on the sidelines.
Remember that game Battleship? It's not exactly the kind of game you can fill a stadium with, let alone a lunch-table. The Romans were well aware of this, which is why they designed their Battleship to draw a crowd. When they played it, they used REAL ships.
Pretty straight-forward, really... they would fill an amphitheater with water, throw in some ships and watch them duke it out like a WWII documentary. The Romans called it naumachia, which translates into "naval warfare," and the battles were typically selected from some of the most famous engagements in history. Participants numbered into the thousands, nearly as large as the real battles themselves. That would be like watching Pearl Harbor without the CGI.
Somewhere down there, Ben Affleck is playing a guy named "Rafe."
How is that "Insane"?
Unlike battlefields, there is nothing to absorb blood on the deck of a ship. It just builds up until it spills overboard. As if watching the team you bet on literally sink right in front of you would not have been bad enough, it was not out of the ordinary to see many of these men slipping around on their own blood in the process. Finding several thousand willing men to fill these ships wasn't easy, so many of them were likely slaves dying for people's entertainment.
Naval warfare in Ancient Rome also featured a lot of flamethrowers armed with a type of napalm called Greek Fire, which combusted the instant it contacted oxygen. So, with the waters red with blood and thick with bloated corpses, you were also likely to see a few thousand would-be sailors get burned alive as well.
The guy with the flamethrower isn't even paying attention.
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For more sports insanity, check out The 8 Most Baffling "Sports" From Around The World and The 10 Most Insane "Sports" in the World.
And stop by our Top Picks to see Brockway and Gladstone play skin-pulling (not the ancient Viking game).