Milo of Croton

Milo of Croton (/ˈmaɪloʊ/; Greek: Μίλων, Mílōn; gen.: Μίλωνος, Mílōnos) was a 6th-century BC wrestler from the Magna Graecian city of Croton, who enjoyed a brilliant wrestling career and won many victories in the most important athletic festivals of ancient Greece.[1][2][3] In addition to his athletic victories, Milo is credited by the ancient commentator Diodorus Siculus with leading his fellow citizens to military triumph over neighboring Sybaris in 510 BC.

Milo was also said to have carried a bull on his shoulders, and to have burst a band about his brow by simply inflating the veins of his temples.

The date of Milo's death is unknown, but he reportedly was attempting to tear a tree apart when his hands became trapped in a crevice in its trunk, and a pack of wolves surprised and devoured him. Milo has been depicted in works of art by Pierre Puget, Étienne-Maurice Falconet and others. Literary allusions to this story appear in works such as Rabelais's Gargantua and Pantagruel, Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, and Alexandre Dumas's The Man in the Iron Mask.

Suvée, Joseph-Benoit - Milo of Croton
Milo of Croton by Joseph-Benoît Suvée
(18th century, oil on canvas)

Athletic career

Milo was a six-time Olympic victor. He won the boys' wrestling (probably in 540 BC),[4] and thereafter five men's wrestling titles between 536 and 520 BCE.[1][2][3] He also won seven crowns at the Pythian Games at Delphi (one as a boy), ten at the Isthmian Games, and nine at the Nemean Games.[2] Milo was a five-time Periodonikēs, a "grand slam" sort of title bestowed on the winner of all four festivals in the same cycle.[3] Milo's career at the highest level of competition must have spanned 24 years.[2]

Milo was defeated (or tied) in his attempt at a seventh Olympic title in 516 BCE by a young wrestler from Croton who practiced the technique of akrocheirismos—literally, 'highhandedness' or wrestling at arm's length—and by doing so, avoided Milo's crushing embrace. Simple fatigue took its toll on Milo.[1][2][3]

Milo's hometown had a reputation for producing excellent athletes. In the Olympiad of 576 BC, for example, the first seven finishers in the stade—a 200 yards (180 m) sprint—were all men of Croton. After Milo's career, Croton apparently produced no other athletes of renown.[3]

Military experience

Herakles Niobid krater Louvre G341
Heracles wearing a hero's wreath, a lion-skin, and carrying a club. Milo appeared in similar dress at the battle between Croton and Sybaris in 510 BC. Detail of Herakles from Side A of the vase, "Herakles and the gathering of the Argonauts (aka "Herakles in Marathon"), Attic red-figure calyx-krater, 460–50 BCE, Louvre.

About 510 BC, hostilities arose between Croton and nearby Sybaris when Telys, a Sybarite tyrant, banished the 500 wealthiest citizens of Sybaris after seizing their property. When the displaced Sybarites sought refuge at Croton and Telys demanded their return, an opportunity for the Crotoniates to destroy a powerful neighbor presented itself.[5] In an account that appeared five hundred years after the event, Diodorus Siculus wrote that the philosopher Pythagoras, who spent much of his life at Croton, urged the Croton assembly to protect the banished citizens of Sybaris. When the decision to do so was made, the dispute between the two cities was aggravated, each took up arms, and Milo led the charge against Sybaris.[3][6]

According to Diodorus (XII, 9):

"One hundred thousand men of Croton were stationed with three hundred thousand Sybarite troops ranged against them. Milo the athlete led them and through his tremendous physical strength first turned the troops lined up against him."

Diodorus indicates Milo led the charge against the Sybarites wearing his Olympic crowns, draped in a lionskin and brandishing a club in a manner similar to the mythic hero Heracles (see adjacent image).[1][2][3]

Personal life

According to Pausanias he was the son of Diotimus.[7] Ancient commentators mention an association between Milo and the philosopher Pythagoras, who lived at or near Croton for many years.[2] Commentators may have confused the philosopher with an athletic trainer, Pythagoras of Samos, but it is also possible the trainer and the philosopher were the same person.[8]

It was said Milo saved Pythagoras's life when a pillar collapsed in a banquet hall and he supported the roof until Pythagoras could reach safety.[2] He may have married Myia, a Pythagorean herself or possibly Pythagoras' daughter.[2][3] Diogenes Laërtius (VIII, 39) says Pythagoras died in a fire in Milo's house,[2] but Dicaearchus (as cited by Diogenes Laërtius, VIII, 40) says Pythagoras died in the temple of the Muses at Metapontum of self-imposed starvation. Porphyry (Vita Pythagorae, 55) says Milo's house at Croton was burned and the Pythagoreans within stoned.[9]

Herodotus (III, 137-38), who lived some years after Milo's death, says the wrestler accepted a large sum of money from the distinguished physician Democedes for the privilege of marrying Milo's daughter. If Herodotus is indeed correct, then Milo was probably not a member of Croton's nobility for such an arrangement with a wage-earning physician would have been beneath the dignity of a Greek noble.[2] Democedes was a native of Croton and enjoyed a successful career as a physician at Croton, Aegina, Athens, and Samos. He was captured by Darius in the defeat of the Samian tyrant Polycrates and taken to the Persian capital of Susa as a slave. There, he carefully tended both the king and queen and was eventually permitted to revisit Croton, but under guard. He escaped his Persian guards and made his way to Croton, where he married Milo's daughter. The physician sent a message regarding his marriage to Darius, who was an admirer of the wrestler and can only have learned of him through Democedes during his slavery at Susa.[10]

Cultural representations

Place of champions in Greek culture

Like the tragic protagonists of Greek drama, the Greek athlete had a "larger than life" quality. At Olympia, for example, they were set apart from the general population for lengthy training periods and the observation of a complex series of prohibitions that included abstinence from intercourse. Once training was completed and the athletes were brought before their fellow citizens trim, fit, nude and shimmering with oil, they must have appeared semi-divine.[11]

The reverential awe in which athletes were held in Greece led to exaggeration in the tales surrounding their lives. In Milo's case, Aristotle (Ethica Nichomachea, II, 6 = 1106b) began the myth-making process with reports likening Milo unto Heracles in his enormous appetite, and Athenaeus (X, 412e-f) continued the process with the story of Milo carrying a bull—a feat also associated with Heracles. It is Milo's sudden death which makes him most akin to the heroes: there is a hint of hubris in his attempt to rend the tree asunder, and striking contrast between his glorious athletic achievements and his sudden ignoble death.[11]

Feats of strength

Anecdotes about Milo's almost superhuman strength and lifestyle abound. His daily diet allegedly consisted of 9 kg (20 lbs) of meat, 9 kg (20 lbs) of bread, and 10 litres (18 pt) of wine.[3] Pliny the Elder (XXXVII, 54 = 144) and Solinus (De mirabilibus mundi, 77) both attribute Milo's invincibility in competition to the wrestler's consumption of alectoriae, the gizzard stones of roosters.[2][12] Legends say he carried his own bronze statue to its place at Olympia, and once carried a four-year-old bull on his shoulders before slaughtering, roasting, and devouring it in one day.[2][3] He was said to have achieved the feat of lifting the bull by starting in childhood, lifting and carrying a newborn calf and repeating the feat daily as it grew to maturity.[13][14]

One report says the wrestler was able to hold a pomegranate without damaging it while challengers tried to pry his fingers from it, and another report says he could burst a band fastened around his brow by inhaling air and causing the temple veins to swell. He was said to maintain his footing on an oiled discus while others tried to push him from it.[2][3][15] These feats have been attributed to misinterpretations of statues depicting Milo with his head bound in victor's ribbons, his hand holding the apple of victory, and his feet positioned on a round disc that would have been fitted into a pedestal or base.[3]

When he participated in the Olympics for the seventh time and collided against a fellow, the eighteen year Timasiteo, who admired him as a child and where he also learned many moves, the final, his opponent bowed before they had even started fighting, in a sign of respect. This was the only case in the history of Greece when we remember the name of the man who finished second in a race / competition. For his exploits as a supporter of the Dameas erected a statue in the stadium of Olympia, where he was represented standing on a disc with their feet united.

While one report says Milo held his arm outstretched and challengers were unable to bend his fingers, another anecdote recorded by Claudius Aelianus (Varia historia, XII, 12) disputes Milo's reputation for enormous strength. Apparently, Milo challenged a peasant named Titormus to a trial of strength. Titormus proclaimed he had little strength, but lifted a boulder to his shoulders, carried it several meters and dropped it. Milo was unable to lift it.[16]


The Ancient Greeks typically attributed remarkable deaths to famous persons in keeping with their characters.[2] The date of Milo's death is unknown, but according to Strabo (VI, 1, 12) and Pausanias (VI, 14, 8), Milo was walking in a forest when he came upon a tree-trunk split with wedges. In what was probably intended as a display of strength, Milo inserted his hands into the cleft to rend the tree. The wedges fell from the cleft, and the tree closed upon his hands, trapping him. Unable to free himself, the wrestler was devoured by wolves.[1][2][3] A modern historian has suggested it is more likely that Milo was traveling alone when attacked by wolves. Unable to escape, he was devoured and his remains found at the foot of a tree.[3]

Modern art and literature

Milo of Croton, Attempting to Test His Strength, Is Caught and Devoured by a Lion - Charles Meynier
Milo of Croton, Attempting to Test His Strength, Is Caught and Devoured by a Lion by Charles Meynier (1795). In art of this period he is often depicted being killed by a lion rather than wolves.

Milo's legendary strength and death have become the subjects of modern art and literature. His death was a popular subject in 18th-century art. In many images of this period his killer is portrayed as a lion rather than wolves. In Pierre Puget's sculpture Milo of Croton (1682), the work's themes are the loss of strength with age, and the ephemerality of glory as symbolized by an Olympic trophy lying in the dust.[17]

Étienne-Maurice Falconet's marble Milo of Croton (1754) secured his admission to the Académie des beaux-arts, but was later criticized for lack of nobility. The work clashed with the classical ideal requiring a dying hero to express stoic restraint.[18]

Milo was the subject of a bronze by Alessandro Vittoria circa 1590, and another bronze now standing in Holland Park, London by an unknown nineteenth-century artist. A sculpture was made by John Graham Lough and exhibited at the Royal Academy. It was depicted by Ralph Hedley in a painting of the artist in his studio,[19] and a bronze cast of it stands in the grounds of Blagdon Hall, Northumberland.

His death is also depicted in paintings. It is the subject of an eighteenth-century oil on canvas by Joseph-Benoît Suvée and a work by the eighteenth-century Irish painter James Barry.

In literature, François Rabelais compares Gargantua's strength to that of Milo's in Gargantua and Pantagruel, and Shakespeare refers anachronistically to "bull-bearing Milo" in Act 2 of Troilus and Cressida. In Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, character Catherine Earnshaw refers to the circumstances of Milo's demise when she says, "Who is to separate us, pray? They'll meet the fate of Milo!" In Johann Wyss' novel Swiss Family Robinson, the youngest son Franz is entrusted with a bull buffalo to raise, and from which gains comparison to Milo. Alexandre Dumas has the strongest of the Three Musketeers, Porthos, mention "Milo of Crotona" saying that he had replicated a list of his feats of strength - all except breaking a cord tied around the head, whereupon d'Artagnan tells Porthos that it is because his strength is not in his head (a joke about Porthos being a bit dim-witted).

The chocolate and malt powder drink base, Milo, developed by Thomas Mayne in Australia in 1934 is named after Milo of Croton. Milo, a magazine covering strength sports that was published from 1993 to 2018, is also named after him.


  1. ^ a b c d e Spivey, Nigel Jonathan (2004). The Ancient Olympics. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 65–66, 100–101. ISBN 978-0-19-280433-4. Retrieved 2009-03-01.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Poliakoff, Michael B. (1987). Combat Sports in the Ancient World. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. pp. 117–119, 182–183. ISBN 978-0-300-03768-5. Retrieved 2009-03-01.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Harris, H.A. (1964). Greek Athletes and Athletics. London: Hutchinson & Co. pp. 110–113. ISBN 978-0-313-20754-9.
  4. ^ At Olympia, a "boy" was a male between his seventeenth and twentieth birthday. (Harris, p. 154–155)
  5. ^ Boardman, John; N.G.L. Hammond (1982). The Cambridge Ancient History. Cambridge University Press. p. 194. ISBN 978-0-521-23447-4. Retrieved 2009-04-03.
  6. ^ Guthrie, William Keith Chambers (1962). A History of Greek Philosophy. Cambridge University Press. p. 176. ISBN 978-0-521-05159-0. Retrieved 2009-04-03.
  7. ^ Pausanias, VI, 14, 5.
  8. ^ Reidwig, Christoph; Steven Rendall (2005). Pythagoras. Cornell University Press. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-8014-4240-7. Retrieved 2009-04-03.
  9. ^ Guthrie, Kenneth Sylvan (1987). The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library. Phanes Press. pp. 134, 151–152. ISBN 978-0-933999-50-3. Retrieved 2009-04-03.
  10. ^ (Harris, p. 113)
  11. ^ a b Larmour, David Henry James (1999). Stage and Stadium. Hildesheim: Weidmann. pp. 56–58. ISBN 978-3-615-00209-6. Retrieved 2009-04-03.
  12. ^ Beagon, Mary (2005). The Elder Pliny on the Human Animal. Oxford University Press. p. 266. ISBN 978-0-19-815065-7. Retrieved 2009-04-03.
  13. ^ Clyde Soles (2008). Climbing: Training for Peak Performance (2 ed.). The Mountaineers Books. p. 131. ISBN 978-1-59485-098-1.
  14. ^ Daniel D. Chiras (2005). Human biology (5 ed.). Jones & Bartlett Publishers. p. 229. ISBN 978-0-7637-2899-1.
  15. ^ Pausanias, VI, 14, 6-7.
  16. ^ Harris, Harold Arthur (1972). Sport in Greece and Rome. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. p. 143. ISBN 978-0-8014-0718-5. Retrieved 2009-02-27.
  17. ^ Montalbetti, Valerie. "Milo of Croton by Pierre Puget". Musée du Louvre. Archived from the original on 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2009-02-27.
  18. ^ Montalbetti, Valérie. "Milo of Croton by Étienne-Maurice Falconet". Musée du Louvre. Archived from the original on 2008-05-08. Retrieved 2009-02-27.
  19. ^ John Graham Lough

External links

502 BC

The year 502 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. In the Roman Empire it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Tricostus and Viscellinus (or, less frequently, year 252 Ab urbe condita). The denomination 502 BC for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.


Anticles (ancient Greek Αντικλής), from Athens, is listed as a victor in the stadion race of the 110th Olympiad (340 BC). Eusebius of Caesarea refers his name as Anikles, but Diodorus Siculus has Antikles.

Astylos of Croton

Astylos of croton (Ἄστυλος/Ἀστύαλος ὁ Κροτωνιάτης) was an athlete from ancient Croton who starred in the Olympic Games of the 5th century BC. He was mentioned in records from General Pausanias that claim he excelled in three successive Olympic games from 488 to 480 BC, in the running events of stade and diaulos. Diodorus Siculus calls him Astylos of Syracuse and uses his third victory to date the Persian invasion in 480 BC.."Siculus, Diodorus, Historical Library, University of Chicago, 11.1.2.Some one won all his six wreaths in the Olympics. In Italy Astylos was famous for equaling the achievements of previous champion athlete Chionis of Sparta. Astylos not only matched the achievements of Chionis, in that he won on three separate occasions the stade and diaulos events, he also won the hoplitodromos event, which was running 2 to 4 stadium lengths in full Hoplite Armour(helmet, shield, and spear).

Despite his fame, Astylos died a lonely man. When he agreed to participate in the 484 and 480 BC Olympic games as a Syracusan citizen in honor of the tyrant Hieron, the people of Croton expelled him from the city and demolished his statue in their city. It is also said that Astylos was bribed by officials in Syracuse to compete under their name, giving Astylos the unusual claim-to-fame of being the world's first free agent. His house was also turned into a prison as a sign of disrespect, while his family also renounced him.

Blagdon Hall

Blagdon Hall (grid reference NZ21557705) is a privately owned English country house near Cramlington in Northumberland. It is a Grade I listed building. The house and estate have been in the ownership of the White Ridley family since 1698. The present Viscount Ridley is the science writer and hereditary peer Matt Ridley.

The hall was built in two phases between about 1720 and 1752 by Matthew White and his son Sir Matthew White, 1st Baronet, whose sister Elizabeth married Matthew Ridley (1719–1778), four times Mayor of Newcastle upon Tyne. It was substantially enlarged in the nineteenth century to designs by architects John Dobson and Ignatius Bonomi. Some of these additions were removed following a fire in 1944.

The gardens were extensively remodelled in the 1930s by Sir Edwin Lutyens, whose daughter Ursula was married to The 3rd Viscount Ridley.

The stable block designed by James Wyatt in Palladian style in 1791 is Grade II* listed and a 19th-century folly in the grounds is Grade II listed. The gardens also contain the only surviving bronze of John Graham Lough's gigantic statue of Milo of Croton.

On the estate is Shotton Surface Mine, a large open cast coal mine and Northumberlandia (the "Lady of the North"), a huge land sculpture in the shape of a reclining female figure made from mining waste. The Royal Agricultural Society of England awarded the Bledisloe Gold Medal in 2015 to Ridley as they wanted to highlight the extensive environmental improvement work that has been undertaken across the land.


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Dumont was born into a family of sculptors: his father was François Dumont, his grandfather Pierre Dumont. He received his first lessons from his father, and was admitted to the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture in 1768, with his reception piece Milo of Croton. He married Marie Berthault and they had a son, the sculptor Jacques-Edme Dumont. On November 10, 1775, he died at his home at the Louvre Palace and was buried the next day in the Holy Innocents' Cemetery.


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Greek colonization of the coastal areas of southern Italy and Sicily started in the 8th century BC and, by the time of the Roman ascendance, the area was so extensively hellenized that Romans called it Magna Graecia, that is "Greater Greece".

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Milo, New York

Milo is a town in Yates County, New York, USA. The population was 7,006 at the 2010 census. The town was named after Milo of Croton, a famous athlete from Ancient Greece.The Town of Milo is on the east border of the county and borders Penn Yan, New York.

Milo (magazine)

MILO: A Journal For Serious Strength Athletes was a quarterly journal dedicated to strength sports, published by IronMind. It was published continually from April 1993 to March 2018. The magazine was named after Milo of Croton.


Myia (; Greek: Μυῖα, literally "Fly"; fl. c. 500 BC) was a Pythagorean philosopher and, according to later tradition, one of the daughters of Theano and Pythagoras.

Olympic winners of the Archaic period

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Pythagoras of Laconia

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According to Plutarch, Pythagoras later met the Roman king Numa Pompilius to introduce some Spartan influence on early Roman society.

Thomas Mayne (inventor)

Thomas Mayne (25 December 1901 – 25 January 1995) was an Australian industrial chemist. He was also a food researcher and the inventor of Milo, the powdered chocolate-malt drink. In 1934, Mayne developed Milo and launched it at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. Milo began production at the plant located in Smithtown, near Kempsey on the north coast of New South Wales. The name was derived from the famous ancient athlete Milo of Croton, after his legendary strength. He also enjoyed a hot cup of Milo every night till his demise.Mayne was an alumnus of Trinity Grammar School, Kew, Melbourne.


Titormus (Greek: Τίτορμος) was a legendary shepherd of Aetolia, famous in Antiquity for his victory over Milo of Croton, who in turn, was the most successful wrestler of the Ancient Olympics. The duel between Milo and Titormus, however, was not an ordinary wrestlers' competition: according to Claudius Aelianus, rivals compared their strength in a wild Aetolian scenery, while lifting or throwing rocks, or catching bulls. Defeated, Milo praised his victor as "the second Heracles". Titormus, considered the strongest man ever living, was believed to inhabit the most remote parts of peripheral Aetolia. From 5th century BC onwards, his legend served to strengthen Aetolia's ethnic identity.


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