Ancient olympia history
Alkibiades (ca. 450-404 v.C.) was an Athenian aristocrat from an eminent family. Like all Athenian upper class boys, he trained in the gymnasion. He is told to have wrestled with the famous philosopher Sokrates as sparring-partner. Alkibiades was a fine sportsman, but he deliberately chose not to participate in athletic contests. He preferred the expensive and prestigious horse races, which were reserved for the rich
In 416 BC, in the middle of the Peloponnesian war, he won an exceptional victory in the four-horse chariot races at the Olympic games: he was first, second and fourth. He had participated with not less than seven four-horse chariots. No citizen, king or city had ever done that before him: he set a record. This brought him an enormous fame. He ordered artists to paint and sculpture him and, though in his time it was no longer the habit, he asked the poet Euripides to write a victory ode in the style of Pindar. Above that, he stood treat for whole Olympia.
After his victory he was engaged in a lawsuit about the winning team of horses, that was bought from the city Argos. The accusor claimed that he had asked Alkibiades to act a mediator, but that he had kept the horses for himself. Besides his Olympic victory, Alkibiades also won the chariot races at the Pythian, Nemean and Panathenaic games.
Already during his career as a sportsman, Alkibiades was an influencial and ambitious politician. He used his victory to his political advantage and claimed the generalship over the expedition to Sicily for himself. In his speech before the assembly he argued that his Olympic victory was also a victory of Athens. Because of his victories, money, ambition, noble origin and exuberant way of living Alkibiades was both admired and mistrusted. He was appointed as general, but after he had left for Sicily, he was called back for several lawsuits. He fled to Sparta and there he became adviser against Athens. Later, he deserted to the Persians. From there he effected his return to Athens and he won some military victories for his home town. Eventially he would retire to the court of a Persian satrap in Asia Minor, where he was killed is 404 BC.
Milon of Croton (late 6th century BC) was the most famous of Greek athletes in Antiquity.
He was born in the Greek colony of Croton in Southern Italy. He was a six time Olympic victor; once for Boys Wrestling in 540 BC at the 60th Olympics, and five time wrestling champion at the 62nd through 66th Olympiads. Milo kept on competing, even well after what would have been considered a normal Olympic Athlete's prime: by the 67th Olympiad, he would have been over 40 years of age. He also attended many of the Pythian Games.
He was most likely a historical person, as he is mentioned by many classical authors, among them Aristotle, Pausanias, Cicero, Herodotus, and the author of the Suda, but there are many legendary stories surrounding him. Diodorus Siculus wrote in his history that Milo was a follower of Pythagoras and also that he commanded the Crotonian army which defeated the Sybarites in 511 BC, while wearing his Olympic wreaths and dressed like Hercules in a lion's skin and carrying a club.
Ancient sources report he would show off his strength by holding his arm out, with fingers outstretched, and no man could even bend his little finger. He would sometimes stand on a greased iron disk, and challenge people to push him off of it. Other sources speak of him holding a pomegranate in one hand, and daring others to take it from him. Nobody ever could, and despite him holding the fruit very tightly, it was never damaged. Another legend has it that he would train in the off years by carrying a newborn calf on his back every day until the Olympics took place. By the time the events were to take place, he was carrying a four year old cow on his back.
Another legend says that he offered to cut down a large tree for a woodsman, who was grateful for the help and promised to return with food later in the day. However, the woodsman never returned, and while Milo was working the tree collapsed on his hand, trapping him. The legend says that Milo was then eaten by wolves or a lion.
Astylos of Croton - Astylos of Croton in southern Italy won a total of six victory olive wreaths in three Olympiads (488-480 B.C.) in the stade and the diaulos (twice the stade) events. In the first Olympiad, he ran for Kroton and his compatriots honoured and glorified him. In the two successive Olympiads, however, he took part as a citizen of Syracuse. The people of Kroton punished him by demolishing his statue in their city and converting his house into a prison.
Leonidas of Rhodes - Leonidas of Rhodes was one of the most famous runners in Antiquity. His was a unique achievement, even by today's standards. For four consecutive Olympiads (164-152 B.C.), he won three races, - the stade race, the diaulos race and the armour race. He won a total of 12 Olympic victory wreaths. He was acclaimed as a hero by his compatriots.
Melankomas of Karia - Melankomas of Karia was crowned Olympic boxing champion in 49 B.C., and was a winner in many other events. He went down in history for the way in which he fought. His movements were light, simple and fascinating. He would defeat his opponents without ever being hit himself, nor ever dealing a blow. He was reputed to fight for two days holding his arms out without ever lowering them. He attained his excellent competitive form through continuous and strenuous exercise.
Kyniska of Sparta the first women Olympic medal winner (chariot race): Kyniska, daughter of King Archidamos of Sparta, was the first women athlete to ventured into the Olympiads—an all male bastion then. Not only that, she even won medals in the four-horse chariot race in the 96th and 97th Olympiads, (396 B.C. and 392 B.C. respectively). There is a twist in the tale. She won the Olympiads wreath not for being on the chariot as a rider, but for just owning the horses that won the race. It was a rule then, that, in equestrian; it would be the horse owner of the winning horse who would be honored and not the rider.
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.
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.