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A History of Juggling

Juggling has a long and colorful history that goes back to almost 2000 B.C. Most historians think that juggling began in Egypt. Also, evidence of ancient forms of juggling can be found anywhere from the Pacific Islands to the Aztec Empire of Mexico.

Ancient Juggling

The first evidence of juggling in the world may be a series of images found in an ancient tomb in Egypt dated to the middle kingdom (1994-1781 B.C.), depicting people tossing balls into the air to be, though it is probable that juggling existed long before this time. There is also archaeological evidence that juggling existed in Greek and Roman cultures. References to juggling are also found in ancient writings from China, Ireland, and ancient Rome. Jugglers went through some tough times - after the fall of the Roman Empire and the arrival of the Middle Ages, jugglers were sometimes persecuted and seen as dirty scoundrels or even thought to be witches.

Renaissance Period

After a few rough spots in its history, juggling became popular once again in medieval Europe. Musicians, poets, storytellers and comics often combined their acts with juggling to please the royalty of the time. Street jugglers entertaining the common folk were also popular in medieval Europe.

Derivation of the word

The word "juggle” actually comes from the Middle English word “jogelen” which means to perform or entertain. Another variation is the French word “jogler” which means to joke or jest.

Modern Times

In 1768, jugglers first appeared as top acts in a circus when Philip Astley hired jugglers to perform with his troupe in England. In 1793, juggling arrived to the circuses of the United States. Later, jugglers often provided entertainment in the theater during set changes and intermissions. By the late 1880s, jugglers and other acts were involved in a new style of entertainment, Vaudeville. With the arrival of movies and television, people attend less and less Vaudeville performances. However, juggling has maintained its popularity and continues to attract new fans. Today, juggling is practiced not only by professionals, but by a wide range of hobbyists who also enjoy other activities such as magic and yo-yos.