Milon of Kroton
The most famous Olympic winner in wrestling was Milon from Croton, with
six victories (540/532/528/524/520/516 BC). He was a pupil of the
philosopher Pythagoras. There are many stories about the strength of Milon, which he developed by lifting a calf every day, until
became a bull. It was said that he lifted a bull, which carried two rounds
in the stadium of Olympia and later killed him and ate him alone. It was
such his strength, that he was able to pull apart the trunk of a tree.
Nobody could bend the fingers of his extended hand. He used to keep gently
in his hand a pomegranate, while others were trying to take it and always
at the end it remained intact. It was easy for him to bend a bronze coin
between his finger and thump. When he became an Olympic winner and
made him his statue at Olympia, he lifted it and placed it in its base,
even though it was weighting more than two thousand pounds.
His end was tragic. One day in the countryside, near Kroton, he saw a
trunk of a tree, which had iron wedges. When Milon tried to take off the
wedges, his hands were caught and he was unable to free them. He stayed in
this position for days and he was devoured by wolfs.
Arrachion of Phigalia
A heroic and at the same time tragic event took place at Olympia, when the
pankratiast Arrachion from Phigalia died during the game. Arrachion being
in a difficult position, when his opponent grabbed his neck, managed to
make him raise his hand (the sign of defeat) by twisting his leg, while
himself was dying. Arrachion, though dead, was pronounced the winner. He
won three times at Olympia (572/568/564 BC).
Theagenes of Thasos
Theagenes of Thasos was one of the most famous pankratiasts. He was the
son of a priest and as a nine year old boy, he stole a bronze statue of a
god and carried it home. When the people of Thasos learnt about the
incident, they wanted to punish the boy with death. Luckily for Theagenes,
an old man of Thasos took the decision, that the only punishment for the
boy was to carry the statue back to its base.
Theagenes won twice in Olympia, in boxing 480 BC and pankration 476 BC,
but had numerous other victories at the Pythian games, etc. After his
death, the people of Thasos made his statue and there is a story that
someone who was unable to defeat Theagenes, he was hitting the statue
every night. One night the statue fell from its base and killed him. The
Thasians forced by law, took the statue from its base and threw it to the
After this event Thasos was struck by drought and consulting Delphi,
received the oracle to bring back all the exiles. The Thasians obeyed, but
the drought continued and asked the help of Delphi for a second time.
Delphi told them that they had forgotten Theagenes. When fishermen caught
the statue in their nets and brought it to Thasos, the drought ended.
During his career as an athlete in the course of 22 years, he won 1300
Polydamas of Thessaly
Polydamas from Skotoussa of Thessaly was one of the most famous Olympic
winners (408 BC). It was said that, like Herakles, he killed a lion with
his bare hands. In another story, he grabbed the feet of a raging bull,
who managed at the end to get free, but left the hoof of his feet at the
hands of Polydamas.
King Dareios of Persia, who learned about the exploits of Polydamas, sent
his men with gifts and persuaded him to come to Sussa. One day Dareios
brought three of the best Persian wrestlers to fight at the same time
against Polydamas. After a short fight, Polydamas killed two of them and
the third one run away. His life ended tragically, when he tried to stop
the falling roof of a cave, in which he and his friends were in.
Sostratos of Sikyon
Sostratos the pankratiast from Sikyon, the so-called
from the unusual style he used. He would grip his antagonist by the
fingers and bend them and he would not let him go, until his opponent had
given in. (In Greek hai akrai cheires,
hence Akrochersites, the "fingerer").
Sostratos won three consecutive victories at the Olympic games (364, 360,
356 BC), as the inscription on his statue at Olympia indicated. He also
won twelve combined victories, at the Nemean and Isthmian games, and two
at Pytho. A victor's statue of him was at Delphi. Sikyonian coins from 320
BC have a representation of him.
Glaukos of Karystos
Glaukos of Karystos, who won at Olympia in boxing (520 BC), was the son of
the farmer Dimylos, who once saw him to use his hand as a hammer, in order
to put the ploughshare inside the plow. Glaukos was trained for a short
time as a boxer and went to Olympia. During his boxing match, he was
beaten badly by his most experienced opponent. His father, who was
watching the game closely, seeing his son in this critical situation, he said to him: "my son, give him the punch of the
plow". Glaukos, with all his remaining strength, using his hand like a
hammer, hit his opponent, who fell to the ground.
When Glaukos died, he was buried in a small island near Karystos, which
today has his name, the island of Glaukos.
Diagoras of Rhodes
The boxer Diagoras of Rhodes (464 BC) belonged to a noble family and
during his life, he was known by the whole Greece, as the best example of
an athlete. His style was unique. He never tried to avoid a blow from his
opponent and always kept strictly the rules of the game.
His sons became also Olympic winners and he was fortunate to see them
winning, the one in boxing and the other in the pankratium. After their
accomplishment, the joyous sons of Diagoras, crowned their father's head
with olive branches and carried him in their shoulders. The whole stadium
cheered and congratulated them and when someone advised him to die at that
moment, Diagoras let his head drop and died instantly, in the shoulders of
his sons. The younger son of Diagoras, Dorieus, became an able
politician and military leader and when he was captured in the war by the
Athenians, he immediately was set free. The grandchild of Diagoras
also became an Olympic winner.
Diagoras won four time at the Isthmian games and twice at the Nemean games
and Pindar in his odes describes him as a fair fighter and a giant of a
Melankomas of Karia
The boxer Melankomas of Karia, who won at Olympia in 49 AD, was known to
the whole Greece, for his unusual style in boxing and for his exceptional
handsome body and good looks. He had great stamina, he could fight the
whole day without being tired.
During his career, in which had many victories, he never injured his
opponent, believing that to injure was lack of bravery. Melankomas during
the fight avoided masterfully the blows of his opponent, who exhausted and
frustrated, resigned. Melankomas died at an early age.
Orsippos of Megara
It was the Megarian Orsippos, winner of the foot race in 720 BC, who
distinguished himself as the first Greek to run naked in Olympia and he
was praised for his action, because he extended the borders of his
country, while her enemies where trying to shrink them.
Ladas of Argos
Ladas of Argos won the dolicho's at 460 BC. He was famous for his light
running. It was said, that his feet did not leave tracks on the ground.
Lasthenes of Thebes
Lasthenes of Thebes winner of the dolicho's, at 404 BC. He was the winner
of a contest, between him and a racehorse, who run from Koroneia to
Aegeus of Argos
Another famous long distance runner from Argos was Aegeus, who after
winning at Olympia (328 BC), he run to Argos to bring the good news
without making any stops.
Leonidas of Rhodes
Leonidas of Rhodes was the only ancient Greek athlete to accomplish the
impossible feat, winning four consecutive Olympiads in three events, the
diaulos, the stadion and the race in armour (164, 160, 156, 152 BC).
Kyniska of Sparta
Kyniska, daughter of king Archidamus of Sparta, was the first woman to
breed horses and the first one to win two Olympic victories in Tethrippon (four
horses chariot race in 396, 392 BC).
Herodoros of Megara
Herodoros of Megara won nine successive Olympiads in the trumpeter's
competition (328 - 296 BC). Herodoros was a man of immense size and in the
expedition of Demetrios Poliorketes against the city of Argos, he blew two
trumpets at the same time, inspiring the soldiers to win the battle.