Monday, June 04, 2012

New texts on athletes and shows in Roman Egypt

Three Short Lectures on the 'Olympic' tradition in Roman and Byzantine Egypt as revealed by new and old texts from Oxyrhynchus

In the second and third centuries AD the cities of the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire developed a mania for grand public competitions in athletics, musical performance and chariot-racing. This exuberant tradition, which was explictly based on the original Olympic games and designed to proclaim the cultural Greekness of the competing cities, is best attested to us from documents on papyrus preserved in the detritus of the ancient cities of Oxyrhynchus and Hermopolis.

To mark the London Olympics (for related Classical events see the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies website:, a volume of new texts on this theme, ranging from literary works to a contract to throw a wrestling match, is being prepared for The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, published by the Egypt Exploration Society with the support of the British Academy and the AHRC. The lectures will present the most exciting of the new texts in the context of previous discoveries among the papyri.