In ancient Greek society, the killing of an athlete in a combat sport during athletic competition presented a problematic situation. On the one hand, an unnatural death required legal inquiries and proceedings to assess blame and damages, and to ward off religious pollution, or miasma. On the other, athletes who demonstrated such a degree of power and might that they could kill an opponent with their bare hands deserved recognition and acclamation as successors to the heroic tradition. This legal quandary epitomizes the tension in Classical Greece between the individual as aspirant to heroic status, and the individual as adherent to the norms that sustained the community. In an effort to negotiate this predicament, ancient Athenian laws specifically addressed involuntary athletic manslaughter, and Panhellenic judges employed legalistic technicalities to disqualify powerful but murderous athletes from receiving the fruits of their victories.

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