• spheristerion •
Pronunciation: sfe-ri-te-ri-yên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A place, room in a school, bath, courtyard, or stadium for playing ball. The Romans called it a spheristerium.
Notes: The Greeks and Romans played several games with balls for physical training. Pila "ball" was played in a room. The object was to throw the ball up and catch it without letting it touch the floor or ground. The Greek game phaininda corresponded to Roman harpastum, a game played with an 8" ball of leather sewn around sponges animal fur. The rules suggest it was similar to rugby and was played in a stadium on a field about the size of a football field.
In Play: This Good Word would add class to any ballpark near you. How about Yankee Spheristerion? We would, of course, have to write new songs, since 'Take me out to the Spheristerion' will not make you tap your feet.
Word History: Today's word is the locative noun from the Greek word sphaire "ball", origin of the English word, sphere. It also underlies the name of another ball game played by the ancient Greeks, sphairistike, a game played by bouncing balls of courtyard walls. In 1874, Major Walter C. Wingfield patented in London the equipment and rules for a game under the name of Sphairistike. However, the name proved too difficult to pronounce and was soon replaced by "lawn tennis", which quickly evolved into the game of tennis we know today.
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Dr. Goodword wrote:... The Greek game phaininda corresponded to Roman harpastum, a game played with an 8" ball of leather sewn around sponges animal fur. ...
As most sponges don't possess animal fur, I suggest that the above passage should be understood as «... sponges [and/or] animal fur». Be that as it may, here's a link to a site with instructive photos (alas, they don't say much about how the ball was stuffed or inflated)....
- M. Henri Day
- Grand Panjandrum
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