Wine for the horse doctor: Fourth century AD

Ostraca, broken pottery fragments, provided a cheap and readily-available surface for writing brief short-term messages, and have been found in their hundreds in remote desert sites where papyrus was not so easily to be had.

This is one of an archive of over 100 similar texts, all orders to supply wine to various personnel involved in chariot racing in the hippodrome of Oxyrhynchus. A large jar a day for six days is the ration authorised here.

The ‘Blues’ and the ‘Greens’ were notorious chariot-racing factions. That this was as true in Oxyrhynchus as elsewhere is shown by the inscription in favour of the Blues that had been roughly carved at the top of the ‘Phocas pillar’.

John Shelton, Greek Ostraca in the Ashmolean Museum (1988), no.83


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