Prof. Wolfgang Decker, Fellow of CESH no. 19 (Deutsche Sporthochschule, Cologne, Germany) passed away on April 28.
Prof. Fernando García Romero, Fellow of CESH, has written a short obituary. May he rest in peace.
On April 28, 2020, Professor Wolfgang Decker, a historic member of the CESH College of Fellows, passed away at the age of 78. Professor Decker is the author of a vast scientific production, based on a very solid academic background: he had studied sports sciences at the Deutsche Sporthochschule in Cologne, where he would be Professor of sports history from 1976 until his retirement, and also classical studies, archeology and Egyptology at the University of Cologne. He has been the world’s greatest specialist in Egyptian sport, a subject on which he published, in addition to many articles, some fundamental books: his general works Sport und Spiel im Alten Ägypten (Múnich 1987; English translation Yale 1992) and Pharao und Sport (Mainz 2006), the critical compilation of texts Quellentexte zu Sport und Körperkultur im alten Ägypten (St. August 1975) and, in collaboration with Michael Herb, the compilation of iconographic sources with an extensive comment Bildatlas zum Sport im Alten Ägypten. Corpus der bildlichen Quellen zu Leibesübungen, Spiel, Jagd, Tanz und verwandten Themen (Leiden 1994).
He has also been for the last 50 years one of the greatest scholars of ancient Greek sport, a period to which he dedicated, among countless other works, his book Sport in der griechischen Antike. Vom minoischen Wettkampf zu den Olympischen Spielen (Hildesheim 2012, translated into Greek in Athens 2004) and his biographical dictionary of great athletes from the Ancient World Antike Spitzensportler. Athletenbiographien aus dem Alten Orient, Ägypten und Griechenland (Hildesheim 2014). He was also one of the main promoters of the magazine Nikephoros. Zeitschrift für Sport und Kultur im Altertum, of whose bibliographic rapports he dealt with for many years, an essential instrument for all researchers of sport in the ancient world.
During the last stage of his academic production he was also actively engaged in studying the origins of the modern Olympic Games, and specifically the contribution of Greece, since his precise knowledge of the modern Greek language (he was a great polyglot) allowed him direct access to the reading of the original sources; one of the fruits of that work was the book Praeludium Olympicum. Das Memorandum des Jahres 1835 von Innenminister Ioannis Kolettis an König Otto I. von Griechenland über ein Nationalfest mit öffentlichen Spielen nach dem Muster der antiken panhellenischen Agone (Hildesheim 2006).
Wolfgang Decker has been a teacher in the broadest, noblest, and truest sense of the word. To his intelligence and wisdom, he added exceptional human qualities. We are left with his work and we still have the memory of his intelligent and at the same time funny conversation, of his slow speech in any of the several languages he dominated, of his always kind and polite treatment, of his generosity towards his colleagues and disciples, whatever his age and academic rank.
Prof. Fernando García Romero
Prof. Wolfgang Decker in CESH 2014 Edessa congress (2014).