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via Facebook: Romans Used Celebrity Fighter to Recruit Soldiers

April 9, 2012

Flavillianus excelled at two sports, wrestling and pankration, winning victories in Athens, Argos and Neapolis. Both of these sports have roots in ancient Greece.
CREDIT: Timothy R. Nichols.

Ancient history meets new media: This item came up on Facebook this morning courtesy the Biblical Archaeological Society’s Bible History Daily. (Sidebar: also in the new media realm, this AdAge reportStudy: Young Consumers Switch Media 27 Times an Hour. Q: What are the implications of this study for scholars, educators, museum curators, etc. who aim to engage younger audiences?). Now, back to our story:

A newly translated Greek inscription recovered from the ancient town of Oinoanda in southwest Turkey reveals that the Roman army relied on the services of a mixed martial arts champion to recruit new soldiers to the army. The early third-century C.E. inscription honors Lucius Septimius Flavianus Flavillianus who was a revered champion in wrestling and pankration, a bloody fighting sport that had only two rules: no eye-gouging and no biting. According to the inscription, which was engraved on the base of a statue in the town’s agora, Lucius eventually became a Roman military recruiter who identified and then transported new soldiers to the Syrian city of Heirapolis. “[Lucius] would have been able to judge suitable recruits, and he probably knew lots of suitable recruits,” said Nicholas Milner, a researcher with the British Institute at Ankara who translated the inscription. “A celebrity would have a greater ability to drum up support and large numbers of volunteers than somebody who was not a celebrity.”

A more in-depth account courtesy Live Science.

A new inscription reveals that a Roman city in Turkey, Oinoanda, turned to a mixed martial art champion named Lucius Septimius Flavianus Flavillianus to recruit and deliver soldiers for the empire’s army. It is written in Greek.
CREDIT: Photo by Nicholas Milner, British Institute at Ankara.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 9, 2012 10:25 AM

    Simply fascinating!

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