Greatest Athletes

The names of over 794 ancient Olympic victors are known to us in the modern day.(see note 1) Partial victor records exist for the ancient Olympic games, held every four years for almost twelve centuries, from 776 B.C. to 393 A.C. and altogether the victor list consists of over 1029 ancient Olympic victories.(2) The first recorded victor was Koroibos of Elis who won the stadion race in 776 B.C. The last victor about whom we have information was Zopyrus, a boxer from Athens in 385 A.C.(3) Between these two dates there were a total of 291 Olympic festivals. In addition there were probably 2 additional ones after 385 A.C. for which we have no information. Some of the victors are more famous than others. I list here the 12 victors who won the most victories.

Athlete Victories Event(s) Game Year(s)
Leonidas of Rhodes 12 Stadion, Diaulos, Hoplitodromos 4 festivals 164, 160, 156, 152 B.C.
*Herodoros of Megara 10 Heralds 10 festivals 328, 324, 320, 316, 312, 308, 304, 300, 296, 292 B.C.
Hermogenes of Xanthos 8? Stadion, Diaulos, Hoplitodromos 3 festivals 81, 85, 89 A.C.
Astylos of Kroton/ Syracuse 7 Stadion, Diaulos, Hoplitodromos 3 festivals 488, 484, 480 B.C.
Hipposthenes of Sparta 6 Boys Wrestling, Wrestling 6 festivals 632, 624, 620, 616, 612, 608 B.C.
Milo of Kroton 6 Boys Wrestling, Wrestling 6 festivals 536, 532, 528, 524, 520, 516 B.C.
Chionis of Sparta 6 Stadion, Diaulos 3 festivals 664, 660, 656 B.C.
**Nero of Rome 6 Heralds, Tragedy, Lyre, Tethrippon, Foals Tethrippon, 10 horse chariot 1 festival 67 A.C.
Gorgos of Elis 6 Diaulos, Hoplitodromos, Pentathlon 4 festivals (?)
Aelius Granianus of Sikyon 5 Diaulos, Hoplitodromos, Pentathlon 4 festivals 133, 137, 141, 145 A.C.
Demetrios of Salamis 5 Stadion, Pentathlon 3 festivals 229, 233, 237 A.C.
*Diogenes of Ephesos 5 Trumpeter 5 festivals 69, 73, 77, 81, 85 A.C.

* periodonikes
** Technically the games of 67 A.C. at which Nero won 6 victories were later declared illegitimate.

TRIASTES

It is difficult to single out the finest one-day athletic Olympic achievements for various reasons. We often have incomplete or non-existent information about the competition in each of the events, the effects of lottery selection of opponents and of byes in certain field events, the weather, or other factors may have influenced the outcomes. Below is a list of the 7 Olympic athletes who won three times, as TRIASTES, in a single day. The only athlete who definitely accomplished this feat on more than one occasion was Leonidas of Rhodes who achieved TRIASTES status at four different festivals. Was Leonidas the greatest Olympic athlete of all time? Arguably he could be.

Athlete Victories Event(s) Game Years
Phanas of Pellene 3 Stadion, Diaulos, Hoplitodromos 512 B.C.
Astylos of Kroton/Syracuse 3 Stadion, Diaulos, Hoplitodromos 480 B.C.
*Nikokles of Akrion 3 Stadion, Diaulos, Hoplitodromos 100 B.C.
Leonidas of Rhodes 12 Stadion, Diaulos, Hoplitodromos 164, 160, 156, 152 B.C.
Hekatomnos of Miletus 3 Stadion, Diaulos, Hoplitodromos 72 B.C.
*Polites of Keramos 3 Stadion, Diaulos, Dolichos 69 A.C.
*Hermogenes of Xanthos 3 Stadion, Diaulos, Hoplitodromos 81, 89 A.C.

* Nikokles and Polites ran the dolichos. Hermogenes’ victories are not absolutely certain in these events.

Notes

  1. Moretti lists a total of 794 individual Olympic victors in his two publications , L. Moretti, Olympionikai, i vincitori negli Antichi agoni Olimpici , MemLinc , Roma, 1957; L. Moretti, “Supplemento al catalogo degli Olympionikai,” Klio 52, 1970, pp. 295- 303.
  2. This number includes Olympic victories of uncertain date and of uncertain authenticity.
  3. This information comes from a bronze inscription from the clubhouse of the athlete’s guild at Olympia. The building was built in the 1 st century A.C. by Nero and was in continuous use until the late 4 th century A.C., see U. Sinn, Olympia, Cult, Sport and Ancient Festival , (Markus Wiener) Princeton, 2000, pp. 114-118.