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1,747-Year-Old Wrestling Match Was Fixed

Neat stuff here: Researchers have translated a document from the Roman Empire, and discovered that it's a contract agreed to by two teenage wrestlers before their big match, stipulating that one would be paid to take a dive. Wrestling might be the world's oldest sport, but match-fixing appears to be the second-oldest.

I hope you didn't bet on Demetrius, who made it all the way to the finals of the 267 A.D. Megala Antinoeia wrestling tournament just to face off against Nicantinous. In the papyrus, Nicantinous's father agreed to pay a bribe of 3,800 silver drachmas to Demetrius's trainers, as long as Demetrius would "fall three times and yield" in their match.


Additionally, the contract stipulated that Demetrius would have to pay Nicantinous should he actually fight back and win. "You are of necessity to pay as penalty to my son on account of wrongdoing," wrote Nicantinous's father, "three talents of silver of old coinage without any delay or inventive argument."

The purpose of rigging the match was not for bettors. The text's translator, Dominic Rathbone, told LiveScience that a tournament like this carried a sizable prize for the winner, and nothing for coming in second. Demetrius, presumably the underdog, would rather get his 3,800 drachmas than face the probability of going home empty-handed, while Nicantinous chose to take out an insurance policy on his grand prize.

It's not known whether Demetrius laid down for Nicantinous when matchday came.

The document was found in Oxyrhynchus, Egypt, which was then part of the Roman Empire. It's written in Koine Greek, the lingua franca of the times, and was discovered in the late 19th century. But it's only now been imaged and translated. Researchers say fixing matches was not uncommon for the time, but this is the earliest recorded instance of a paper papyrus trail.


[LiveScience, h/t Bruce]

Photo of Libyan mosaic by Stefan Krasowski on Flickr

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