A Prearranged Affair. Towards Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 5209


  • Wolfgang Decker Deutsche Sporthochschule Köln, Institut für Sportgeschichte


Sport in antiquity, Roman Egypt, corruption youth athletes, wrestling


The newly published volume of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri (LXXIX, 2014) contains a remarkable document (no. 5209), a contract made in 267 AD which seals an agreement between two wrestlers in the age class of youth to cede the victory to one of them during a forthcoming agon in Middle Egypt. This agreement to cede was made against a sum of 3,800 drachmas in old currency (i.e. the equivalent of a donkey). This document represents a perfect confirmation of the literary tradition concerning corruption in ancient Greek sport, mainly reported by Pausanias (V 21, 2-18) and Philostratus (De gymnastica 45). Philostratus observed that it is interesting to see that the written contract was concluded between the ambitious father of one of the athletes and obviously two trainers of the other one, who generally made negotiations to the ‘sporting’ disadvantage of their pupils. This could be the reason why they are substituted by a third person. The document’s significance for the history of sport cannot be overestimated.