The first two lines of the inscription are perhaps to be restored not as [τῶν ἀπὸ τῆ]ς̣ οἰκουμένης ἀθλη[τῶν, [ton apo te]s oikoumenes athle[ton, (Dittenberger), as it is too long to fit into the available space and it seems syntactically problematic, but as [οἱ ἀπὸ τῆ]ς̣ οἰκουμένης ἀθλη[ταὶ, [hoi apo te]s oikoumenes athle[tai, on the basis of the text of IvO 469. However, Dittenberger’s restoration perhaps indicates that Vettulenus Laetus is not honoured by the international union of athletes itself, but only by its members who took part in the Olympic games of the 216th Olympiad.
It is not certain, whether hoi apo tes oikoumenes athletai are to be identified with hoi apo tes oikoumenes hieronikai kai athletai of the inscriptions IvO 436 and 469 from Olympia (CAP Inv. 1478). Pleket 1973: 201-10 believes that in the second half of the 1st c. BC there were two separate guilds of athletes and sacred victors, but later there was one and only organization of athletes and victors, but in several inscriptions we encounter certain short-hands of the complete title of the association. The designation hoi apo tes oikoumenes indicates international union(s). Dittenberger’s restoration of the text of IvO 436 as [τῶν ἀπὸ τῆ]ς̣ οἰκουμένης ἀθλη[τῶν ὅ τε] σύμπας ξυστός, [οἱ παραγ]ενόμενοι ἐπὶ τὸν [ἀγῶνα] τῶν Ὀλυμπίων, [ton apo te]s oikoumenes athle[ton ho te] sympas xystos, [hoi parag]enomenoi epi ton [agona] ton Olympion, (provided that it is correct) indicates that Vettulenus Laetus is not honoured by the international union of athletes itself, but by its members who took part in the Olympic games of the 216th Olympiad. Pellet 1973: 207-208 further suggests that hoi apo tes oikoumenes athletai of IvO 436 "are subsequently divided into two categories", i.e, [ὅ τε] σύμπας ξυστός, [οἱ παραγ]ενόμενοι ἐπὶ τὸν [ἀγῶνα] τῶν Ὀλυμπίων, [ho te] sympas xystos, [hoi parag]enomenoi epi ton [agona] ton Olympion and the ἱερὰ ξυστικῆ σύνοδος hiera xystike synodos. The categories are: (a) the entire xystos, h.e. the ad hoc groups of athletes who from all over the world came together for the celebration of the 216th Olympic games (AD 85) and (b) the permanent ecumenical guild of athletes. The full title of the latter is given in three imperial letters from the 1st century AD, written by Claudius and Vespasian and preserved on a papyrus: ἡ ἱερὰ ξυστικὴ περιπολιστικὴ σύνοδος τῶν περὶ τὸν Ἡρακλέα, he hiera xystike peripolistike synodos ton peri ton Heraklea. In the course of time further imperial epithets... and patrons... are added to the guild's name. It is hard to tell whether the two ecumenical guilds of the athletes and guilds have continued to exist separately until the end of ancient athletics or have possibly achieved a merger. It cannot be argued on the basis of this inscription that there was a local Olympic branch of the international guild (cf. Pleket 1973: 205).
An oecumenical corporation of hieronikai and stephanitai is for the first time attested in a document preserved on the rear side of a medical papyrus. It is a prescript of Mark Antony who grants them several privileges (Brandis, 1897: 509-522). This text implies that the corporation already existed, as the confirmation of previously received privileges indicates, but it is unknown since when. It is further unclear, how it was organized, where it was based, whether it had one and only headquarters, whether it had local branches, whether it included both athletic and thymelic victors (since both could be hieronikai) or merely athletes. Brandis and other scholars, such as Forbes 1897: 240, are inclined towards the former view, whilst others, such as Pleket 1973: 200, to the latter.
Brandis, C.G. (1897), ‘Ein Schreiben des Triumvirn Marcus Antonius an den Landtag Asiens’, Hermes 32: 509-522.
Forbes, C.A. (1955), ‘Ancient Athletic Guilds’, CPh 50: 238-52 esp. 240.
Pleket, H.W. (1973), ‘Some aspects of the history of the ancient athletic guilds’, ZPE 10: 197-227 esp. 201-10.