A Sporting Catharsis
As Britain basks in post-Wimbledon glory, amid the Ashes, Sarah Dunant reflects on how sport has - throughout history - been used by the authorities to help populations let off steam.
In Florence, in the late 1500s, townspeople played a form of football that allowed them to wrestle, punch and immobilize their opponents in any way they liked. Venice had a spectacularly violent sport of bridge-fighting where opposing teams "armed with sticks...dipped in boiling oil beat the hell out of each other".
Civic sporting therapy - past and present - has for centuries, Sarah argues, "proved a creative alternative to our recurring tendency to kill each other".
Producer: Adele Armstrong.
A Point of View: Sporting spectacle on the piazza
The Ashes are under way in England, but another historic sporting battle is fought out every year in Florence - an ancient no-holds-barred ball game played in one of the city's most famous piazzas, as writer Sarah Dunant explains.