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Notes on three Athletic Inscriptions

  • H. A. Harris (a1)

This is part of the famous inscription from the garden of S. Pietro in Vincoli in Rome, giving the career of the pancratiast M. Aurelius Asclepiades, who was at the height of his powers c. A.D. 180. Moretti describes it as ‘Certainly the most interesting of all agonistic inscriptions, not so much for its length and the number of victories and festivals recorded in it as for the abundance of expressions peculiar to the world of athletics’.

Moretti's explanations of most of these expressions will command general agreement, but of those quoted above it is possible to take another view. The words ἀνέκκλητος and μήτε ἐκκαλεσάμενος—ἐκκαλέσασθαι he connects with προκαλεῖσθαι, and explains that Asclepiades was never challenged and never challenged anyone else. It is not easy to see why this should be a merit in a pancratiast. Moretti suggests that inferior athletes challenged to matches those whom they believed they could defeat, these matches being outside the normal contests, in which, of course, the competitors were paired by the κλῆρος. This is possible, and is supported by the word τολμήσαντος, but it is difficult to believe that a περιοδονείκης would think it worth mentioning, still less that he would repeat it. Moretti connects ἐπεξελθών with συναξελθών, and interprets it ‘He never agreed with an opponent to abandon a contest’ or simply ‘He never abandoned a contest’.

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1 Moretti, , Iscrizioni Agonistiche Greche (hereafter IGA) 79.

2 AJA lx (1956).

3 Theb. vi 550 ff.

4 JRS iii 267, no. 12.

5 E.g., IAG 68, 71, 72, 77, 84. For a full treatment of these associations vid. Forbes, C. A., ‘Ancient Athletic Guilds’, Class. Phil. 1 no. 4, October 1955.

6 This may be the force of the epithet περιπολιστική applied to the σύνοδος in inscriptions (e.g., IAG 68).

7 Gough, M. R. E. in Anatolian Studies ii 127.

8 AJA lx (1956) 361.

9 Dittenberger, Syll. 3697, 728.

10 Cf., e.g., IAG 11, 60, 61, 82, 86.

11 It is possible that this is the significance of μουνο-in the word μουνοπάλη, found in Bacchylides (xi 8) and in inscriptions (IAG 20, 29). The usual interpretation of the word is ‘pure wrestling’ as distinct from the mixed wrestling and boxing of the pancration. It appears more likely that it means ‘wrestling as a separate event’, distinguished thus from the wrestling in the pentathlon.

12 E.g., IAG 71, 72, 77, 79.

13 xxxix 8, 9.

14 v 22.

15 Il. xxiii 700 ff.

16 I. Ol. 54, 55; SIG 3 1073.

17 It is claims like this that Lucilius parodies so wickedly in his epigram (A.P. xi 85), in which a long-distance runner is still running at midnight.

18 IG xiv 739; IGR i 444; IAG 77.

19 SEG xi 61. Considered by Peek, in Gnomon ix (1933).

20 Ep. lxxxiii 5.

21 Kaibel, 939.

22 Cf. Tod, M. N., ‘Greek record-keeping and record-breaking’, CQ xliii (1949).

23 IG v 1 213; IAG 16.

24 IAG 59.

25 I wish to thank Mr D. M. Lewis for valuable help and advice in the preparation of this article.

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The Journal of Hellenic Studies
  • ISSN: 0075-4269
  • EISSN: 2041-4099
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