ï~~Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 47 (2010) 185-204
Pammachon, A New Sport1
Sofie Remijsen Leuven University
Reconsideration of SB 3.6222, a Greek letter from Alexandria mentioning a poorly attested sport, pammachon, here performed in the
presence of the emperor Diocletian.
Greek athletics has been a popular topic since the nineteenth century. For
about a century and a half, the archaic and classical period were most intensively studied,2 but since the 1980s attention has shifted toward the imperial
period.3 Scholarship presently covers the history of Greek athletics from the
dark ages until the third century AD, with only the Hellenistic period studied
somewhat less thoroughly. Late Antiquity, however, is still largely neglected.
The period between the disappearance of honorific inscriptions in the late
third century and the end of ancient athletics in the late fourth, or perhaps
even early fifth, century is rarely treated more than fleetingly. Although there
are few sources for late antique athletics, some of them still offer surprising
new insights. One of them is the papyrus letter SB 3.6222.
In this letter to his sister Sophrone, a certain Dios writes the colorful story
of how he competed in athletic games in Alexandria. He may have penned
the letter himself, as it is written in a near-literary hand. He uses capital let1 I am grateful to Willy Clarysse and the anonymous referees of BASP for their
interesting comments, in particular for the suggestions of readings for SB 3.6222, and
to Herbert Verreth for references on topography. I also thank Fabian Reiter of the
Agyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preuf3ischer
Kulturbesitz, for the high quality photograph of the papyrus and the permission to
publish it. The research was funded by a fellowship of the Research Foundation Flanders
("Aspirant van het FWO").
2 One of the first studies on ancient athletics was J.H. Krause, Olympia, oder Darstellung der grossen olympischen Spiele und der damit verbundenen Festlichkeiten (Vienna
3 To name just two examples: M. Laimmer (ed.), Colloquium Agonistik in der romischen Kaiserzeit = Stadion 24.1 (Sankt Augustin 1998); Z. Newby, Greek Athletics in the
Roman World: Victory and Virtue (Oxford 2005).