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The tzykanisterion () was a stadium for playing the tzykanion (τζυκάνιον, from Persian tshu-qan), a kind of polo adopted by the Byzantines from Sassanid Persia.[1]

According to John Kinnamos, the tzykanion was played by two teams on horseback, equipped with long sticks topped by nets, with which they tried to push an apple-sized leather ball into the opposite team's goal (Kinnamos, 263.17–264.11).[2] The sport was very popular among the Byzantine nobility: Emperor Basil I (r. 867–886) excelled at it, while John I of Trebizond (r. 1235–1238) died from a fatal injury during a game.[2] The Great Palace of Constantinople featured a tzykanisterion, first built by Emperor Theodosius II (r. 408–450) on the southeastern part of the palace precinct. It was demolished by Basil I in order to erect the Nea Ekklesia church in its place, and rebuilt in larger size further east, connected to the Nea with two galleries.[3] Aside from Constantinople and Trebizond, other Byzantine cities also featured tzykanisteria, most notably Sparta, Ephesus and Athens, an indication of a thriving urban aristocracy.[4]


  1. Janin (1964), pp. 118–119
  2. 2.0 2.1 Kazhdan (1991), p. 1939
  3. Kazhdan (1991), p. 2137
  4. Laiou (2002), p. 643


  • Janin, Raymond (1964) (in French), Constantinople Byzantine. Développement urbaine et répertoire topographique, Parisnone 


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