Leisure Rules in Archaic Greece: Legislation on Inebriation and Foul Play in Literary and Epigraphic Sources

Citation with persistent identifier:

Martín González, Elena. “Leisure Rules in Archaic Greece: Legislation on Inebriation and Foul Play in Literary and Epigraphic Sources.” CHS Research Bulletin 2, no. 2 (2014). http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hlnc.essay:MartinGonzalezE.Leisure_Rules_in_Archaic_Greece.2014


1§1 Communal wine-drinking and athletic competition are the quintessential leisure activities in the Archaic Greek society. In the Homeric poems, the aristocratic elite is portrayed enjoying wine during feasts, an activity that enhances camaraderie and reinforces boundaries within the social group, and competing in games, where the participants are given the opportunity to display the same virtues as in the battlefield: strength, courage, and cunning. A wide array of occasions provide the contextual frame for communal wine consumption and athletic competition in the life of the epic heroes. Regarding the first, special mention deserve the warriors’ feasts in the Iliad and the law of hospitality to share wine and feast with the guests in the Odyssey, so extensively enjoyed by Penelope’s suitors. As for sporting practices, the funerary games in Patroclus’ memory (Iliad XXIII 257–897), and the games organized by the Phaeacians to honor Odysseus (Odyssey viii 97–417), provide a detailed description of the athletic disciplines, the prizes and the procedure involved in the celebration of the epic games[1]. These aristocratic leisure activities, however, are far from being mere recreational activities. They are subjected to a highly formalized social protocol and they are presided, therefore, by the same respect to hierarchy and decorum required of the heroes in all their actions. Consequently, as we shall see in what follows, they are bound to the same conflicts and disputes which occur in the remaining group activities.

1§2 Following the Homeric pattern, the aristocratic elite continued and promoted communal drinking and sport competition in similar contexts, as the ultimate expression of their inherited sociocultural system of values. Moreover, as in the Homeric portrait, both leisure activities are imbued with an undeniable social and political significance, which reaches, however, a new dimension in Archaic society, beyond the limits of the aristocratic group, with the birth and development of the polis. Communal wine-drinking, in the context of the symposium, and sport competition, mainly in the context of festivals organized periodically by the poleis, constitute intrinsic elements of the Greek communities of the Archaic period. The contribution of the games to the intercommunication and interaction between the city-states, thus to the emergence of a Panhellenic consciousness, cannot be overemphasized, neither can the essential role played by the symposium in the cultural and political changes of the moment[2].

1§3 The coexistence of the old aristocratic ideal with the aforementioned changes, however, was not an easy one. The Archaic Greek world experienced major social, economic, political, cultural, and even geographical transformations, which were frequently connected with internal and external strife. The literary and epigraphic evidence of public legislation in the Archaic period is symptomatic of this context of tension. Either in the form of an individual designated by the city in order to solve a crisis by promulgating new laws, or in the form of inscriptional records of legal measures adopted by public institutions, Archaic legislation reflects the effort of the Greek communities to regulate a wide spectrum of conflictive public issues. Among them, wine consumption and sport competition were also included, as demonstrate two relatively recent epigraphic findings, which will be the focus of the present paper.

1§4 Despite the fragmentary character and local validity of these two legal inscriptions, their value is twofold: first, they complete the scattered information on Archaic lawgiving transmitted by contemporary and later literary authors with a direct and early testimony; second, they reveal the cities’ need for a new authority to regulate different aspects related to leisure activities, since the inherited system of values, relying on a customary behavior code, is no longer enough to contempt transgressions of the norm. Accordingly, these inscriptions allow a glimpse into the complex and turbulent process of transformation undertook by the Greek communities in the Archaic period in an attempt to integrate the old traditions into the rapidly-changing new order.

Prohibition of inebriation[3]

2§1 Greek society of all times, and also in the Archaic period, presents a high level of acceptance regarding wine consumption. Wine was held in high esteem by doctors, who recommend it for a vast array of conditions[4], while the power of wine to enhance physical strength and to provide an efficient remedy for the troubles of the soul is widely acclaimed in Archaic poetry[5].

2§2 Yet, ever since the Homeric epos, voices against inebriation, advocating for moderate alcoholic consumption, surface sporadically in Archaic literature[6]. Oddly enough, as has been often noticed, alcoholism is not their main concern[7]. Indeed, since wine-drinking was a characteristically communal activity, practiced in the context of the symposium, intoxication was negatively perceived when it was the cause of indecorous behavior. Odysseus’ words to his loyal Eumaeus summarize the social dangers perceived in extensive wine consumption in early Greek society (Odyssey xiv 463–466)[8]:

οἶνος γὰρ ἀνώγει

ἠλεός, ὅς τ’ ἐφέηκε πολύφρονά περ μάλ’ ἀεῖσαι

καί θ’ ἁπαλὸν γελάσαι[9] καί τ’ ὀρχήσασθαι ἀνῆκε,

καί τι ἔπος προέηκεν, ὅ πέρ τ’ ἄρρητον ἄμεινον.

2§3 However, inebriation could have even more menacing social side effects than lack of decorum, for it could result in disputes and quarrels. Wine is characterized as ‘the violent child of vine’ by Pindar (βιατάν / ἀμπέλου παῖδ’, Nemean 9.51–52) and many violent incidents are blamed on drinking excesses. The mythical fight between Centaurs and Lapiths, in a marriage feast, is the ancient paradigm par excellence of a drinking party’s bitter end[10].

2§4 The Archaic legislators, many of them also included in the list of the Seven Sages, seem to have been among the defenders of moderate wine-drinking and to have shared the same concern about the social perils of wine. Chilon of Sparta, for instance, recommended that one should control his tongue, especially in the symposium (Diogenes Laertius 1.69: γλώττης κρατεῖν, καὶ μάλιστα ἐν συμποσίῳ), and Cleobulus of Lindos advised not to reprove a servant about wine, for one would give the impression of being under the influence of wine (Diogenes Laertius 1.92: οἰκέτην παρ’ οἶνον μὴ κολάζειν, δοκεῖν γὰρ παροινεῖν). Another Archaic lawgiver, Aristides of Ceos, went a step further in this anti-drinking spirit, since he allegedly instructed both men and women to restrain from wine before marriage (Aristides fr. 611.28 Rose: ὕδωρ ἔπινον οἱ παῖδες καὶ αἱ κόραι μέχρι γάμου)[11].

2§5 More specifically, among the multifarious laws ascribed to the early lawgivers, some apparently aim to restrict the social danger of heavy drinking. Legislation on inebriation is deemed to have been promulgated by three of the Archaic lawgivers (the last two also included among the Seven Sages): Zaleucus of Epizephyrian Locri, Pittacus of Mytilene, and Solon of Athens. According to the sources, the punishment was extremely severe in the case of Zaleucus and Solon, since both imposed death penalty for two transgressions related to intoxication: the former, in the case of someone who, even feeling ill, consumed unmixed wine without a doctor’s prescription[12]; the latter, in the event of an archon’s inebriation[13]. As for Pittacus, his anti-inebriation measure was considerably milder: the imposition of heavier economic penalties to those who committed a crime under the effects of alcohol[14].

2§6 Given the legendary halo surrounding the figure of the Archaic legislators, and the mainly anecdotic interest of the, frequently late, literary sources, which tend to focus on the most picturesque aspects of their legislative agenda[15], scholars have been reluctant to accept the historicity of this anti-drunkenness legislation. However, the discovery of an inscribed limestone stele in 1987, during the excavations at the necropolis of the ancient city of Eleutherna, in northwestern Crete, may overcome previous skepticism, since it constitutes a first-hand testimony of public legislation on inebriation.

2§7 The inscription, dated at the end of the sixth century B.C., was first published in 1991 by Henri van Effenterre[16]. The surviving text contains two paragraphs in clear, epichoric lettering, carefully incised in bustrophedon fashion. Yet, the fragmentary state of the lower part of the stone, in addition to the brachylogic style of the inscription, complicate the interpretation of the details of the prescription.

μὴ ἰνπίνεν · ἀ[λ]-                   →

[λὰ] μὲ<ν> δρομέα ᾿ν-          ←

ς Δῖον Ἄκρον σ̣-


πίνεν·   vac.                             5

ἱαρέα δὲ μή· αἰ δ᾿

ἱαρόϝϝοι το̃ι θ-

ιο̃ι, αἵμ[ατ]ι τεκ[ν]-

[ό]ϝστεν ἀρκαῖ-

όν ἐστι · ὅσστι[ς]                   10

[. . .]ΤΗΡΑΣ . . [. .]

[. . . ]Μ̣Η̣Ι̣[- – ca. 6– -]

1–2  α[ἰ.] μὲ(ν)  Effenterre 1995    Α..ΜΕ  Tzifopoulos 1998    α[.].μὲ<ν>  Lupu 2009     2–3  δρομέα <ἰ>σς  Effenterre    δρομέανς  Tzifopoulos 1998    8  ΑΙΜ..Ι  Effenterre 1991, Effenterre and Ruzé 1995, Tzifopoulos 1998    11  κρα]τῆρας  Effenterre

Prohibition of inebriation; but a citizen is allowed to inebriate, insofar he attends a communal inebriation in the Cape of Zeus; but not the priest. In case he consecrates to the deity, the tradition is to operate with blood. Whoever …

2§8 The inscription begins abruptly, without heading or introduction, with a prescription expressed through an infinitive (μὴ ἰνπίνεν), declaring the prohibition of inebriation. The meaning of this verb, when employed absolutely, occurs also in Theognidea (1128–1129), in a passage where the author proclaims his willingness to succumb to intoxication, without caring about the angry penniless or his enemies’ criticism:

Ἐμπίομαι, πενίης θυμοφθόρου οὐ μελεδαίνων

οὐδ’ ἀνδρῶν ἐχθρῶν, οἵ με λέγουσι κακῶς.

The same verb is also used by Aristophanes with reference to those who have already surrendered to heavy drinking (Ecclesiazusae 142):

ἢ τίνος χάριν

τοσαῦτ’ ἂν ηὔχοντ’, εἴπερ οἶνος μὴ παρῆν;

καὶ λοιδοροῦνταί γ’ ὥσπερ ἐμπεπωκότες,

καὶ τὸν παροινοῦντ’ ἐκφέρουσ’ οἱ τοξόται.

2§9 Returning to the inscription, after the general banning of intoxication, two particular cases are specified: the first concerns citizens, who are allowed to inebriate only in the circumstances detailed in the law, namely in company and in the Cape of Zeus;[17] the second concerns the priest, to whom no exception applies. A new specific circumstance in the application of the law by the priest follows, whose meaning is far from clear. If the reconstruction of the text proposed by J.-L. Perpillou in the first edition is correct[18], it is yet another prohibition on wine consumption by the priest, this time regarding divine consecrations. It is recommended, according to his reading, to maintain the tradition of operating with blood and not, as it seems to be deduced from the context, with wine as a substitute. The text is interrupted at that point, where a new sentence with a relative pronoun is introduced and only a few letters have survived in the last two lines of the stones.

2§10 This fragmentary Archaic law reflects the attempt of the community to restrict the social context of inebriation to communal symposium[19]. The context is probably a feast of religious character celebrated in the Cape of Zeus, which could be the reason why the priest is not allowed to intoxicate. To the best of my knowledge, there is no epigraphic parallel for this Archaic prescription[20]. Nevertheless, two passages of Plato present interesting similarities. In the first (Laws 775B), Plato sustains the same idea, that intoxication is solely acceptable in a specific, religious context, namely the feasts in honor of Dionysus. The second passage belongs to the (probably pseudo-platonic) dialogue Minos. As Henri van Effenterre correctly noticed (1995:337), one of the multiple laws attributed to the legendary Cretan king connects the Eleuthernian law with a long tradition of anti-drunkenness legislation on the island. In the course of the philosophical discussion on different aspects of the law, Socrates and his friend debate about the Cretan origin of the Greek laws and about the kings who first enacted them, Minos and Rhadamantys. In his attempt to modify his interlocutor’s negative perception about the former, Socrates explains that Minos was educated by Zeus, so his good judgement is unquestionable (Minos 319d–e). Representative of his wisdom, continues Socrates (Minos 320a–b), is the fact that only the Cretans, and, following their example, the Lacedemonians, among both Greeks and barbarians, abstain from the symposium and the amusement provoked by wine, as a result of a law decreed by Minos, which prohibited intoxication in communal drinking[21]:

ἐν Κρήτῃ δὲ εἷς οὗτός ἐστι τῶν ἄλλων νόμων οὓς Μίνως ἔθηκε, μὴ συμπίνειν ἀλλήλοις εἰς μέθην.

2§11 Unfortunately, there is no indication of the punishment applied to the offenders, nor in the inscription from Eleutherna, nor in the Platonic passages. Although the overwhelming majority of penalties in Archaic legislation, both inside and outside Crete, is of an economic nature and we should probably expect the same for those considered guilty of inebriation, a more severe sanction cannot be excluded, given the social relevance credited to wine during the Archaic period.

2§12 In any case, the epigraphic testimony from Eleutherna, although fragmentary and synthetic, provides tangible evidence of anti-inebriation legislation for communal wine-consumption in Archaic Greece. Other than increasing the number of voices clamoring for a moderate consumption of wine in the interest of social order, this law enlists in the anti-drinking and anti-inebriation policies ascribed to the early lawgivers in the literary sources and confirms the existence of a historical background lying behind the legendary accounts about the beginnings of legislation in the Greek world.

Rules for wrestling

3§1 The intense agonistic character of the Archaic Greek society, where the victorious athletes were rewarded with fame, social recognition, and prizes[22], eventually fostered an excess of zeal in pursuit of the coveted victory and, consequently, augmented the possibilities of conflict, inherent in any type of competition. The renowned dispute for the prize in the chariot race during the celebration of the funeral games for Patroclus offers a superb example (Iliad XXIII 410–631)[23]. As it is well known, Antilochus, in his desire to conquer the glory of the victory, approaches dangerously Menelaus’ car, and, ignoring his warnings, forces him to pull on the reins, in order to avoid the collision. The maneuver earns him the second place in the race, but also Menelaus’ rage, who challenges Antilochus to take a solemn oath in front of the assembly, denying that it was his intention to overpass him in such an irregular way. Fortunately, the young man admits his error and a gift-exchange seals the resolution of the conflict.

3§2 As the Homeric testimony suggests, foul play was one of the main sources of conflict in sporting contests[24]. Far from the idyllic image of the athletes and their deeds projected by authors like Bacchylides and Pindar (Nicholson 2014), foul play was part and parcel of Greek athletic competition. Even Apollo and Athena do not hesitate to manipulate the aforementioned chariot race, when they intervene to thwart and propel, respectively, Diomedes’ course (Iliad XXIII 391–397). The oaths sworn at Olympia, in front of the statue of Zeus Horkios, by the athletes, their relatives, and trainers, but also by the Hellenodikai or ‘examining board’, included the compromise not to break the rules and play fairly, according to Pausanias’ account, although the exact wording has not survived[25]. Yet, in contrast to what happens with Antilochus and Menelaus, oath-taking evidently was not sufficient either to resolve the conflicts emanating from athletic competitions or to stop infractions, since episodes of rule violation appear regularly throughout the history of Greek sport.

3§3 References to specific legislation to prevent athletes from cheating, mostly in the games at Olympia, are found in the literary sources as early as in Plato, who, in his legal prescriptions about kidnapping (Laws 12.955a–b), includes the eventual case of someone who impedes his opponent from participating in an athletic contest[26]. In Olympia, the first fine for bribery was imposed in 388 B.C., according to Pausanias (5.21.3), when Eupolus of Thessaly was found guilty of paying his rivals to let him win.

3§4 The testimonies of cheating in the games increase during the Hellenistic and, especially, the Imperial periods, along with the codification of rules for athletic contests, a phenomenon which since Antiquity has been associated with the progressive decadence of sporting games[27]. Authors like Pausanias (16.21.2–18), Philostratus (Gymnasticus 45) and Artemidorus (The Interpretation of Dreams 4.82) display an image of quite extended corruption in professional athletic competition, which ranges from manipulated victories or bribed judges and trainers, to infringements of the registration procedure[28]. On the epigraphic side, an inscription found in Olympia and dating back to the first or secondcentury A.D. (IvO 56) contains, among the rules for some games held in Naples, provisions for different cases of rule-breaking by the athletes. Furthermore, an edict of Diocletian and Maximian (Codex Justinianus 10.54) granted some benefits to athletes, on condition they had been crowned by their own merits and not as a result of corruption and bribery.

3§5 However, two fragments of an inscribed bronze tablet, unearthed in the sanctuary of Olympia in 1964 and 1965 respectively[29], have challenged the idea of cheating in the games being a late feature of Greek sport. This inscription, which is dated in the sixth century B.C., constitutes the first testimony of sport legislation and, even if the text is quite fragmentary, there is no doubt that its main concern is to regulate eventual foul play in wrestling combats.

ὁ δὲ παλ̣αι̣στὰ οὔτε κα δάκυλον ἕνα ϝαγανο[-  – – – – – – – – – – –  κολ-]

άδοι παίoν κα ὁ διαιτατὲρ πλὰν κατὰ κεφαλὰν [- – – – –  – – – – τοὶ μ-]

ιαντε̃ρες ἐνοισέονται καὶ τούτοι ὑπασχεσέον[ται – – – – – – – – – – – – – ]

ν τὀλύνπια κἄρχεν ἀξιόνικον ἐν καὶ τούτoι μ[- – – οὔτ’ ἄνδρα Ϝαλείoν κα-]

ὶ τᾶς συμ<α>χίας οὔτε γυναῖκα· αἰ μὲν ϝειδὸς ναπο[ιν-  – – – – – – ἄν-]                              5

δρα Ϝαλείoν καὶ τᾶς συμαχίας οὔτε κοβάλoς ΟΡΥ[- – – – – – – – – – – – -]

κα δαρχνὰς ἀποτίνοι αἴτ᾿ ἀπελoβαῖτο ΕΔΕΤ̣[- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -]

ς κ᾿ ἐδoρ{ε}έοι· σὺν δ᾿ ἀλοτρίοις χρεμάτοις οὔ κα θεα[ρός – – – – – – – – – πο-]

λέμoι       vac.

5  ΣΥΜΛΧΙΑΣ  bronze    6  κοβαλος (κόβαλος sive κοβάλους sive κοβάλως)  Ebert – Siewert 1997    ὂρ (ὡς sive ὅς) ὐ[π- sive ὐ[βρ-?  Ebert – Siewert 1997  ΟΡ<Κ>  Minon 2007    7  ἒ ΔΕΤ  Ebert – Siewert 1997, Minon 2007    8  ἐδορεέοι  Ebert – Siewert 1997

                  The wrestler shall neither break any  finger … the referee shall punish by whipping, except in the head … the transgressors must contribute and they will promise to him … in the Olympic competitions and start as worthy of the victory also in this … nor an Elean male, an ally nor a woman. If consciously without punishment … nor an Elean male, an ally or a woman, nor deceivingly … shall pay … drachmas or shall be dishonored… give in return. A theoros with foreign money shall not … in war.

3§6 The right side of the tablet unfortunately has not been found and an undetermined part of the inscription is missing. Nonetheless, the remaining text constitutes a valuable testimony of the conflicts related with cheating in wrestling contests which faced the organizers of the games already in the sixth century B.C.

3§7 Due to their popularity and the risks involved, special attention is paid in the literary sources to foul play in fighting contests—either by boxers, wrestlers, or pancratiasts—which seemed to be a fertile field for foul play. The ideal representation of wrestlers in the epinician poetry, endowed with beauty and moral excellence, vividly contrasts with the violence and trickery attested in literary, epigraphic, and artistic testimonies[30]. Once again, the first witness is Homer, in his description of Patroclus’ funerary games (Iliad XXIII 735–745). Odysseus, not in vain called “master of cunning,” resorts to tricks in the wrestling match against Ajax, when he kicks the back of his opponent’s knee, the moment he was trying to lift him off the ground. Furthermore, the first athlete found guilty of bribery at Olympia was precisely a boxer, Eupolus from Thessaly (Pausanias 5.21.3). The fine imposed by the Eleans was used to pay for six bronze Zanes, as the locals called the statues dedicated to Zeus from the fines of the athletes.

3§8 The inscription opens with the prohibition of breaking the rival’s fingers during the wrestling match. This prescription naturally conjures up Pausanias’ description of the statues of two wrestlers, included in his account of the monuments he saw during his visit to the sanctuary of Olympia (6.4.1-3). He recalls, first, the case of the pancratiast Sostratus of Sycion, known as “The Fingerer” (Ἀκροχερσίτης), who bound his opponents by the their hands and broke their fingers until they gave in, a rough tactic which earned him seventeen victories in the ‘circuit’ games. The wrestler Leontiscus of Sicily, to whom the next statue was dedicated, used to break fingers too ( νικᾶν δὲ αὐτὸν κλῶντα τοὺς δακτύλους), for he was not able to overthrow his competitors differently, as the Periegetes explains. It is obvious, then, that the technique of breaking fingers continued to be used, despite the Archaic prohibition, although Pausanias’ testimony implies that it was not the preferred wrestling move or the most frequent one.

3§9 The next line preserves partially a second prescription, this time concerning the referee (διατατέρ), who is allowed to punish the infractors by whipping, but not in the head. The reason behind this measure was presumably to avoid serious injuries to the athletes and to deprive free men of the flagrant marks of the whip. In any case, flogging was a very extended practice in athletic training and competitions, already in the Archaic period[31]. Trainers and umpires were frequently represented in Archaic pottery as mastigophoroi or ‘whip-bearers’, supervising the fighting matches and whipping those who would not respect the rules during the combat. Interestingly, this is the same type of punishment which Heraclitus demands for Homer and Archilochus, in one of his most famous quotes, preserved by Diogenes Laertius (Diels – Kranz 22 B 42)[32]. According to the philosopher, both poets deserve to be expelled from the games (ἐκ τῶν ἀγώνων ἐκβάλλεσθαι) and to be struck (ῥαπίζεσθαι). Under the light of this contemporary Olympic regulation, in addition to the literary sources about the games, Heraclitus’ agonistic metaphor reveals a more profound connotation. The faults committed by Homer and Archilochus are so serious that it is not enough to have them flogged by the umpire during the contest, nor to impose them an economic sanction. They require the maximum sentence: complete ban from the competition and flogging in view of the spectators, to increase their shame[33].

3§10 The fragmentary state of the tablet renders the understanding of the remaining text quite uncertain. Nevertheless, there are some points related to rule-breaking which are worth examining. The first is the new term [μ]ιαντε̃ρες, applied to the transgressors[34]. The athletes had oathed obedience to the rules of the sanctuary of Zeus, as mentioned above, so the infractions were also an offense towards the divinity and cause of pollution. Further, in line 6, the term κοβάλως (or any of the other possible interpretations, see ap. crit.) connects this regulation directly with foul play and trickery, even if the lack of context does not permit a more accurate interpretation.

3§11 Another remarkable piece of information provided by this inscription is that, apart from the contestants, the judges could also be suspected of violation of the rules[35]. This at least can be deduced from the beginning of a sentence, in line 5 (αἰ μὲν ϝειδὸς ναπο [ιν – – -]), which refers to an infraction deliberately left unpunished[36]. This fear ended up being justified, if we are to believe Pausanias’ story of Troilus (6.1.4), a Hellanodikas who was also a double winner. Plutarch’s affirmation that some umpires knowingly awarded prizes to the wrong persons (Moralia 535C), and, certainly, the scandalous participation of Nero in the Olympic games further attest to this phenomenon[37].

3§12 Finally, the section of the law devoted to the penalties for those found guilty, in line 7 of the tablet, albeit incomplete, suggests a double punishment: an unknown amount of drachmas as a fine and deprivation of honor or rights[38].

3§13 On the whole, even if the details of the prescriptions are not clear, this legal document reflects the effort of the organizers to contempt wrongdoing in wrestling matches by all means: physical punishment, economic sanction, moral pollution, and dishonor. Both athletes and judges seem to have been suspected of breaking the rules in different ways, either by using illegal techniques during the fight, in the case of the former, or by failing to impose the pertinent punishment, in the case of the latter. The fact that foul play and trickery are included in such an early athletic law indicates that they were common issues in the Olympic games, perceived as a threat to the successful development of the competitions.


4§1 The anti-inebriation law from Eleutherna and the Olympic rules for wrestling, despite their fragmentary state, demonstrate the high level of specialization achieved by written legislation already in the sixth century B.C. Due to the radical changes undertook by the Greek communities of the Archaic period, the customary rules which presided these leisure activities in the Homeric world, where social pressure was an effective deterrent for offenders, are now reinforced by accurate, written legislation, which establishes not only the norms regarding communal wine-drinking and athletic competition, but also the punishment applied to any eventual transgression.

4§2 The discovery of these two inscriptions has contributed to restore, at least up to a certain point, the questioned credibility of later literary testimonies. Thus, the law from Eleutherna enables us to join the dots between the legendary laws attributed to Minos and the legislative initiatives attributed to the Archaic lawgivers, while the Olympian inscription confirms the stories about corruption and foul play in the games transmitted by the authors of the Roman period.

4§3 Both leisure rules seem not to have lasted long and doubts may arise about their actual implementation and efficacy. Yet, they are representative of the historical context of change and crisis in which they were promulgated and contribute to complete, as a result, the picture of Archaic society transmitted by contemporary literary evidence.

* I am grateful to Zinon Papakonstantinou and Maria Pavlou for reading previous drafts of this paper, which has also benefited from the comments of the audience after its presentation in the Center for Hellenic Studies.

[1] The topic of sport in Homeric epic has been widely studied. See, for instance, Kyle 2007:54–71 and, recently, Perry 2014:58–64 and 67, with bibliography. For the prizes, see also Papakonstantinou 2002.

[2] Among the abundant literature on the topic, see, for instance, Levine 1985, who discusses the parallels between symposium and polis in Theognis, Aristophanes and Plato, and, recently, Wecowski’s 2014 monographic study on the relationship between symposium, aristocracy and the rise of the polis.

[3] For a detailed description of wine and wine-drinking in Homer and in Archaic Greece, see Dominique 2002 and Papakonstantinou 2009 and 2012.

[4] Jouanna 2012:173–194 presents a complete picture of the important role of wine in Ancient medicine.

[5] An eloquent example provide Hecuba’s words addressed to Hector (Iliad VI 257–268), when she encourages him to drink wine, in order to regain his strength before returning to the battle, an invitation he promptly declines, calling on the possibility that the wine will debilitate his will instead. See Papakonstantinou 2012:14–15, for the references in lyric poetry.

[6] See Dominique 2002:8 and Papakonstantinou 2009:5n14 for all the Homeric quotes about the adverse effects of intoxication. The ideal degree of drunkenness, as Xenophanes of Colophon defines it, is that of being able to come back home without the help of a servant and to maintain a pleasant conversation (Diels – Kranz 21 B1, 17–24). The embarrassing picture of the stumbling drunk man, guided by a young servant, his soul moist with wine, appears also in one of Heraclitus’ fragments (Diels – Kranz 22 B 117). The philosopher claimed for a dry soul (αὔη ψυχή), in order to reach wisdom and excellence (Diels – Kranz 22 B 118).

[7] Warnings about drinking addiction, defined as an incurable condition (ἀνήκεστον) by Rufus of Ephesus (Oribasius Medical Collection 5.7.1–2; see Jouanna 2012:173), occur only exceptionally in ancient literature. For an overview of the topic, see Villard 2002:85–92.

[8] The author of the Theognidea (479–483) describes the same effects of excessive wine drinking.

[9] As Odysseus warns Penelope, wine can also provoke the opposite effect and make you flood on tears (δακρυπλώειν, Odyssey xix 120–122). On this expression, see Dominique 1988:91–98.

[10] Odyssey xxi 295–304. The Centaurs, as Polyphemus, drank unmixed wine, following the barbaric habit.

[11] Parallel drinking restrictions are stated in Plato’s Laws for the member of the chorus (666a): τοὺς παῖδας μέχρι ἐτῶν ὀκτωκαίδεκα τὸ παράπαν οἴνου μὴ γεύεσθαι. See Tzifopoulos 1998:163 and Papakonstantinou 2012:23n81, with further references to similar laws in ancient sources.

[12] Aelian Varia Historia 3.37: εἴ τις Λοκρῶν τῶν Ἐπιζεφυρίων νοσῶν ἔπιεν οἶνον ἄκρατον, μὴ προστάξαντος τοῦ θεραπεύοντος, εἰ καὶ περιεσώθη, θάνατος ἡ ζημία ἦν αὐτῷ, ὅτι μὴ προσταχθὲν αὐτῷ ὃ δὲ ἔπιεν. Furthemore, this law of Zaleucus is part of  the myriad of references to wine consumption in Antiquity harvested by the erudite deipnosphistae in book number ten of Athenaeus’ work (Athenaeus 10.429a–b).

[13] Diogenes Laertius 1.57: Τῷ ἄρχοντι, ἐὰν μεθύων ληφθῇ, θάνατον εἶναι τὴν ζημίαν.

[14] Aristotle Constitution of the Athenians 1274b.19–20: νόμος δ’ ἴδιος αὐτοῦ [i.e. Pittacus] τὸ τοὺς μεθύοντας, ἄντι πταίσωσι, πλείω ζημίαν ἀποτίνειν τῶν νηφόντων (the same idea appears in Nicomachean Ethics 1113b.29–33 and Rhetoric 1402b.8–12). The same law is ascribed to Pittacus in the Banquet of the Seven Sages of Plutarch (Moralia 155F). According to Diogenes Laertius (1.77), his aim was certainly to avoid intoxications, due to the high quantity of wine available in the island. As Athenaeus informs us (10.427e–f), Pittacus advised as well Periander of Corinth not to inebriate, in order to be able to keep up appearances and conceal his real character.

[15] On the transmission of the legends associated with the Seven Sages, see Busine 2002.

[16] Effenterre 1991 (SEG 41:739). The inscription has been also been studied in Effenterre and Ruzé 1995:n98; Effenterre 1995:337; Tzifopoulos 1998:162–163 and Lupu 2009:n22.

[17] Claudius Ptolomy (Geographia 3.15.5) mentions a cape called Δῖον Ἄκρον in this area.

[18] See Van Effenterre 1991:21.

[19] In the preserved text of the law there is no specific reference to the private symposia, although the general banning seems to apply also to them. For the different types of symposia, see Vetta 1996.

[20] Rules for communal symposia, however, can be found in contemporaneous and later inscriptions. A sacred law from Archaic Tyrinth (SEG 30:380), for instance, regulates the functions of the officials responsible for the public symposia, probably in a religious context (see Lupu 2009:200–202); furthermore, in a decree of the Athenian Iokbachoi dated to the second century A.D. (IG II2 1368, 63–67) those participating in the stibas are encouraged to behave in a disciplined and quiet manner, while those who alterate the celebration of the symposium with fights or insults will be fined (IG II2 1368, 72–83).

[21] The archaeological evidence points towards a relevant role of wine in the economic and social life of Archaic and Classical Crete (Marangou 1999:269–270). However, the prevalence of the simple black-glazed cup over the krater after the eighth century B.C. in the island has been tentatively linked with this prohibition of inebriation and the rejection of the luxurious aristocratic symposium (Mecowski 2014:299–301).

[22] Xenophanes of Colophon’s bitter words regarding the public rewards granted to the Olympic victors (Diels – Kranz 21 B2), but not to the poet himself, demonstrate the social distinction gained by athletes in Archaic Greece. For this fragment, see Marcovich 1978, Visa-Ondarçuhu 1999:229–246, and also Papakonstantinou 2014a:322–323, who offers a chronological overview of ancient critics of Greek sport.

[23] Dickie 1984 analyses Patroclus’ funerary games under the light of fair and foul play.

[24] Another one was, of course, bribery.

[25] μηδὲν ἐς τὸν Ὀλυμπίων ἀγῶνα ἔσεσθαι παρ’ αὐτῶν κακούργημα (Pausanias 5.24.9). For the question of the Olympic oaths, see Perry 2007:85–86, with previous bibliography.

[26] In that case, Plato prescribes, the organizers should facilitate the athlete’s participation. Nevertheless, if they fail to do so and the rival wins, the prize and honors will belong to the excluded contestant.

[27] Philostratus (Gymnasticus 44) is one of the authors who clearly endorse the idea of historical decline in sport competition, see Stocking 2013. For an interpretation of this idea as a rhetorical trope in Imperial literature, see König 2009:251–286.

[28] A complete account of the particular cases can be found in Forbes 1952 and also in Crowther – Frass 1998, both focused on the punishment applied to the infractors. For a summary account of cheating in the Imperial period, see Potter 2012:286–287.

[29] The inscription was first published in 1997, by Ebert and Siewert, who republished it two years later with pictures of the tablet (BullÉpigr 2000:349). See also Minon’s recent edition (2007:n5), with a detailed analysis of the language of the document.

[30] Maria Pavlou has kindly allowed me access to her unpublished paper on reality and idealization in the representations of Greek athletics, where she deepens in this contrast.

[31] Crowther – Frass 1998 present all the ancient testimonies.

[32] A recent analysis of this Heraclitean fragment can be found in Granger 2009.

[33] Serious offences at Olympia were punished after the contest, since they were involved in a judicial procedure. See Crowther – Frass 1998:70–71, with literary examples. According to Siewert 1992:115, finger-breaking was also one of these major offences.

[34] See the parallel term μιάντης in the Etymologicum Magnum (785.37).

[35] This connects with the general attempt in early Greek legislation to force the magistrates to meet their obligations and to respect the rules.

[36] Moreover, Minon 2007:43 suggests that the reference to women, surprising in an early agonistic regulation, may be related with the pressure exerted by the athletes’ relatives on the judges’ decisions.

[37] For judging controversies in the Olympic games, see Gilman Romano 2007:107–109.

[38] This double punishment, economic and moral, is also present in other Archaic laws. See, for instance, the oldest epigraphic law, from the Cretan city of Dreros (BCH 61, 1937:333–338), and the Locrian bronze tablet with legislation about land distribution (IG IX I2 3, 609, 9–16).


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