How a dead athlete won the Olympics

Posted on Oct 16, 2021      25

How a dead athlete became the winner of the Olympic Games. A unique event took place at the Olympic Games in ancient Greece in 564 BC. That year, the 54th Olympic Games were held and the winner in pankrati was... a dead athlete.

Pankration was by far the most brutal sport ever invented in the Olympics. This kind of martial arts included wrestling and fist fighting techniques. It was allowed to beat a lying opponent, to hit with hands, legs, knees, elbows, head, to apply painful and suffocating holds.

There were no weight classes in pankration and the time of the fight was not limited. The fight lasted until one participant won. But the referee was still present during the fight, but his duty was to prevent any lethal incident. Which, however, was not always possible. The referee was armed with a sturdy stick so that it was easier to stop the fight.

An athlete who admitted defeat had to raise his thumb or pat his opponent on the body. In this case, the duel was stopped. The athletes did not use any protective gear during the fight.

At the 54th Olympic Games came the fighter Arrichion (according to other sources - Arrachion) from the city of Figalia. At the previous games, Arrichion had already achieved the champion title and was determined to defend it. Arrithion reached the decisive battle, though the name of his opponent in the finals was not preserved in history. His opponent wrapped his legs around Arrithion’s neck and perform a choke hold. With the last of his strength already panting, Arrichion grabbed his opponent’s toe and twist it. He threw his hand up in terrible pain, admitting defeat. The fight was stopped.

But when the referee approached the champion, he saw he was already dead. Arrichion gasped for breath. A very delicate situation arose: Arrichion’s opponent surrendered and the winner himself died. The arbitrators decided that the dead athlete was the Olympic champion, since his opponent had surrendered first. And, as was fitting, the winner was crowned with a laurel wreath of the winner of the Games. It was placed on the head of the dead fighter.

In his homeland of Figalia, Arrichion became a genuine hero who won on the principle of “dying but not surrendering”. A statue was erected in the town square in memory of the fighter, and the name of the champion was mentioned in his works by the famous ancient Greek writers Pausanias and Philostratus.