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Sword Leaping

Of spectacles [they have] but a singular kind and at every gathering the same: naked youths, for whom it is a sport, hurl themselves a-leaping, amidst swords and threatening spears. Training procures skill; skill, grace. It is not so much for profit or pay, however much the audacity of the sportsmanship, [rather] the reward is the satisfaction of the spectators.

Genus spectaculorum unum atque in omni coetu idem: nudi juvenes, quibus id ludicrum est, inter gladios se atque infestas frameas saltu iaciunt. exercitatio artem paravit, ars decorem, non in quaestum tamen est aut mercedem: quamvis audacis lasciviae pretium est voluptas spectantium.

Tacitus, On the Origin and Disposition of the Germans, XXIV,1-2.

Sword Dance of the Cutter’s Guild, coloured pen drawing by an unknown artist, 1600; in the German National Museum, Nürnberg.
Courtesy of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nurnberg