Milo of Croton 6th Century BC

Milo was born in the 6th century B.C. in the Greek colony of Croton, in southern Italy. A prodigiously strong wrestler, he rose to prominence at the 60th Olympic Games (540 B.C.). He won at least 32 major wrestling contests - including six Olympic crowns - over a career spanning more than two decades. His attempt to win a seventh crown failed when his younger opponent (also from Croton) made it a contest of endurance and refused to close with the more powerful Milo. Despite his age, his rivals still feared his massive strength!

Milo was famously strong and large - it's said that he carried a bull calf around on his shoulders daily to strengthen his muscles, finally eating the bull when it reached adulthood four years later. Due to this feat, some credit him as the father of progressive resistance exercise. Milo also performed feats of strength and balance. He challenged people to move him from a precarious perch atop an oiled discus, or to bend his fingers or arm, and could burst a band stretched around his temples by inhaling. Legend has it that Milo himself carried and placed the great bronze statue dedicated to his Olympic victories.

Detractors made Milo out to be a buffoon, a glutton, and a man who thought with his muscles. He wasn't simply a wrestler, though - some sources claim that he was a disciple of Pythagoras (and once saved his life by holding up a falling roof), a man of political influence, and a brave warrior respected by his fellow soldiers. According to legend, he died of hubris: finding a partially split tree stump held open by wedges, he tried to tear it apart with sheer strength but the wedges fell out and his hands were trapped. Helpless, he was devoured by wild beasts. This legendary death features prominently in the many statues and paintings immortalizing Milo.

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