AN ANCIENT training manual for Roman athletes — carved in marble almost 2000 years ago — prescribes far worse punishments than a sending off or a week's docked pay if they performed badly in the Colosseum.
The manual recommends a flogging to get them to perform better. And the same went if they drank too much mead or behaved disgracefully with the local maidens.
The marble tablet was found in 2003 in the town of Alexandria Troas in Turkey, and deciphered only recently by academics at the University of Muenster in Germany. Applied to professional football players today, the whip would undoubtedly replace the half-time talk as the favoured discipline of choice.
The 1.8-metre-high, 90-centimetre-wide tablet was inscribed with the name of Hadrian, the emperor who built a wall in northern England. He sought to get the best out of his athletes.
The tablet, according to research leader Professor Elmar Schwertheim, also listed entry fees to games such as discus and javelin throwing.
"This find is a sensation," Professor Schwertheim said. "The Roman athletes were the best in the world and this gives an idea of how they came to be the best. It was intended for Olympic games of antiquity."
The experts, who deciphered the 1800-year-old marble plate with the rules set out by Hadrian, said athletes caught living the high life by "drinking too much or womanising" instead of practising were whipped for being "undisciplined".
The plate also revealed sanctions for any cities that embezzled prizemoney.
The professor is leading a team back to the site this year to search for new treasures.