Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern

Article excerpt

Those nice people at Fifa seem to be having a terrible time from the British press, which never stops accusing them of bribery and corruption. What on earth is our problem? Of course games are corrupt. In the ancient world, we now know they could be legally corrupt. Perfect!

The Greek comic poet Cratinus invented three goddesses of political bribery: Doro , St Give, Dexo , St Receive and Emblo , St Backhander. Courts described such 'corruption' in terms taken from the despised world of trade -- 'buying', 'selling', 'profit' and so on. In the real world, however, it was more usually described as 'giving', 'receiving' and 'persuading'. One Greek orator argued that personal advantage from bribery was fine as long as it brought tangible public benefits.

That culture transferred smoothly to games. At Olympia there were rows of bronze statues of Zeus (Zanes ), paid for by, and featuring the names of, those found guilty of taking bribes to fix a contest or e. …

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