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Panathenaic amphora, 5th century BC, British Museum
The opening of the Olympic games started with a four horse chariot race.

 

Famous Olympic Victors

 

Milon of Kroton
Arrachion of Phigalias
Theagenes of Thasos
Polydamas of Thessaly
Sostratos of Sikyon
Glaukos of Karystos
Diagoras of Rhodes
Melankomas of Karia
Orsippos of Megara
Ladas of Argos
Lasthenes of Thebes
Aegeus of Argos
Leonidas of Rhodes
Kyniska of Sparta
Herodoros of Megara

 

 


Wrestling

Wrestling
Wrestling

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.

Pangratium

Pangratium
Pagratium

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 sea.
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 titles.

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 Akrochersites, 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.

Boxing

Boxing
Boxing

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 man.

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.

Running

Running race, Dolichos (4000 m), 500 BC
Running

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 Thebes.

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).

Other games

Trumpeter

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.

Halters were used by the athletes in jumping, to give them momentum. 

 


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