Photo by Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY.

Ancient boxers pummel each other with vicious blows on this sixth-century B.C. amphora, now in Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum. Boxing was one of 23 events contested during Olympia’s panhellenic games, which were held every four years from the eighth century B.C. to the fourth century A.D. Other competitions included footraces, horse races, javelin throwing, discus hurling and wrestling. In antiquity, Olympic champions were awarded simple symbolic prizes, wreaths made of olive branches, much like the medals (though not the lucrative commercial contracts) presented to modern athletes.