Juggling: It Takes Balls

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What is the earliest film to depict Juggling? Well if the Juggling Information Service’s frankly exhausting list of ‘films that depict juggling’ is anything to go by, the credit goes to two French documentaries from 1895 and 1896; Assiettes tournantes, which is “Reported to contain juggling” according to the JIS, and Jongleur javanais, which “Shows a juggler from Java”. Despite the rather retro geo-cities appearance of the JIS’s website, the 391 strong list has been updated almost every year and it goes to show the dedication and passion people still have to that skill of what the ancient Chinese called “throwing multiple objects up and down without dropping” (a pretty timeless description if you ask me). The history and depiction of juggling may stretch as far back to Egypt around 1994 BCE, according to what appears to be a wall painting of toss-juggling. From then on, it’s description and depictions pop up all over the world, from Ancient China around 800BC, to Greece 600 years later, and then the Roman Empire and even Ireland in the early ADs. Most interestingly however, is that juggling wasn’t the mere parlour trick we might see it as today- it seems in the past, juggling proficiency often spoke volumes of agility and prowess on the battlefield.

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