Antiquity: Lashes instead of red card

Marble slab discovered with sports rules of the Roman emperor Hadrian

The German-Turkish excavation team with the inscription plate. © Uni Münster
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A more than 1, 800-year-old marble slab with rules of the Roman Emperor Hadrian to perform sporting competitions such as the Olympic Games have discovered and deciphered scientists in western Turkey. The marble slab contains detailed instructions to the cities of the Empire for the correct execution of the empire-wide games.

Already in 2003, the inscription had come to light during excavation work in the ancient city of Alexandria Troas in western Turkey. Now Professor Elmar Schwertheim, who has been conducting historical-archaeological research in the city on the Dardanelles since 1993, was able to publish the publication of the ancient Greek text in close collaboration with the Cologne classical philologist Professor Georg Petzl in the series 'Asia Minor Studies'.

The 90-line inscription text consists of three letters from the Emperor Hadrian (117 to 138 AD), in which he addressed the union of traveling theater artists. In these letters, the Roman Emperor issues regulations for the performance of the ancient athletic as well as artistic games. His biggest concern is the regular payment of the winners' bonuses to the participating competitors by the organizer of the games.

Obviously, there had been some irregularities in the past when the hosting cities embezzled winnings or used them for their own purposes. Against this practice, Emperor Hadrian raises the strongest objections and threatens the responsible persons with sanctions.

Lashes with measure

But also the competitors are considered in the decrees: Undisciplined behavior of the athletes and musicians is punishable with lashes, whereby, however, care should be taken to ensure that the athletes in their further sports and professional practice may not be affected. display

In addition, it is a matter of concern to the emperor that the competitions in honor of the gods taking place throughout the empire are attended by athletes and musical prize fighters in a set period. Even the participants dying on such a tour are the concern of the emperor. The starting point and end point of the tour are the Olympic Games in Ancient Olympia, which calls Hadrian "time-honored" and "very famous".

Inscription plate of 16 fragments

The 1.81 meters by 0.90 meters large inscription plate, which was recovered in 16 fragments, originally graced the wall of a large portico of the 1st to 5th centuries AD in the center of the ancient city of Alexandria Troas. As a number of other inscriptions of recent years in the same place show here decrees and notices of the Roman administration for the information of the inhabitants were appropriate.

Why these letters have just been made public in Alexandria Troas has not yet been finally clarified. The scientists at the Research Center Asia Minor in Mønster suspect that the headquarters of the Association of Theater Artists was located here, which makes a publication of the imperial regulations meaningful.

Schwertheim and his colleagues hope to substantiate this thesis with further findings in the new excavation campaign in what is now Western Turkey this summer.

(idw - University of M nster, 06.06.2007 - DLO)